Sunday, August 28, 2011

Tipi Summer

This summer has, quite frankly, been a busy and stressful one.
I haven't had time or energy to keep up with this blog,
so for now I'm going to show the highlight of the summer.

Without going into too great a depth,
let's just say that the economy has taken its toll
on a number of my family members.
When livelihoods are lost and threatened,
it also takes a toll on health and peace of mind.

We are a close family,
and we support each other as much as possible.
The burdens are shared as much as possible.

The main summer event for us
was when we gathered to celebrate our Mother's Birthday.

To recap a little bit,
in past posts I've touched on my mother's heritage.
Her family has a rich
American Indian heritage.
Some of our forebears came from the Shawnee Indian Tribe
located in the mid-west states of Ohio and West Virginia.

My Mother takes great pride in her heritage.
She has attempted to teach her children and grandchildren
the "old ways" of knowledge.
She is an amazing storehouse of knowledge in
old ways and lifestyles of her heritage.

7 years ago my father bought her a Tipi
The family spent a summer vacation painting it and putting it up for her.
But over the years, the weather took its toll
and the Tipi began to disintegrate,
so this summer he bought her a new one.

Our summer vacation was again spent
painting and putting up the new Tipi.

First, the artwork/design must be decided on,
and drawn onto the canvas
Its a very involved process...
Its drawn on the half circle Tipi canvas.
It must be carefully measured and planned out.

Fortunately, we have very creative and experienced people in the family.

The artwork was drawn by my youngest son,
who, I'm proud to say, is an amazing artist!
Actually all my sons are very artistic (:

My Mother has given each family member a name.
The names are based on personality traits
and meanings that she has carefully chosen.
And each name is also depicted by a particular
character or icon image that coincides with it.

The painting process...

This part of the process took us 3 days
of working from early morning until there was no light at the end of the day.
We used exterior latex paints,
since it weathers well and is bright and sharp when applied to the canvas.

One of my nephews and a brother,
(one who is an engineer and the other a building contractor)
did all the measuring and figuring as to where each drawing
was to sit on the canvas so that when the Tipi is erected,
all the paintings will sit perfectly around its sides.

The hard work begins with EVERYONE taking part
We had 26 family members,
and each person had a part to play.
Almost everyone, except the small children, did some painting.

The paintings tell stories

Such as...
"She who gathers and keeps the Tribe"
wraps her protective arms around the tribe

"Man who keeps watch," "Warrior with big heart," and even
"Little Woman of great courage"
ride on the canvas.

"Woman who teaches to change lives"
"Seed Sow-er," "Rain," "Dark Eyed Junco,
"Morning Dove" and many many others gather here

Faceless Guardians stand watch on each side of the entrance

Mom and Dad are each depicted at the top on each side of the entrance
as American Eagles

While the painting was being done,
the place where the Tipi was to be erected
had to be slightly raised,
then leveled and graveled.
This is probably the most important part,
because it must be perfectly level,
with the edges having perfect drainage.

Then the poles are set into place.

It starts with the 3 main tripod poles
These must be perfectly balanced,
because they will literally hold the entire weight of the Tipi.
The entrance faces east.

After the 3 are in place,
the remaining poles are placed at exact intervals
to form a perfect circle.

The Tipi is very heavy.
It took all the men to carry and erect it

The painted Tipi canvas,
is attached to a type of kingpin pole
which is put into place on the cone of poles

Once in place, the canvas in unrolled around the poles

The front is pinned together with special wooden dowel-like needles
that are threaded through stitched slits in the front seam of the Tipi.

The whole process took the entire week of our stay,

As the sun was setting on the last evening of the last day,
we finally got it up...

not permanently stretched and anchored into place...
that part will be done by my Dad and brother after the rest of us have left.

But it was completed enough so that we could all gather inside,
as my Mother performed the ceremony of
we-wos-sa-kie "
Or (Eng) "Peace" on this place.

It is her place of peace.
She goes there every morning and evening.

A bundle of sage and other wild plants with particular meanings
are tied together, lit and touched to the four corners... north, south, east and west.

As you can see,
the eagles (the icons for Mom and Dad)
are at the top in a protective stance over the family.

The rest are positioned around the base

As we sat inside that evening,

it was an amazing feeling of unity for all of us.

After a most stressful year,
here we are,
a united family.

Come what may...
We will always have each other.


  1. Hi beautiful Vicki...this is absolutely fascinating...I felt like I was with you all the way while working on this tipi...and what a stunning header pic!!! I'm wondering does the tipi stay up all the time and get replaced as needed or does it get put up for special occasions? Fancy having that to go into each morning and very very special!!! Love how you are all united as a family and come together at these times...As you know I find your heritage fascinating...Fantastic post dear Friend...Love from Down Under...Dzintra

  2. what a great effort by all the Tipi...i just made one for my grandaughter for christmas

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