Students will examine and discuss the Tipi and interpret information presented orally, visually, and in text. They will summarize important ideas and identify and list a sequence of events.
Intended Age GroupElementary (grades K-5)
Length of LessonOne 50 minute lesson
Standards AreaLanguage Arts
Students will be able to:
- interpret information from multiple sources;
- explain how individual steps contribute to an understanding of the whole process;
- describe the overall structure of events, ideas, and concepts in text; and
- analyze a historical object to understand cause-and-effect relationships.
1. Show students the image of the Tipi and ask them to point out what they see, including all of the details. Share information from the “Details” section of About the Art. Explain that as a class they are interpreting information presented visually and they will explore how that information contributes to an understanding of the object. Explain that we also use this skill when reading texts that contain visual information, such as drawings and diagrams or charts and graphs.
2. Divide students into groups and have each group take a section of the “Details” information and present it to the class. Remind them to use good presentation and listening skills. After all of the presentations are complete, summarize as a class what we know so far about the Tipi.
3. Explain to the class that once they have summarized and identified important ideas, they can integrate this knowledge and summarize the sequence of events involved in the creation of the Tipi to ascertain a bigger picture of what the object is telling us. Share with students pertinent information from the “Who Made It?” and “What Inspired It?” sections of About the Art. As a group, make a sequenced list of events to explain how a tipi is constructed and raised. For example:
a) Gather three or four foundation poles
b) Tie the poles together near the top while they are lying on the ground
c) Lift the tripod upright
d) Spread the poles at the base
e) Add additional poles to create an oval floor plan
f) Place the tipi cover and attach it to the top of a pole
g) Spread the cover across the frame
h) Bring the two edges of the cover together until they overlap
i) Secure cover ends with wooden pegs
j) Control smoke flaps by using two longer poles
4. You could even go further by adding to the list what would happen during hot or cold weather, or what would happen if someone wanted to paint and design their tipi. The Lakota Tipi may have been used as a decorative outer cover for another smaller cover, since it lacks evidence of smoke at the top.
5. If time allows, have students write the sequence of events involved in the creation of something important to their lives, perhaps having to do with their home. Remind them to include important supporting details while maintaining sequence in their description.
- About the Art section on the Tipi
- Color copies of the Tipi for students to share, or the ability to project the image onto a wall or screen
- Writing implements and paper
- Social Studies
- Understand chronological order of events
- Ask questions, share information and discuss ideas about the past and present
- Become familiar with United States family and cultural traditions in the past and present
- Understand people and their relationship with geography and their environment
- Visual Arts
- Observe and Learn to Comprehend
- Relate and Connect to Transfer
- Language Arts
- Oral Expression and Listening
- Research and Reasoning
- Writing and Composition
- Reading for All Purposes
21st Century Skills
- Critical Thinking & Reasoning
- Information Literacy
About the Art
Who Made It?
This tipi was made by a Lakota artist. The Lakota people lived on the Great Plains, an area roughly between the Rocky Mountains and the Missouri River, from Texas up to southern Canada. Many, but not all, of the tribes who lived on the Great Plains used tipis as their primary form of residence. In most tribes, women were generally both the makers and the owners of the tipis, although men sometimes provided assistance in their construction. They were often made from the skins of buffalo that the men hunted. Women tanned the skins and then sewed them into a pattern to create a semi-circular one-piece covering. The name “Standing Bear” is written on the Denver Art Museum’s tipi, but we are not sure whether this is the name of the artist or possibly the identity of one of the figures depicted. It was not a Lakota custom for artists to sign tipis.
What Inspired It?
The tribes who lived on the Great Plains moved frequently as they hunted for food and required homes that could be erected quickly and transported easily. The earliest tipis were relatively small but increased in size after Europeans introduced horses to the area, which allowed tribes to carry larger and heavier loads. The materials used to construct tipis were dictated by what was readily available. The tipi covering, for example, was originally made from buffalo hide. The decimation of buffalo herds in the mid- to late-1800s, along with the availability of trade goods, caused a shift to tipis made of canvas. Later, with the building of western-style housing on reservations, tipis as a primary dwelling completely disappeared.
The construction of tipis varied slightly among the different tribes. Generally, three or four foundation poles are tied together near the top while they are lying on the ground. The tripod is then lifted upright and the poles are spread at the base. Additional poles are added to create an oval floor plan. The cover is then attached to the top of a pole and spread across the frame. The two edges of the cover overlap and are secured with wooden pegs. Smoke flaps are controlled by the use of two longer poles. During the hot summer weather, the sides could be rolled up to allow air to flow in and out of the tipi. Extra warmth was gained in the winters by banking snow outside the tipi. An inner layer was also added to the tipi and grass was used as insulation between the two layers. The Denver Art Museum tipi may have been used as a decorative outer cover for another smaller cover, since it lacks evidence of smoke at the top.
The images painted onto the tipi cover probably represent battle scenes. The establishment of reservations ended the nomadic and warrior lifestyle of the Lakota. Military exploits of earlier years became more significant for the Lakota and artists kept the stories alive through their drawings. Enemy tribes, such as the Crow and the Pawnee, are painted in great detail, allowing the viewer to recognize them by their distinctive clothing and hairstyles. Tipis like this one now serve as a historical record of the lives of those who created it.
This tipi is made of canvas, with wooden poles for support. Canvas was more readily available than the traditional buffalo hide (buffalo were becoming increasingly rare) and it made the tipi much lighter and easier to transport.
This style of painting, referred to as narrative painting, depicts a military scene. Military paintings were done exclusively by men, while women painted abstract patterns. By the late 1800s, Lakota drawings began taking on more realistic proportions. Paintings were not typically painted in chronological order. Images were arranged according to the artist’s preference, recording the essence of an event and not the specifics of time or place.
Red, green, and yellow horses circle the tipi. Artists often painted horses in a more decorative manner, in colors not normally attributed to the animal. In Lakota society, horses were an important symbol of power and wealth. Artists frequently depicted them as trophies secured in battle or as the prized possession of a rider.
Warriors from the Pawnee and Crow tribes are recognized by their distinctive hairstyles and clothing. The Pawnee warrior is shown wearing high fashioned black moccasins.