For Cree people,the word tipi doesn’t mean anything. There is a Cree word we use today;we say migawap. But traditionally,we say Kitche Migawap (Sacred).

In cree language, for old woman, we say, Notegweu. Years ago we used the term Notaygeu, meaning when an old lady covers herself with a shawl. A tipi cover is like that old woman with a shawl. As it comes around the tipi, it embraces all those teachings, the values of community that the women hold. No matter how many children and great grandchildren come into that circle of hers, she always still has room. And if you put it up right, the poles never show on the bottom, and that tipi stands with dignity, just as, years ago, women always covered their legs with the skirt, which also represents the sacred circle of life. And when you put the flaps up, it teaches you how we embrace life itself. It’s like a woman standing there with her arms out, saying “Thank you” to everything.

The Cree people use 15 poles to make the structure of the tipi. For every pole in that tipi, there is a teaching. So there are 15 teachings that hold up the tipi. Other Nations use 16 poles, and maybe more, I don’t know. All I know is what I know I was taught and that is the teachings for 15 poles.

1. Tipi Poles. Three or four make the basic framework of the tipi. Long poles are prized where tall, straight trees are scarce. Some poles become the framework of the travois when traveling.

2. Quiver with arrows - arrows are striped with paint to mark ownership.

3. Medicine Bag - special parfleche for sacred items that represent things seen in the owner's visions.

4. Tipi lining - additional layer of skin, often brightly painted.

5. Parfleches - are the closets and drawers of the tipi.

The cycle of life for the woman is the baby, girl, woman, and grandmother. These are the four directions of life.

6. Buffalo-skin bedding - is rolled and stored during the day.

7. Altar - for burning sweetgrass or other incense during ceremonial occasions.

8. Smoky flaps - can be adjusted to retain heat or to ventilated.

9. Wooden lodge pins - care removed to fold the Tipi for traveling.

10. Wooden bow - is shaped by heating and beading. Bowstrings are made of sinew, rawhide or twisted vegetable fiber.

11. Shield - some battle shields are painted with pictures from visions, which offer spiritual protection. Highly decorated ones are too sacred for battle and can also endanger the bearer by calling special attention to his status.

12. Backrest - the Plains family's easy chair.

13. Cradleboard - holds the fur-wrapped infant securely.

14. Woman's sewing bag - hide pouch holds awls, sinew thread, beads, quills, grasses, paints, small bones and ermine tails.

Responses to "Sacred Teaching : How to Build Teepees"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Wisdom shared and much appreciated! Love this post! Thank you!!

  2. Anonymous says:

    Thank you for sharing your sacred knowledge - Kia Ora Mereana

  3. Beautiful--- everything has a meaning and spiritual nature.

  4. erosoman says:

    Hvala lepa . Zelo poučno. Thank you very much. Very informative.

  5. Anonymous says:

    And number 15?

  6. Anonymous says:

    Thank you so much for your teaching. May the Great Spirit shine upon you and yours. Etta P.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You also need to interview more Cree tipi makers and teachers.

  8. Unknown says:

    This is really great for learning of ur ancestors ways.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Thank you. I always love seeing and reading your information.

  10. Unknown says:

    How can I get permission to use the picture of the old woman and her shawl.

  11. Unknown says:

    How do I get permission to use the picture of the woman and her shawl with tipi? thank you

  12. Anonymous says:

    I too wish to share the picture of the woman, her shawl and the spiritual significance of the tipi. How do I get permission and acknowledge the copyright?
    I am with the Lac La Biche Canadian Native Friendship Centre and a response can be sent to

Write a comment