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Historical Tidbit Thursdays - The Indian Tipi - The Tipi Fire - #TidbitThursday


Today we're going to take a look at the tipi fire, the very central necessity that provides warmth and, in colder weather, a means to cook food.

A typical tipi fire consists of a ring of stones containing wood and burning material. In more permanent homes (such as a winter home or a summer home that will remain in place for several months), a shallow put would be dug.

The size of the ring varied by the tribe and the size of the tipi. Cheyenne and Arapaho built there ring 12"x25"x3". Comanches, Kiowas, Blackfeet, and Sioux built theirs 18-20" across.

The type of wood used to burn varied by the location and season. Wood that burned longer, threw less sparks and omitted less smoke were preferred. Hardwood (such as Willow, Cottonwood, Service berry, Chokecherry, Mountain maple, River birch) was best. Maple and Ash were good choices. Evergreens gave off too much smoke and sparks. Aspen gives off a lot of sparks but not a lot of smoke and smells sweet. Pine gives little heat. Burning Birch also has a sweet fragrance. Alder was known as "stinkwood".

Wood gathering was a community effort. Stacks of firewood were stored inside the tipi to the left of the doorway.

Sticks were used as pokers. Pipestem were used to fan coals. Narrow saplings were used as tongs.

Little chunks of greasy fat were tossed into fire for additional light.

"The Indian Tipi: Its History, Construction, and Use" by Reginald and Gladys Laubin

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