June 23, 2002

Sinte Gleska University revives skill, ceremony of tipi construction


ROSEBUD — The Lakota Studies staff at Sinte Gleska University has been
reviving a lost art as they host a Tipi Making Project on the Rosebud Indian


A news release from Sinte Gleska said that traditionally, the art of tipi
making was practiced by a Lakota “Women’s Guild” made up of the most skilled
craftswomen in Lakota society. The art was lost when the federal government
confined tribal nations to reservations, limiting their access to buffalo
hides and trees for tipi poles.

June 16-28, the Lakota Studies Department is offering a course in tipi
making, bringing back old ceremonies associated with the art.

The course is
being offered through a grant from LBN Associates of Phoenix, which is
providing 18 buffalo hides and financial support for filming the project. Up
to 25 students will build a 12- to 18-foot tipi, complete with liners,
seating, designs and proper ceremonies.

Peter Gibbs, adjunct instructor in the SGU Lakota Studies Department, said
the course also will revive philosophies and ceremonial protocol involved in
building a tipi.

Gibbs has researched tipi making for 30 years, first from his home in England
and for the past nine years or so on the Rosebud Reservation. He pointed out
that for the Lakota, tipis were a birthplace, living place, classroom, place
of prayer, place of death and sometimes even a place of burial.

“It needs to be put back in place,” he said. “If we’re talking about the
preservation of language and culture, this is the starting place for
everything. Children were born, learned their language and culture, and grew
up inside a tipi. Where else can we best teach these things, but in the
original classroom?”

Gibbs said few, if any, tipi makers in the United States practice the
ceremonies that went with building a tipi. He said the ceremonies have been
carefully reconstructed with help from Lakota and Southern Cheyenne people.

Albert White Hat, Lakota studies instructor and author of a textbook on
Lakota language, is helping to teach the basics of tipi-making in the course,
which is being held on his land west of St. Francis.

“It’s my hope and dream that building a tipi with the hides and using the
ceremonies will encourage Lakota women to revive their Women’s Guilds,” Gibbs
said. “That is the real purpose of this project, to return some power to

For more information, call Gibbs at 856-4463.


Rapid City Journal

A comprehensive South Dakota newspaper which gives good coverage of American Indian interests.

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