The Nomadic Blackfoot

  • The Blackfoot people were nomadic.  This meant that they traveled throughout the prairies following the herds or their food.  Since they moved often, they needed a home that would be easy to take down and put back up. 

Setting up the Tipi

  • The women were responsible for taking the tipi down and setting it back up.  Putting up a tipi usually only took about 20 minutes or so.


How They Were Made

  • The tipis were usually made of deerskin, buffalo, antelope, or moose hides.  When buffalo were used, they used about 12-20 hides.   Each tipi had four long pine poles joined together at the top with animal leather. More poles were then added and then covered with the huge animal skin. Each tipi had flaps that could be opened when cooking or during warm weather.  Two large poles would be attached to the flaps so that they could open and close the flaps easily. 


  • The diagrams below can give you an idea of the shape of the tipi

Tipi Designs

  • The Blackfoot were known for their beautiful designs on their tipis.  Not all First Nations people actually painted their tipi.  The Blackfoot painted them to honor the animal spirits and spirits of nature.  They believed that the "spirit" design that they used would help to protect their family.  These designs were said to have come to the people through visions  or dreams from Grandfather and Grandmother spirit.  There is often a legend for each design. 


Designs and Legends

  • The Museum of the Rockies, in Bozeman, Montana, created a website showing pictures of tipi designs and the legends that tell why each design was created. 

Click below to see this site.


Traditional Design Patterns

  • There were seven traditional designs.  There was the Big Rock design, the Black Buffalo, the Buffalo Head design, the Crow Design, the Snake design, the Winter design, and the Yellow Buffalo design.

Click on the website below to see some pictures of these traditional Blackfoot Nation tipi designs.


Tipi Photographs

  • You can also see some historical photos of Blackfoot tipis at this site:


Calgary Board of Education Home Page
All contents copyright 2003, C.B.E. All rights reserved.
Web Author: M. Speight

Last updated March 19, 2003

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