Harder than it looks

2010-10-20T00:15:00Z Harder than it looksBy Nick Gevock of The Montana Standard Montana Standard
October 20, 2010 12:15 am  • 

Mike Cavey didn't have to tell students at East Middle School how efficiently American Indian women could put up their homes.

After taking a day to erect the 20-foot structure, the students got the message.

"It took about 20 minutes" for the Indian women, he said Tuesday at East. "They knew what they were doing."

Various classes helped throughout Tuesday to raise the tipi. The first group tied the top of the poles, while subsequent groups helped pull the canvas around.

Cavey, of Bozeman, uses the tipi for winter camping and hunting trips. He told students that Indians used the tipi for shelter and religious ceremonies.

"It was their church," he said. "They did spiritual things in them."

Cavey showed how the 24-foot poles that form the frame have to be handled by driving one end into the ground. That keeps the long end from falling and hitting a bystander.

Tipis have an inside liner and stretched canvas exterior. Cavey said people stuffed grass or dirt just outside the liner for insulation, and used rocks around the base to block the wind.

Rochelle Ryan, a social studies teacher at East, said students were learning about past cultures. Setting up the tipi gave them an appreciation for the work involved.

"They thought it was going to be easier than it is," she said.

Seventh-grader Austin Freeman decided he'd like to have a tipi.

"It'd be fun to go camping in this," he said.

Reporter Nick Gevock may be reached at nick.gevock@mtstandard.com

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