Maintaining the tipi was a woman’s job. The fireplace was in the centre of the floor, with an opening at the top of the tipi to let out the smoke. The entrance faced east, and places of honour were positioned at the back of the tipi. Ceremonial items, utensils, weapons and bedding were also stored inside the tipi.
Tipi weren’t just decorated for looks. The Blackfoot, for example, believed that the spirits represented by the designs painted on the tipi would bring harmony and long life to the people inside as they slept. The right to paint a design was a privilege and was transferred from one person to another in a public ritual.
The Blackfoot painted their tipis in three sections. The designs at the bottom paid homage to the land, a source of life; the drawings at the top represented the sky. The middle was reserved for events experienced by humans or animals. However, not all tipis were painted.