Calm Before the Storm

Limited Edition Print on Canvas

36″ x 36″ | $650

Native American society is known for many things: its culture, art, and handicrafts chief among them, but perhaps the most iconic symbol of these societies is the teepee (tepee, tipi). This conical tent has been used as a shelter for over two millennia. 

Traditional teepee structures were used only by the First Nations Peoples of the Great Plains.  From the northern tribes of Blackfoot, Sioux, Cheyenne and Crow to the Lipan Apache, the Comanche, and the Kiowa of the South, these High Plains tribes had a nomadic lifestyle, following migrating herds of buffalo that ranged from the Canadian Prairie to the Texas Panhandle. 

Designed to suit the nomadic lifestyle of the Plains Indians, these easily adaptable, portable, and durable dwellings enabled a more intensive and specialized use of the broad expanse of land, covered mostly in unforested and rolling grassland. The buffalo hunters of the Eastern Plains used them seasonally, whereas those living in the Western Plains used them all year round. 

Set on a piece of flat land, a teepee required ten to twenty long wooden poles forming a conical framework which was then draped with a sewn cover of 8 to 12 buffalo hides. Typically, the teepee was 20 to 26 feet high and 12 to 20 feet in diameter at the base.  A large hole cut on the top of the teepee let the smoke escape when occupants cooked or used fire to keep warm in winter. 

Historically, most teepees were plain, with no decorations. Ones that were embellished were painted or embroidered using porcupine quills and usually depicted significant battles, sacred animals, or celestial-like geometric shapes. Often, before the teepee was erected, skilled painters were consulted to paint one’s personal experience such as war, hunting, dream, or vision. Various materials, such as buffalo horns, tails, and bear claws also decorated the exterior of the teepee. 

This painting shows us an encampment of luminous teepees, a safe and warm refuge against the gathering storm outside, a true calm before the storm.  Just as the Native Americans themselves have weathered the storms of war and displacement, the iconic teepee remains an important symbol of ethnic and tribal identity and is symbolic of an ancient and fascinating culture that has persisted for centuries.