The Blackfoot bison hunters of the North American Plains are widely known for their artfully painted lodges commonly known as ‘tipis’. Traditionally, tipi designs were not for everyone; rather, they were received individually from the spirit world or ceremonially transferred from one person to another under strict covenants. Painted tipis advertised the spiritual and social stature of their owners and were intricately woven in the ontological fabric of the group. This article explores the role of the painted tipi in individual and social life among the Blackfoot to highlight how art can be used to construct social places, to accumulate material and ritual wealth and, ultimately, to make society.
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