American Indian Skin Lodges or Tents.
The tent was used when the people were migrating, and also when they were traveling in search of the buffalo. It was also the favorite abode of a household during the winter season, as the earth lodge was generally erected in an exposed situation, selected on account of comfort in the summer. The tent could be pitched in the timber or brush, or down in wooded ravines, where the cold winds never had full sweep. Hence, many Indians abandoned their houses in winter and went into their tents, even when they were of canvas.
The tent was commonly made of ten or a dozen dressed or tanned buffalo skins. It was in the shape of a sugar loaf, and was from 10 to [12 feet high, 10 or 15 feet in diameter at the bottom, and about a foot and a half in diameter at the top, which served as a smokehole (ʇihuʞan). Besides the interior tent poles (ʇici—3, figure 309) and the tent skin (ʇiha—1), the tent had the ʇiȼumanhan, or the place where the skins were fastened together above the entrance (4). The ʇiȼumanhan was fastened with the ʇihuȼubaxan(5), which consisted of sticks or pieces of hide thrust crosswise through the holes in the tent skins. The bottom of the tent was secured to the ground by pins (ʇihuȼugadan—6) driven through holes (ʇihugaqȼuge) in the bottom of the skins, made when the latter were tanned and before they had become hard. The entrance (ʇijebe) was [generally opposite the quarter from which the wind was blowing. A door flap (ʇijebegȼan—7) hung over the entrance; it was made of skin with the hair outside, so as to turn water, and was held taut by a stick fastened to it transversely. The bottom of the door flap was loose, but the top was fastened to the tent.
The smokehole was formed by the two ʇihugabȼinȼa(9), or triangular ends of tent skins, immediately above the entrance and ʇi¢umanan. When there was no wind both of the ʇihugabȼinȼa were kept open by means of the ʇihuȼubajin(8) or exterior tent poles, which were thrust through the ujiha, or small sacks, in the corners of the ʇihugabȼinȼa. When the wind blew one of the ʇihuȼubajin was raised to the windward and the other was lowered, pulling its skin close to the tent and leaving an opening for the escape of the smoke; but if the wind came directly against the entrance both the flaps were raised, closing the smokehole to prevent the wind from blowing down it. When the wind blew the people used nandiȼagaspe to keep the bottom of each tent skin in place. These consisted of twisted grass, sticks, stones, or other heavy objects.
Figure 310 represents the tent of [P]ejequde, an Omaha. The banners or standards, which were carried by the leaders of a war party or a party going on a dancing tour, are depicted with their decorations of strips of red and blue Indian cloth. Sometimes these standards were ornamented with feathers instead of with cloth. Each standard could be used in four war expeditions.
No totem posts were in use among the Omaha. The tent of the principal man of each gens was decorated on the outside with his gentile badge, which was painted on each side of the entrance as well as on the back of the tent.1 The furniture of the sacred tents resembled that of the ordinary ones.
Before the introduction of canvas tents by the whites no needles or thread were used by the Siouan tribes. The women used sinew of the deer or buffalo instead of thread, and for needles they had awls made of elk horn.
Since there were no outbuildings, public granaries, or other structures of this description, each household stored away its own grain and other provisions. There were no special tribal or communal dwellings; but sometimes two or more households occupied a single earth lodge. When a council was held, it took place in the earth lodge of one of the head chiefs, or else two or three common tents were united, making one large one.2 There were no public baths, as the Missouri river was near, and they could resort to it whenever they desired. Dance houses were improvised either of earth lodges or skin tents.