Instructions for Setting up a Sioux Tipi

Setting up a tipi correctly is a 3-5 hour job for two people.
It is meticulous, but not overly complicated as long as directions are followed. Here is a brief overview of the steps to setting up your tipi. The full instructions can be viewed at

Choosing a Tipi Site

Choose a site that is level and slightly higher than the surrounding area. This will prevent drainage problems in wet weather. Avoid setting up directly under trees as they might sprinkle debris or branches when the weather is windy. Choose a site that will be shaded during summer months, but will receive sunlight during winter months.

Preparing your Tipi Poles

For this step, there are two choices. You can buy your tipi poles commercially, or make your own. Making your own is a more intensive task as there is a lot of preparation and treatment of the poles that assures that they will last.

Laying out the Tripod Poles

Your three sturdiest poles should be used for the preliminary tipi tripod. These poles will be call the North, South and Door poles and will help to orient your tipi for the rest of the set up. Select also your smallest in diameter, shortest and least straight poles and set them aside. These will be your smoke flap poles. At this point, make a ground plan in the spot where you plan to put your tipi. This will help in later steps.

Tying the Tripod Poles Together

You will need 45 feet of straw or manila rope. Make sure that you don’t get synthetic as it will not grip the poles. Use a clove hitch as it is the only knot.

Raising the Tripod

Use your ground plan to orient your poles and place them in the correct places. Be sure not to let any of the poles slip out of the knot. Measure the North, South and Door pole distances to make sure that they are in the correct places. At least two people are required to raise the tripod using the leftover rope from the clove hitch.

Laying in the Poles

Choose the sturdiest pole that is remaining and set it aside. This will be used later as your lift pole. Lay in the poles one at a time assuring to use the proper order. Use the rope to wrap around the cluster of poles four times.

Putting on the Tipi Cover

First bind the pole flap to the lift pole very tightly so that no slipping happens during the hanging of the tipi cover. Tie a smoke flap line to each of the smoke flaps. Once the lift pole is in the cluster, spread the tipi canvas around the poles.

Preparing your Lacing Pins and Pinning your Tipi Together

Lacing pins should be a half inch in diameter and fourteen inches long. They should be sharpened but still relatively blunt at one end which makes it easier to lace through each button hole but also does not threaten to pierce the canvas.

Preparing your Smoke Flap Poles

Fetch the two poles that you put aside for smoke flap poles at the beginning and cut them to be about two feet longer than your tipi (for example, for an 18 foot tipi, make these poles 20 feet). Place the small ends in the smoke flap pockets and cross the butts behind the tipi with just enough pressure to take out the wrinkles. Now stake the tipi down.


There are a variety of things that can cause problems while setting up your tipi and we suggest you visit the full instructions at during set up to ensure that your tipi set up properly. You can also find troubleshooting tips there as well.