Life Size Tipi

buffalo hide tipi
Bison hide tipi on permanent display in the Museum of Westward Expansion at the Gateway Arch.

Sue Ford NPS

The authentic life size tipi in the Museum of Westward Expansion was made by Larry Belitz of Hot Springs, South Dakota. Mr. Belitz a master craftsman has constructed over 300 bison hide tipis over the years. He started working on this tipi Christmas Day of 2008 and delivered the finished tipi January 20, 2009. He then lead the National Park Service Exhibits staff in erecting the tipi in the museum.

This tipi is constructed of nine buffalo hides stretched around a frame of fifteen, 18’ lodgepole pine. These pine trees are used to make the tipi poles because of their size, strength and flexibility. The buffalo tales were left on the hides both as decoration and for functionality as a way to close flaps on the tipi. The tipi lacing pins used to close the tipi above the door are made of chockcherry. This tipi is a replacement for one Mr. Belitz made for the museum over 30 years ago.

tipi lacing pins
Close-up of tipi lacing pins which close the front of the tipi above the entrance.

Sue Ford NPS



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Last updated: April 10, 2015

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