The Family Home
The painted area around the bottom of the tipi cover is referred to as the Bottom Skirt and therefore symbolized Father Sky. All human events were contained between these two boundaries-Mother Earth below and Father Earth Above.
Owners of a painted tipi treasured it more as a religious symbol than as an aesthetic creation. Each design protected the family inside and was intended to help them live happy, successful and safe lives.
“Family Home,” a new artwork by Howard Terpning, lets us know that we are in a Blackfoot camp from the designs on the lodges. Mountain peaks decorate the base of the central tipi, the first of three bands usually found on a painted tipi. Bottom skirt designs used patterns that symbolized Earth’s surface. This paid spiritual tribute to the importance of Mother Earth. Designs at the tops of painted tipis represented the upper limit of the physical world, here a blue stripe for the sky and a red strip for life. The middle band could one day contain pictographs of war exploits or symbols that the family found important or lucky.