Page:The American Indian.djvu/154

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110
THE AMERICAN INDIAN

grow, the cover is birchbark; in the bison area it is skins. The Ojibway, however, often used mats, as was sometimes the case on the Columbia River. In the far North, we find a pointed skin tent, even forming a summer dwelling for the Eskimo.

For the details of varieties of tipi and their distribution we must refer the reader to the special literature. We note that it seems to follow the outlines of the caribou and bison-hunting areas and is everywhere definitely associated with a nomadic hunting life, for many tribes on the borders used it only when on hunting trips. Its origin and development, therefore, is one of the important problems in our subject and must receive close attention in the future. Curiously enough, the tipi is found in Siberia and has analogous forms in northern Europe, suggesting the possibility of its definite association with reindeer culture.

We have now covered the whole of the northern continent except the western part and the Arctic. The most distinctive structures here are the wooden totem-pole houses of the North Pacific Coast, reaching their highest development among the Haida and Tlingit.[1] The structural plan consists of four massive, upright timbers supporting two long, equally heavy beams. These are placed parallel about four feet apart and are essentially ridge poles. Around these a rectangular enclosure is made by setting split planks upon end. The ends are gabled and the roof of planks. The only framework is the massive central support, in contrast to which the remainder of the building appears flimsy in the extreme. But we find one feature not so far observed north of the Nahua area, namely, architectural embellishment. The four interior posts are carved in high relief, and outside is the famous totem pole. Paint is used to reinforce the carving, and in addition the front of the house is decorated with one of those curious spread-out animal forms we have noted in the preceding chapter. Had these people carved in stone instead of wood, we should now find their country one of our richest archæological fields, but the perishable nature of their building material has left no records of their past history.

  1. Emmons, 1916. I.