Native Naturalist Lifestyles With Nomadics Tipis
In 2008, I was sitting at my home computer and had the urge to find a “smudge stick,” a bundle of sage used to purify a space. I’d never owned one and had no idea what to do with it, but decided for some reason that this was the time to get one and learn. An Internet search led me to Nomadics Tipis, a company in nearby Sisters, Oregon that sold smudge sticks, in addition to tipis. Long interested in Native lifestyles, I drove there, purchased my smudge stick and inspected the tipis on display. While I was there, I engaged in a long and enlightening conversation with a man who was stacking tipi poles in the rain, who turned out to be Jeb Barton, Founder of Nomadic Tipis. Over the next year, he would have an unimaginable impact on my life. Since then I’ve owned two Nomadics tipis, and even live in one now.
The benefit of being in a tipi comes primarily from its closeness to Nature. Having only a cotton membrane to separate you from the outside world, you hear and feel the intimate presence of the life around you.”
Nomadics has been making tipis since 1970, perhaps longer than any tipi manufacturer in the world. Jeb and his twin brother Thom founded Nomadics, when they came to Oregon to start a private high school and wanted it to have an integrated curriculum based on the insights and philosophy that are inspired by and implied in Nature. Living in a tipi through the winter was an excellent first hand, personal experience with regard to making decisions about how to integrate “Naturalist” type studies into a high school curriculum.
Tiny Homes, yurts and other “alternative” dwellings have grown in popularity, but Nomadics doesn’t consider tipis to be part of the movement necessarily. This is because tipi living is not primarily motivated by a minimalist lifestyle philosophy. The primary motivation for interest in tipis is a deep inner personal and intimate connection with Nature. Since more than a decade, they have been selling on average 800 tipis per year, with minor fluctuations.
The greatest challenge is learning how to orient yourself towards deep feelings and quietude as opposed to superficial sensations and the sound of your own story.”
Being in a tipi puts you in close communion with Nature. When asked if there might be any connection with the scientific theory of pyramids that there are numerous benefits of spending time inside these shapes/structures, Nomadics relates it to our natural environment. A tipi is a cone shaped structure, which is a very common organic form found in Nature. The benefit of being in a tipi comes primarily from its closeness to Nature. Having only a cotton membrane to separate you from the outside world, you hear and feel the intimate presence of the life around you.
Jeb reveals that their tipi customers are a blend of old souls and new souls, stating that “generally, the purpose is the pursuit of the aspect of the inner journey that takes you into the heart of Nature. Potential customers should consider whether or not they are really interested in this experience and if they are, everything will fall into place.”
Nomadics is working on a page about “Tipi Living” on their website, where customers can share their experience and insights if they do live in a tipi. Most customers do not live in their tipi, though. They purchase it as a space to gather with friends away from the technical world, or they use it as their own private space, for meditation and reflection.
Living in a tipi will certainly take you into an experience that you would not have if you lived in a cabin or tiny home. The difference is a membrane versus a wall and everything that that implies.
“The greatest challenge is learning how to orient yourself towards deep feelings and quietude as opposed to superficial sensations and the sound of your own story,” says Jeb. “If you can achieve that, the practical side of tipi living itself is effortlessly fulfilling.”
The purchase of a tipi is a very personal journey, so customers are exposed to a whole variety of different approaches to express their own stories with art. Many people choose to portray a personal aspect of their lives, their dreams, visions or their spirituality on their tipi cover – so they often send in their personal custom designs and Nomadics reproduces them. ”We suggest to people that designs are not just decoration. They are a doorway,” says Jeb.
While it’s difficult to know the impact Nomadics has had through their work with connecting people to the lifestyle of tipis, Jeb shares that what you will always know is what you give to the world- just without certainty to whom. “And when you to whom you have given, you will never know exactly what they have received” he reveals.
For Nomadics, they see owning and managing a company as a unique opportunity to do good for others and the environment and consider it a tool that can be used to make a difference. In offering a high-quality tipi they help preserve the Native American Culture. In providing meaningful and rewarding employment, predominantly to women, they strengthen their independence. They also decided to change all of their cotton sourcing to organic cotton. They are not able to advertise “organic tipis” however, because the canvas will still be treated to make the fabric suitable for an outdoor structure. What it does mean, is that an average of 80,000 yards of cotton canvas per year will be produced without the use of harmful pesticides that sickens the farmers and pollutes the soil and waters in India. It also means that they are strengthening the opposition against GMO products and Monsanto’s excessive exploitation that drives these farmers into ruin and suicide.
To do all this, Nomadics had to raise prices, which they realize could in turn affect their sales, but that does not really matter to Jeb and his partner who say “more and more is definitely not better. “More and more” just creates more problems and inequality.” The Iroquois Nation was famous for its practice of trying to consider the impact on its people and the world for seven generations in the future before it would finalize any one decision.
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