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Crossing Borders: "Morning Star Tipi"

Interior of tipi made by K.Nosaka

      The story of Morning Song Tipi is intriguing for its integration of two worlds some 6000 miles from each other. It's intriguing also because of the tipi maker, Kazuko Nosaka. who envisioned Morning Song and carried on her tipi work for fifty years, from the 1970s to 2018. Although she no longer accepts orders for tipis (or poles which she also supplied) because she can no longer bear the weight of either one these days, she is quite willing to share reminiscences and experiences on making tipis and tipi use during a modern period of time not closely examined in the same way as tipis were studied a century ago. To spend a day with her is to learn about the unique tipi styles of the Cheyenne and Siouan peoples and the differences in setting up their tipis. Her knowledge comes from having made a few hundred tipis that she has cut, sewn, and finished. Most were created for ceremonial use. 

     As the story of “Morning Song Tipi” is told, scenes of this woman’s life appear with clarity.  What it means to leave one’s homeland by choice, for another place and life, takes over, giving long-range reflection and illumination. To spend a day with her is to hear of a young woman setting out from Japan, alone and by her own choosing, for the United States. Two different worlds. She went from a childhood of being raised in a Zen temple to arriving in San Francisco during the “hippie” era. Shortly thereafter she moved to the Southwest, near the Hopi villages, and then on to the vicinity of Taos.  Along the way she met the person who was to become her husband and “Morning Song Tipi” was born. To spend a day with her is to hear of all the people who helped her along the way acting as surrogate family, and of cultural exchanges which went deep and are very visible in her present way of life.

     To spend a day with her is to learn of her ancestral family in Japan and the family she brought forth in America. Six children later, her stories of interacting with tribal communities, living in a tipi for twelve years and giving birth inside, are compelling for their insight and honest revelations about life in the period specified. Through them we see reactions to her presence on the periphery of Native American tribal life during the “flower generation” and “red power” and the “American Indian Movement.” To spend the day with her is to hear and see what she has learned from crossing borders; what it takes to keep autonomy and peace in the turmoil that every span of time thrusts upon a woman’s body, intellect and existence.


     Finally, to spend the day with her is to hear that what was “Morning Song Tipi” is now changing. Has to change naturally in the dimensions of life each of us are in, in a given time. The native people who own a Morning Song Tipi and use it for tribal and ceremonial activity hold something very unique in Native American history.  There’s a profound story of someone seeking life and creating one’s own world in it.  Of course, every tipi is unique as are tipi makers.  

Interior of tipi made by K. Nosaka

Anna Lee Walters and Native American Literature 2024

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