Vera Longtoe Sheehan

Elnu Abenaki Tribe

Juried Artist since 2013
Image of Vera Longtoe Sheehan working on a twined basket.
Vera Longtoe Sheehan working on a twined basket.

Vera Longtoe Sheehan is an artist, educator, and activist who has lectured and exhibited her work both nationally and internationally. She’s a Museum Educator at the Smithsonian: National Museum of the American Indian, the Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, and the Founder of the Abenaki Arts & Education Center.

She serves the community as an Executive Board Member for the Vermont Humanities Council, the Coalition for Ethnic Studies and Equity in Schools, and Act 1 Task Force examining education policy and curriculum standards to see how they are compatible with Ethnic Studies. The committee will then make recommendations for how Ethnic Studies can be included in school curriculum. Additionally, Vera developed and is the Instructor for Presenting Abenaki Culture series at Castleton University and Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. She enjoys developing curriculum resources for all age levels and making documentary films about the Abenaki people.

During her free time, she preserves the tradition her ancestors by making twined, plant-fiber creations. Her father taught her the proper ways to harvest and process plants to make cordage, as well as the twists, ties, and knots she uses to make her distinctive twined bags, baskets, and textiles.

Today Vera combines family tradition with knowledge of Wabanaki culture to create her one of a kind twined art that is both contemporary and ancient at the same time. Each innovative handmade object takes hours, days, weeks or even months of complex weaving and knotting to complete. Vera is committed to teaching her two children to twine so that this endangered art form endures.

For over twenty-five years, Vera has combined her Indigenous heritage, her knowledge of regional history, and a passion for artistic creation, in offering programs for schools, and museums. Her twined bags, baskets and textiles reside in museums and private collections and can be seen in films and literature.

 Artist Statement

As a child, I loved to go to museums but was discouraged by glass cases. So when I set up displays or do demonstrations at museums and schools, I always encourage the public to touch, smell and listen to the sounds that my twined baskets, bags, containers and textiles make. I tailor programs to the audience coming through the door, and if someone is particularly interested, I will teach them more. I am also passing the twining tradition on to my children. I want it to continue as a living, breathing art, not just a dusty basket in an archive or glass case.

 My education in traditional fiber arts began when I was six years old. I began to learn about finger weaving and twining textiles from my father, the same way it has been passed down for countless generations.

 With practice, I grew as an artist, so my passion grew as well, almost like jumping from one fire to another. I have worked with the natural fibers of milkweed, dogbane and inner barks that I harvested and rolled myself; commercial hemp, jute, cotton, silk, wool and finally with metallics and even plastic bags – and there seems to be an endless number of materials yet to be experimented with. The array of designs spins endlessly in my mind. Natural fibers are by far my favorite because of their spirit. I can be swept away by my textile projects, twisting and weaving are ever-inspirational.

 I combine tribal knowledge of the twined art form, with research stemming from historical accounts, archaeology, and study of museum collections. I have been doing lectures and demonstrations at museums, historic sites, schools and with scouting organizations for over twenty years. Some of my work has been in films and on exhibit.

CURRENT PROJECTS

  • Nebizun: Water is Life
  • Alnobakskwak: Abenaki Women Leading the Way

Contact

Phone: (802) 579-0049

Email: vera.sheehan@abenakiart.org

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/TwinedBags

Website: Twined Bags & Baskets

On Going Exhibits

 2009 to present

Contact of Cultures, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes,  VT

 2013 to 2018

Walking With Our Sisters, A Commemorative Art Installation for the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women of Canada and the USA. The large collaborative art piece will be made available to the public through selected galleries and locations  (Canada & United States)

2014 – present

Northeast Woodland Fiber Arts (Guest Curator and Artist), Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

Limited Engagement Exhibits  (select list)

2019

  • I AM... Vermont Arts Council. Invitational exhibit.  Montpelier, VT.

2016

  • Nebizun: Water is Life. Curator and artist. Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Vergennes, VT
  • Babaskwahomwôgan: The Spirit Game. Curator and artist. Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Mt. Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2017-2018.

Alnobak: Wearing Our Heritage (traveling exhibit). Vermont Abenaki Artists Association and Lake Champlain Maritime Museum

2016

  • Parley and Protocol: Abenaki Diplomacy Past and Present. Curator and artist. Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, PA
  • Contemporary Wabanaki Art.  Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2015

  • Parley and Protocol: Abenaki Diplomacy Past and Present, Curator, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Vergennes, VT
  • Warmth and Protection. Curator and artist. Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2014 

  • Along the River, Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH
  • All of My Relations (Guest Curator and Artist), Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH
  • Traditional Sources, Contemporary Visions” – Invitational Group Art Exhibit. Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT

2013    

  • Idle No More. Trickster Gallery, Schaumberg, Illinois
  • Featured Artist, Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT
  • Containers.  Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH
  • Indigenous Fiber Arts.  MacDonnel-Williamson House, Ontario, Canada
  • Reading Native Art. Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2012    

Native Arts, Boston Children’s Museum, Boston, MA

Presentations (select list)

2017

Decolonizing Native American Art. March 22. Eckerd College. St. Petersburg, FL

2016

  • Annual Native American Weekend/Abenaki Heritage Celebration, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes,  VT
  • Abenaki Cultural Weekend. Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, PA
  • Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
  • Lecture & workshop. Understanding Place. Middlebury College, Middlebury, VT

2015

Annual Native American Weekend/Abenaki Heritage Celebration, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT

2014      

  • Speaker. Anthropologist in Community Colleges Annual Conference, Burlington, VT
  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes,  VT

2013     

  • Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History,  New York, NY
  • Fiber Arts. Nor’Westers and Loyalist Museum, Glengarry, Ontario, Canada
  •  Demonstrator. Ft. at # 4, Charleston, NH
  • Indigenous Fiber Arts exhibit and lecture.  MacDonnel-Williamson House, Ontario, Canada
  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes,  VT
  • Native Interpreter. Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT

2012 

  • Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT
  • Demonstrator. Ft. at # 4, Charleston, NH
  •  Abenaki Fiber Arts lecture & workshop. Green Mountain College, Poultney, VT.

2011    

  • Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY
  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT
  • “Speaking To The Ancestors Abenaki Gathering,”  ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center/Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT
  • Demonstrator.  Native American Month Presenter. University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

2010    

  • Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History,  New York, NY
  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT
  • “Winter Celebration.”  ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center/Leahy Center   for Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT

2009    

  • Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History,                 New York, NY
  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT
  •  “Vermont Indigenous Celebration.”    ECHO Lake Aquarium and Science Center/Leahy Center for Lake Champlain, Burlington, VT
  • Native American Month Presenter. University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

2008     

  • Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes, VT
  • Native American Month . University of Vermont, Burlington, VT
  •  Native American Month Presenter. University of Vermont, Burlington, VT

2007    

Annual Native American Weekend, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum, Vergennes,  VT

Featured in Print

  • Bittenger, Cyndy, Vermont Women, Native Americans and African Americans: Out of the Shadows of History, History Press. 2012. 48.
  • Foulds, Diane. “For Abenaki descendants, an ancestral revival,” Sunday Boston Globe, Travel M6, May 3, 2009. Retrieved May 15, 2013. http://archive.boston.com/travel/explorene/vermont/articles/2009/05/03/for_abenaki_descendants_an_ancestral_revival/
  • Harrington, Sue. “Fiber Artist captivates audience at Museum,” Glengarry News, Alexandria, Ontario, Canada. July 27, 2013
  • Herring, Angelique. Decolonizing Native American Art: The Indigenous Resistance. The Current. Mar 11, 2017. St Petersburg, FL.  Retrieved March 24, 2017. http://www.theonlinecurrent.com/culture/decolonizing-native-american-art-the-indigenous-resistance/article_877a8324-fd07-11e6-9009-7f54988597c4.html
  • Kent, Jeanne Morningstar. Wabanaki Interviews. The Visual Language of Wabanaki Art, History Press. 2014. p 102-105
  • “In Die Welt der Indiner Eintauchen,” Saarbrucker Zeitung, Germany.  June 11, 2013. Newspaper
  • Nelson, Emily. “Heritage Slideshow.” Recorded July 13, 2008. Burlington Press 2008
  • Vermont Indigenous Celebration. “Celebrating 11, 000 years of Cultural Endurance.” Last modified June 23, 2009, Accessed October 2, 2009. Web 
  • “Wabanaki artist to display her ‘Twined Art’ works”, The Register Citizen, Torrington, CT. 7 Mar 2013. Web
  • Wiseman, Frederick M., Ph D. “VERMONT STATE RECOGNITION AND INTERPRETING THE “WESTERN WABANAKI EXPERIENCE,” The Wôbanakik Heritage Center, Vermont 2011. 8
  • Wiseman, Frederick M., Ph D and Melody Walker. “The Abenakis and Their Neighbors.” Vermont Commission on Native American Affairs. Last modified 2010. 10

Publications

  • Contributor, Wiseman, Frederick M. et al, Vermont Indigenous Ethnobotany Project, 2011-2012
  • Sheehan, Vera Longtoe. All My Relations Exhibition Catalog, Mt Kearsarge Indian Museum, Warner, NH. 2014
  • Sheehan, Vera Longtoe. The Abenaki: Past and Present. Westminster, VT: Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, 2016
  • Sheehan, Vera Longtoe. “The Double Curve Motif,” Voice of the Turtle, Brattleboro, VT, 1996
  • Sheehan, Vera Longtoe. “ The Buffalo Slaughter “Voice of the Turtle, Brattleboro, VT, 1996
  • Sheehan, Vera Longtoe. Editor.  “Voice of the Turtle, Brattleboro, VT, 1996

Film & Radio

  • Miricle, Irene, “Changeling, AKA Dawnland.” Miricle Girl Productions. 2009. DVD
  • Reger, Deborah. Moccasin Tracks . Recorded June 2013. WGDR 91.1 FM
  • Reger, Deborah. Moccasin Tracks . Recorded June 2015. WGDR 91.1 FM
  • Reger, Deborah. Moccasin Tracks . Recorded June 2013. WGDR 91.1 FM
  • Schulmeisters, Lina L. “Artisan Spotlight Series: Vera Longtoe Sheehan.” Askawobi Productions, 2012
  • Schulmeisters, Lina L. “The Other Harvest.” Askawobi Productions, (currently in production)
  • Timrick, Ted. “Before The Lake Was Champlain.” Hidden Landscapes. 2009. DVD
  • Wiseman, Frederick M. Ph D. “1609: The Other Side of History.” 2009. DVD

Current Affiliations

  • Act 1 Task Force
  • Coalition for Ethnic Studies and Social Equity in Schools, Core Member (2019 – present)
  • New England Museum Association (2017- present)
  • Textile Society of America (2017 – present)
  • Vermont Abenaki Artists Association. Director & Juried Artist (2013 – present)
  • Vermont Humanities Council, Executive Board (2021 – present)

Past Committees and Affiliations

  • Girl Scouts of America
  • Hand Weavers Guild of America
  • Native American Quadricenteniel Advisory Committee (2008-2009)
  • Native American Advisory Committee, Institute for American Indian Studies
  • New England Museum Association (2016-present)
  • WAOLOWZI Minority Health and Wellness Program (2008)
  • Woodland Confederacy (1991-present)