vera longtoe sheehan

Elnu Abenaki Tribe

Image of Vera Longtoe Sheehan working on a twined basket.
Vera Longtoe Sheehan working on a twined basket.

Artist Bio

Vera Longtoe Sheehan is an artist, educator, and activist who has lectured and exhibited her work both nationally and internationally.She is the Director of the Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, founder of the Abenaki Arts& Education Center, and a member of the Coalition for Ethnic Studies and Equity in Schools which is examining education policy and curricilum standards to see how they are compatible with Ethnic Studies. The committee will then make reccomendtions for how Ethnic Studies can be included in school curriculum.

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 PROJECT

Contact

Phone: (802) 579-0049

Email: vera.sheehan@abenakiart.org

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

Website: Twined Bags & Baskets

Image of woven textile and purse.
Woven textile and purse

Image of  woven Archaic Style Sandal.
Woven Archaic Style Sandal

Image of twined bag.
Twined bag

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 Kearsage Indian Museum, Warner, NH

Limited Engagement Exhibits  (select list)

2019

I AM... Vermont Arts Council. Invitaional 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, N.H.

2017-2018.

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

2016

Parley and Protocol: Abenaki Dipolomacy Past and Present. Curator and artist. Fort Necessity National Battlefield, Farmington, PA.

Contemporary Wabanaki Art.  Mt Kearsage Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2015

Parley and Protocol: Abenaki Dipolomacy Past and Present, Curator, Lake Champlain Maritime Museum. Vergennes, VT.

Warmth and Protection. Curator and artist. Mt Kearsage Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2014 

Along the River, Mt Kearsage Indian Museum, Warner, NH

All of My Relations (Guest Curator and Artist), Mt Kearsage 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, Illnois

Featured Artist, Institute for American Indian Studies, Washington, CT

Containers.  Mt Kearsage Indian Museum, Warner, NH

Indigenous Fiber Arts.  MacDonnel-Williamson House, Ontario, Canada

Reading Native Art. Mt Kearsage Indian Museum, Warner, NH

2012    

Native Arts, Boston Choldren’s Museum, Boston, Ma.

Presentations (select list)

2017

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

2016

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

Abenaki Cultural Weekend. Fort Necessity Nattional Battlefield, Farmington, PA.

Meet a Native American Artist. “Night at the Museum.” American Museum of Natural History, New York, NY

Lecture & workshop. Understanding Place. Middleburry College, Middlebury, VT.

2015

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

2014      

Speaker. Anthrpologist 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

Fibert Arts. Nor’Westers and :oyalist Museum, Glegarry, 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 MaritimeMuseum, Vergennes,  VT

Demonstrator. Ft. at # 4, Charleston, NH

 benaki 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 MaritimeMuseum, Vergennes,  VT

“Speaking To The Ancestors Abenaki Gathering,”  ECHO Lake Aquarium and ScienceCenter/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 MaritimeMuseum, 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 MaritimeMuseum, 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 MaritimeMuseum, 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 MaritimeMuseum, 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 Peterberg, 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

Affiliations

Girl Scouts of America

Hand Weavers Guild of America

Native American Quadricenteniel Advisory Committee (2008-2009)

New England Museum Association (2016-present)

Textile Society of America

Vermont Abenaki Artists Association, Chairperson & Juried Artist (2013 – present)

WAOLOWZI Minority Health and Wellness Program (2008)

Woodland Confederacy (1991-present)