Weaving a Strong Foundation


In her studio this day, Valerie Veis (Montana Little Shell Band of Chippewa Cree) is able to choose what she will take up: a brush to paint with or reeds to weave. She chooses weaving. But Valerie no longer views this art the same way since her life-changing trip to Suitland, Maryland. There, she found a missing piece of herself.

Valerie begins weaving. Each basket begins with the base, the most important part of the basket design. Without a solid foundation, the basket won’t be stable. It won’t become strong.

The foundation of Valerie’s business was woven with the help of First Peoples Fund’s Artist in Business Leadership Program (2015 and 2016), along with an additional research grant in collaboration with the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), Smithsonian Institution. With the research grant, Valerie was able to study Chippewa/Ojibwa basketry and beadwork, and also to review the extensive document archives of the Cultural Resource Center in Suitland. With this, her life was changed.

Valerie is a nontraditional basket weaver and painter, but her soul was touched so deeply by her Native roots, she couldn’t hold back tears during her art presentation to the NMAI staff. Someday, Valerie will become a traditional basket weaver.

Birch bark baskets meld into her work now, as will porcupine quills and traditional beaded designs. Her art is turning in a new direction, though still stable on its woven foundation.

In Valerie’s studio, she does her triple weave, working with round reed rattan. She cuts her own willow, dogwood and birch for basket handles. Her work is a reflection of the world around her on the Rocky Mountain Front in Montana. Each piece is a reflection of her, of her Native heritage, of her present and now of her future.

Valerie is whole and stable. She creates on a strongly woven foundation.