Sheila Kanieson Ransom, Wolf Clan of the Akwesasne Mohawk Nation has been making black ash and sweet grass baskets for more than 20 years. Sheila learned fancy basket making from her Godmother Mae Bigtree, a renowned basket maker. She also learned to make utility baskets from Henry Arquette, a master basket maker. An antique mold inspired Sheila to make a sewing basket that won first place at the 2005 Indian Village of the New York State Fair.
Sheila has represented the Mohawk basket makers by demonstrating basket making at the Indian Village of the New York State Fair for several years. She has been recognized for her basket making skills by doing demonstrations at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC and the Adirondack Museum, Blue Mountain Lake, NY for many years. Sheila has also taught basket making at other nations within the Iroquois Confederacy and continues to hold classes in the Akwesasne community.
Sheila’s fancy basket was chosen as the cover of the North By Northeast Wabanaki, Akwesasne Mohawk and Tuscarora Traditional Arts magazine published in August,2008. A Mohawk Basketry Art calendar was published by R.J.Wilkes Planning Forum showcasing a different basket Sheila made for each month of the year for 2016.
In April of 2012, Sister Kateri Mitchell, SSA (Mohawk Nation) presented President Barack Obama with one of Sheila’s fancy baskets. The summer of 2012, Sheila was interviewed and photographed by the Syracuse Post Standard for an article called “Basket Full of Miracles”, describing the making of the basket for Pope Benedict XVI. In October 2012 Sheila’s black ash and sweet grass basket was presented as a gift of the Mohawk people to Pope Benedict XVI during the canonization of Kateri Tekakwitha, a Mohawk woman and the first aboriginal Saint.
In December 2014, the New York State Museum purchased a basket from Sheila as part of their permanent collection and in February 2016 the HOOD Museum of Art, Hanover, New Hampshire acquired one of Sheila’s baskets as part of their collection.
Having come from a long line of basket makers, basket making has become Sheila’s passion and to ensure this beautiful art is preserved, she teaches her grandchildren the same hand made techniques that have been passed down from generation to generation.