Lana Whiskeyjack Barbie

Lana Whiskeyjack is a multidisciplinary treaty iskwew artist from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Treaty Six Territory, Alberta. This series is a gift I made for my best friend and sister of my soul.

When I first met Lana, she was working at the Royal Alberta Museum. In the Indigenous section of the museum, there was a barbie that was Lana’s and her story about when she was a child, how she used to paint her barbies with brown felt pens.

Twenty-five(ish) years later, I met a young homeless artist who had a barbie in his shopping cart, and I bought her for Lana. ⁠

Transforming this barbie was a two year project, and included the participation of Aunty Alsena (our beloved Aunty and Elder) who beaded the medallion, Tracy Bradley of Nikawiy Handmade who recreated one of Lana’s ribbon dresses, and an austistic artist from the US who made the t-shirt and cardigan. 

I remade the dress the barbie originally wore into a medicine bag, and filled it with a sweetgrass bundle, sage, a shell for burning and a paintbrush, which is also Lana’s medicine. 

This is a labour of love, for my beloved friend. Because everyone should have a doll that is love. ⁠

These photos document Lana – nehiyaw iskwew (Cree woman). She is an artist, who loves to travel, an author – both academic and of nimiywêyihtên: “I Feel Great” a children’s book with her daughter, Serina Follette. Lana is deeply connected to her Cree culture and, along with other Indigenous people, is reclaiming her ancestral medicine to create a healed future.