“ayisîyiniw ôta asiskiy, I am human being from this earth.”
Lana Whiskeyjack is a multidisciplinary treaty iskwew artist from Saddle Lake Cree Nation, Treaty Six Territory, Alberta. Guided by her grandmother’s advice, “Go to school, travel, and see as much as you can. Then return home to share what you learned, but do not forget where you came from.” After graduating high school, the young mom moved to Red Deer to attain her Art & Design diploma, then moved to Ottawa with her growing family, attaining B.A. (Honours) and M.A (Canadian Studies) degrees. The story continues with returning to work near her home community and attain her doctorate degree at University nuhelot’įne thaiyots’į nistameyimâkanak Blue Quills (UnBQ) in iyiniw pimâtisiwin kiskeyihtamowin, the first Indigenous owned and operated educational institution in Canada. Prior to 1970, UnBQ operated as Blue Quills Indian Residential School, where two generations of her maternal family attended.
Lana’s research, writing, and art explores the paradoxes of what it means to be nehiyaw (Cree) and iskwew (woman) in a Western culture and society and how she and other Indigenous women are reclaiming, re-gathering, and remembering their ancestral medicine (sacredness and power). Her art is passionate and expressive, born from the deep roots of her culture, history, and intergenerational relations. Through the examination of sometimes difficult subjects, her art reflects the intrinsic beauty of her interconnections with the earth, Cree language and all living beings. She invites you to join her on the next chapter of her adventure.
I was trained in ceramic sculpture but during my left brain studies of my B.A. and M.A., I picked up photography and acrylic painting to help process the colonial studies. Art is my ceremony, it is my way to connect to spirit. Each medium become a different way to connect to spirit: clay, acrylic, oil and digital storytelling.
Lana's early influences and teachers were her mother's gifts in the traditional arts of bead work, moose hair tufting, fish scale, moccasin making; and, her grandmother's gifts in medicine picking, quilting, sewing and song. At 10 years old, her mother's gift of a book of Pablo Picasso’s etchings changed the way she expressed herself, the simple and expressive lines influenced her to draw on everything she could.
I come from a spiritual culture that connected beings of this earth to every living element (Plant Nation, Flying Nation, Swimming Nation, Walking Nation). There were Laws of the land that governed how to live miyopimatisowin, a good life, with all beings. This traditional parenting story shared by Dr. Darlene Auger gives a beautiful glimpse into Cree worldview.