All my Barbies were skins…

When I was a little girl, my mom has a job at a tribal program but for extra income she brought back a box of dolls from the moccasin factory in town. These were manufactured dolls that were adorned with leather outfits and beadwork by local people. The Moccasin Factory also made moccasins and boots and many people were employed here back from the 60’s and early 80’s.

I remember sometimes when my mom would make a mistake on one of the pieces she would let me keep it. Soon, I had a whole little family with a grandma and auntie too. I didn’t have an actual Barbie with blonde hair, blue eyes, and big boobs until later in life so I had to make do with what I had. My little tribe of Indians with their leather outfits and beads. Their arms were straight, their legs didn’t bend and their hair basically stayed braided.

I took my family to school one day, because a bunch of girls were taking Barbies. So many girls had beautiful dolls, I had my Indian dolls and a doll I took from my grandma’s house that had a crocheted dress on with a skirt big enough to hide a toilet paper roll. So, I had this extended family of Indians and a little white foster child dressed in yarn. I was never normal, even in the Barbie department. I remember other girls looking at my dolls and looking away. They had Barbies with cowboy hats, Barbies with skates, Barbies who disco-ed.

I had rez Barbies.

Way later in life, Barbie became trendy and had different versions of Native American Barbie. As if they were Gwen Stefani in her video that was pulled. It was still Barbie, just dressed an an Indian, (feather not dot.) I remember looking at the Native American Barbies and thinking “Geez, my dolls would have been ashamed of you.”

Now, as this is the first year my daughter wants a Barbie to go with her GI Joe doll she found at a yard sale. Despite all the Barbies of her past that never lived past her Barbie genocide phase, I went shopping for a Barbie.

Barbie is “over” her Native American phase. It was just a trend. In fact Barbie is over all her cultural phases, at least where I went shopping, and basically just back to riding bike and other things Barbies can do.

Now I really wished I had my rez dolls for my daughter.

3 thoughts on “All my Barbies were skins…

  1. So hard. There are so many colors and shapes and sizes of us. Each of us wants to see Native people that look like us; we need to see them. We also want the complexity of our heritages and lives to be honored. In a culture that cannot manage complexity this is difficult.

  2. Pingback: DANA LONE HILL: Pointing with Lips | Blue Hand Books

  3. I didn’t have Barbies. When my mother died, I found a shoe box in her closet. She always saved stuff and then it sat there.
    When I opened the box it had two Native American dolls inside. One was what we used to call a “story book” doll. She has brown skin and black hair and is dressed in Buckskin.
    The other is what is called a Skookum doll made of wood in the 30s or 40s, it is a man with long black hair and a blanket wrapped around him. He looks serious. The two of them are precious to me.
    Later I found another story book doll, another girl dressed in Buckskin.
    My mother was proud of our Cherokee heritage, but it was shrouded in mystery in those days.
    Yes, my great grandmother was Cherokee, but she was NOT a princess. She was independent and industrious and mistrustful. She made moonshine and hid money under a mattress and grew her own vegetables and fruits and medicinal herbs.
    She didn’t have to talk about being Indian. She practiced it.
    Barbies are so false,and, I guess, in a way, all dollls are false, and we should be ourselves without them.
    I don’t know. There are a lot of points of view. But I love those dolls and they are in a special place where people can see them.
    I love your blog!
    Suzanne. ,

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