Alaska Life

Come on, Barbie, let’s go to fish camp

The land of all things pink and plastic has consumed talk, social media and movie theaters since the “Barbie” movie was released last month. But have you heard of Fish Camp Barbie?

Anchorage resident Angela Łot’oydaatlno Gonzalez, alongside daughter Ermelina K’ete ts’aayedaalno Gonzalez, has been making fish camp-themed dolls for fundraising events for about four years, highlighting and celebrating Native culture.

The doll was inspired by this year’s movie and sold for $400 during the Alaska Native Heritage Center Garden Party fundraiser on July 27.

The pair spent about a week working on the doll and her accessories. Unable to find Barbies at the store with brown skin, they decided on a Disney Pocahontas doll for better representation in their project.

“I think the doll resonated with so many people because it is easily identifiable with Alaska Native people,” Angela Gonzalez said. “I think it touched their hearts and minds and reminded them of their childhood.”

The Barbie-inspired scene included a hand-sewn betsegh hoolanne, also known as a qaspeq or summer parka, beaded necklace and moosehide cuffs and a headband. In one hand, she is holding a tłaabaas, or an ulu, and she’s ready to cut a fish made from salmon skin tanned by Angela Gonzalez and decorated with beaded edging.

Off to the side, pink bows tie off two sides of a small canvas tent to make visible the cot inside. A barrette below the table is beaded in bright pink onto a small piece of moosehide with the words “Fish Camp Barbie.”


Gonzalez posted a few photos to her social media accounts, which gained attention quickly. Her post on Twitter racked up nearly 80,000, views while her Facebook post was shared more than 400 times.

”Showed this to my girl and she says ‘that looks like our culture’ and ‘she looks like me!’ now I desperately want to do this,” one woman commented on Tiktok, followed by a crying face and orange heart emoji.

“I‘m very happy to be able to share Athabaskan culture (with) such a wide ... audience of people,” Ermelina Gonzalez said.

Angela Gonzalez remembers playing with Barbies as a child at her family’s fish camp downriver from Huslia, along the Koyukuk.

Her late grandmother, Lydia Simon, helped her create clothing and costumes for her dolls. She also taught her how to make an ulu out of the metal part of Morton salt containers, which Gonzalez does for her fish camp dolls.

“It was just a fun project to work on overall,” Angela Gonzalez said. “She would definitely love (Fish Camp Barbie).”

Emily Mesner

Emily Mesner is a multimedia journalist for the Anchorage Daily News. She previously worked for the National Park Service at Denali National Park and Preserve and the Western Arctic National Parklands in Kotzebue, at the Cordova Times and at the Jackson Citizen Patriot in Jackson, Michigan.