Partnerships and Innovation

Office of Partnerships and Innovation
Office of Partnerships and Innovation

WE-CAN participant Lana Thomas guided by traditional symbol of the Mi'kmaq star

Lana Thomas is the owner of Mi'kmaq Wooden Art in Ottawa, and a participant in WE-CAN's Kwe-Biz program for women entrepreneurs who identify as Indigenous. Queen’s Partnerships and Innovation leads the WE-CAN Project, which receives support from the Women Entrepreneurship Strategy Ecosystem Fund through FedDev Ontario. The mission for WE-CAN is to inspire and empower existing and aspiring women-identifying entrepreneurs, through the provision of tools, resources, expert mentors, networks and building of community, to expand existing businesses and to launch new ventures. 

A First Nations Mi’kmaq-Irish woman born and raised in Ottawa, Lana is a member of the Eel Ground ~Natoaganeg~ First Nation in northeastern New Brunswick.

Photo of Lana Thomas, of Mi'kmaq Wooden Art
Lana Thomas of Mi'kmaq Wooden Art

In 2003, she and her children visited the east coast of Canada. As they explored Lennox Island where some of her ancestors are from, Lana came across the Mi’kmaq star, a traditional symbol of her people.

“Looking back, I think that’s when my lightbulb moment happened,” she says. “I felt an immediate connection to that star and everything it stands for in terms of my Indigenous heritage.”

It wasn’t until 2017 that Lana launched her business (which started out as a hobby) by creating six Mi’kmaq stars as home décor pieces. Her first stars were created with the expert guidance of her father, a carpenter with skills in the construction trade.

“I posted photos of my first stars on Facebook and the Chief from my community bought them all,” Lana recalls. When the Chief placed orders for more stars in other sizes, she knew it was time to get more serious about her craft.

Today, Mi'kmaq Wooden Art has expanded to include other products, although the star remains the focal point of Lana’s business. Her online shop now offers cushion covers, bags, canvas wall art and t-shirts. Once or twice a year, she creates custom Mi’kmaq stars for clients looking for an artistic representation of their family roots.

She currently ships her products across the U.S. and Canada, mostly to Mi’kmaq clients, but also to non-Indigenous buyers who are interested in the story behind her art.

“I love working with wood, salvaging and picking out the wooden pieces at the sawmill,” Lana shares. “My business brings together my love of woodworking with my journey of learning more about my Indigenous ancestry. It’s my passion!”

In September 2020, Lana became a participant in WE-CAN’s Kwe-Biz program led by Shyra and Rye Barberstock of Okwaho Equal Source on the Tyendinaga Mohawk Territory.

“Being a part of Kwe-Biz has given me access to some awesome mentoring sessions,” says Lana. “I’ve been operating my business as a hobby for a long time, but this program has helped me figure out how to register my business, how to create a business plan and how to write a marketing plan. It has also provided me with other tools, like how to better track my expenses and see what my profit margins are.”

While she continues to work full-time in a busy government job, Lana is committed to growing Mi'kmaq Wooden Art and continuing to tell the story of her First Nations heritage.

To learn more about Lana and her art, visit her Mi'kmaq Wooden Art website.