The critical reflections should draw on the course discussions, films, readings, and/or face-to-face sessions.
Each critical reflection can have a short introduction that summarizes what you will be writing about.
Please note that you are critically reflecting and NOT summarizing.
Use this opportunity to critically reflect and show the instructor that you have a deeper understanding of the topic you are writing about.
Critical reflections should be more comprehensive than the discussion posts.
Possible questions to ask yourself while writing:
•What was interesting about the topic? (or not)
•Why was it interesting ornot?
•How do you relate to the topic or how will you incorporate your learning into yourlife?
Critical reflections must be 2-3 typed pages, double spaced, 12 pt.TNR font. APA citation style.
Authentic Indigenous label aims to support artists
by Yolande Cole on October 1st, 2014 at 12:58 PM
Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel is following her grandmother Ellen Neel’s footsteps by
advocating for fair compensation for First Nations artists.YOLANDE COLE
Lou-ann Ika’wega Neel comes from a long line of artists.
One doesn’t have to look far to see the legacy of her relatives, including totem poles in
Stanley Park and at UBC that were carved by her grandmother, Ellen Neel—a woman
who also left a lasting impact through her pursuit of fair compensation for aboriginal
“She really advocated all throughout the ’40s and ’50s and early ’60s to stop the
products that were being made offshore, and were just really poor replicas of our
work,” Neel, a textile and jewellery artist, said in an interview with the Georgia
Decades later, Neel said she feels like she has picked up where her grandmother left
off. On October 8, a new Authentic Indigenous label is being formally launched to
identify work made by B.C. aboriginal artists.
The system is part of Aboriginal Tourism B.C.’s Authentic Indigenous Arts
Resurgence Campaign, initiated by Sechelt Nation artist Shain Jackson. Statistics
cited on the campaign’s website indicate that indigenous artists earn 30 percent less
than their nonindigenous counterparts and that up to 80 percent of the aboriginal-
themed souvenirs sold in B.C. have no involvement of an indigenous artist.
“This [will be] the biggest economic shift to ever happen in the aboriginal-art sector,”
said Neel, who is coordinating the initiative with Jackson. “Up until now, this is the
way it’s been.”
So far, six galleries have signed on to the new labelling system, including the
Squamish-Lillooet Cultural Centre in Whistler, the Museum of Anthropology, the Bill
Reid Gallery, and the Urban Aboriginal Fair Trade Gallery.
The system will consist of three tiers: one for artists who are designing, producing,
and distributing their own work, a second for artists who are designing but not
producing the work, and a third tier for situations where an artist has granted
permission for a producer to use their design to create, distribute, and sell the
“The trouble with that system up till now has been that it’s always under a licensing
agreement and usually that licensing agreement doesn’t allow any royalties to go to
the artist, so the artist actually never gets paid, despite millions of their products
being made,” said Neel.
Authentic Indigenous has set a minimum royalty of five percent to be directed to the
artists, but the hope is that the designers can negotiate a higher rate. Through the
initiative’s website, consumers can also find information about aboriginal artists and
where they can buy their work.
“What we’re trying to do is raise our artists up and make people aware that they can
communicate right with the artist, they can order directly from the artist,” Neel said.
“All we can say is it’s up to the consumer. If the consumer wants to make an informed
choice about buying something authentic, then amen. We’re really happy that they’re
taking that stance.”
She hopes to see more galleries and shops participate in the labelling initiative, and
she also has her sights set on further expansion, including offering workshops to
indigenous artists to help them market their work.
Neel didn’t start selling her designs publicly until she started working on the
Authentic Indigenous initiative. She noted that both she and her relatives have had
their work undervalued by potential buyers.
“Everyone in my family’s an artist, so I was watching them get taken advantage of and
I just thought, ‘I can’t go to every single gallery every time one of my relatives is
selling something,’ ” she said.
Eventually, Neel’s “big dream” is to set up an aboriginal-art production company to
help generate employment and economic benefits for indigenous communities
through local manufacturing.
“I look at our reserves, where there are empty buildings all over the place and the
unemployment rate’s upwards of 80 percent,” she said.
“And why we couldn’t we manufacture? That would put entire communities to work,
with quality stuff—people know the designs, they have a sense of pride. So I would
love to see some innovative new community-based manufacturing going on.”
In the near future, she also hopes to see more public education around the diverse art
produced by First Nations across B.C.
“It’s really grounded in all of the First Nations cultures,” she noted. “It’s not some
long-gone past and dead culture that you only see in a museum now. It’s very much
Follow Yolande Cole on Twitter at @yolandecole.
51bc studies, no. 78, Summer 3
“A Nation of Artists”:
Alice R avenhill and the Society for
the Furtherance of British Columbia
Indian Arts and Crafts
L i Ly n n Wa n *
In 1996, Bill Reid sold a bronze sculpture to the Vancouver International Airport Authority for $3 million, making him the highest-paid Canadian artist to that date. An image of this
sculpture, The Spirit of Haida Gwaii, adorned the Canadian twenty-
dollar bill from 2004 until 2012, and the original casting of the sculpture
stands in front of the Canadian Embassy in Washington, DC. Reid’s
journey to this position as a Haida artist and Canadian icon provides
some insight into the often contradictory role of indigenous imagery in
visual representations of Canadian culture and identity. While Reid’s
work was certainly inspired by his ancestral ties, he learned technique
in a jewellery-making course at the Ryerson Institute of Technology in
Toronto, and he learned the fundamentals of Northwest Coast design
from two books, in particular. One of these books is the American
museum director Robert Bruce Inverarity’s Art of the Northwest Coast
Indians, which was published in 1950; the other is Alice Ravenhill’s
A Corner Stone of Canadian Culture: An Outline of the Arts and Crafts of
the Indian Tribes of British Columbia.1
* Research for this article was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council
of Canada. Thanks to Shirley Tillotson and Richard Mackie for invaluable guidance and
editorial advice. And to Rebecca Moy-Behre, who taught me arts and crafts – not as an idea
but as a way of life.
1 Alice Ravenhill, A Corner Stone of Canadian Culture: An Outline of the Arts and Crafts of the
Indian Tribes of British Columbia (Victoria: British Columbia Provincial Museum, 1944).
In Tippett’s interpretation, Reid was consistently ambiguous about his identity for the first
twenty years of his career. His decision to promote himself as an “all Indian” artist did not
come about until the 1970s, after he received a Canada Council fellowship. While Reid had
Haida ancestry and ties to the Haida village of Skidegate, and his great-great-uncle, Charles
Edenshaw, as well as his grandfather, Charles Gladstone, were both Haida artists, his mother
was raised to “become more white and less Haida,” and his father was a “white man” in the
frontier of northern British Columbia in the early twentieth century. See Maria Tippett, Bill
Reid: The Making of An Indian (Toronto: Random House, 2003), 31, 25, 67.
The story of Alice Ravenhill, who spearheaded an arts and crafts
revival in British Columbia in the 1930s, is an important one to tell, and
not only because of her influence on Reid’s career. As Ronald Hawker
has shown, Ravenhill’s work was incorporated into the Indian education
system in both residential and day schools throughout the province.2
By the 1940s, the notion of indigenous peoples being what Ravenhill
described as “a nation of artists,”3 with inherent tendencies towards the
visual and oral arts, became institutionalized at a federal level in various
Department of Indian Affairs (dia) policies. This led to an increase in
the production and sale of arts and crafts on the reserves. Indigenous
art and imagery came to reflect continuity rather than extinction as the
widespread nineteenth-century notion of the “Vanishing Indian” was
compromised by the reality of an increasing indigenous population.4
Born in England in 1859 into a privileged family, Ravenhill began her
career as an educator in the fields of public health, home economics,
and child care. She immigrated to Vancouver Island in 1910 after a
distinguished professional career in England. Her interest in indigenous
arts and crafts only began in the late 1920s, but by the 1930s she had
already become something of a local authority on the subject. During
the 1930s and into the 1940s, Ravenhill devoted much of her time to the
revitalization of indigenous arts and crafts in British Columbia, a moral
endeavour that gained publicity and support from both indigenous and
non-indigenous communities. Ravenhill’s self-education in indigenous
arts and crafts began with needlework. On hooked rugs, bags, book
covers, cushions, and other household objects she reproduced, for sale,
various indigenous designs garnered from the Provincial Archives.5
2 Hawker argues that Ravenhill and the Society for the Furtherance of British Columbia
Indian Arts and Crafts, which she founded, used arts and crafts as a way of reforming the
Indian educational system and that their work was key to the “transition of First Nations
art promotion from voluntary organizations (in the 1930s) to state institutions (in the 1940s).”
Although Hawker demonstrates that Ravenhill’s work stems from a philanthropic notion that
educational reform through arts and crafts programs in Indian day and residential schools
would contribute to solving the “Indian Problem,” he also shows that this type of reform
was in line with assimilative policies and served to legitimize government control over the
production and distribution of indigenous-made objects. See Ronald Hawker, Tales of Ghosts:
First Nations Art in British Columbia, 1922-61 (Vancouver: ubc Press, 2002), 82-99.
3 Alice Ravenhill, “Formation in Victoria of the Society for the Furtherance of British Columbia
Indian Arts and Crafts” (1945), 6, Society for the Furtherance of British Columbia Indian
Arts and Crafts (hereafter bciac Papers), 1939-1954, box 1, file 3, British Columbia Archives
(hereafter bca). See also Alice Ravenhill, “Biography, 1923-1951” (1952), 224, bciac Papers, bca.
4 See Daniel Francis, “The Bureaucrat’s Indian,” in The Imaginary Indian: The Image of the Indian
in Canadian Culture (Vancouver: Arsenal Pulp Press, 2011) , 209-32.
5 In the latter half of the 1920s, Emily Carr was also reproducing Northwest Coast designs,
for sale, in needlework and on pottery. See Hawker, Ghosts, 84; Maria Tippett, Emily Carr:
A Biography (Toronto: Stoddart, 1994 ), 134-36; National Gallery of Canada/Vancouver
Starting in the late 1920s, Ravenhill also gave public talks “on the
characteristics and claims of these provincial tribal arts” at the Island
and Victoria Arts and Crafts Society, the Women’s University Club,
and the Business Men’s “Lunch Club” in Victoria. Ravenhill’s nee-
dlework designs and her talks were initially met with poor sales, poor
attendance, and a general lack of interest. This changed in 1935, when
Ravenhill redirected her attention to children. That year, sponsored
by the Carnegie Fund, she gave a series of four talks at the Provincial
Museum of Natural History and Anthropology, which attracted a total
audience of over 250 children. In the fall of 1936, an eight-week course
on “British Columbia Indians” was added to the provincial grade school
curriculum “without,” in her view, “authentic guidance being provided
for the teachers.” Ravenhill took up this issue with the school board,
and the result was the publication of her The Native Tribes of British
Columbia in 1938.6
This influential book provides an overview of traditional indigenous
culture in pre-contact times. The cover bears an image of a totem pole,
leaning slightly to the right, as if to express its age and weariness at
Art Gallery, Emily Carr: New Perspectives on a Canadian Icon (Vancouver: Douglas and
McIntyre, 2006), plates 89-92.
6 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 2-3.
Figure 1. Alice Ravenhill, circa 1936. Image I-51527 courtesy of Royal British Columbia
Museum, BC Archives.
having stood, neglected, for so long. Here, Ravenhill defines culture as
“a combination or embodiment of inherited customs and traditions
which control their [indigenous people’s] actions, regulate their pro-
cedures, and find expression in their emotions and arts.”7 While she
also discusses geography, tools, weapons, housing, and food production
methods in Native Tribes, Ravenhill’s main focus is on indigenous arts
Native Tribes gained an unexpected and significant endorsement in
1939, when a copy of the book was presented to the Queen consort of
England, Queen Elizabeth, by Lady Tweedsmuir, a personal friend of
Ravenhill’s and wife of the governor general of Canada. The Queen
expressed much interest in the book and wrote Ravenhill that she was
“specially desirous of learning more on the subject of the North West
Pacific Coast arts and crafts.”8 Encouraged by the success of Native
Tribes, Ravenhill formed a committee based in Victoria in 1940 called
the Society for the Furtherance of British Columbia Indian Arts and
Crafts. This society was created “with the hope of arousing more
interest in our BC Indians and their arts and crafts to promote the
exercise of inherited abilities for their own welfare and for the cultural
and commercial advancement of Canada.”9 Members of the society
included Major Llewellyn Bullock-Webster, director of the province’s
school and community drama; Alma Russell, formerly of the Provincial
Archives; Dr. G. Clifford Carl, director of the Provincial Museum of
Natural History and Anthropology; and anthropologist A.E. Pickford.10
The first thing the society did following its formation was to notify
provincial and federal dia officials of its existence in an attempt to
raise funds and to gain official government support. For several years,
Ravenhill corresponded with Harold McGill, dia director in Ottawa;
R.A. Hoey, who was then in charge of the section concerned with
school curricula and industrial training; and Major D.M. MacKay,
Indian commissioner for the province. Despite her efforts, by the mid-
1940s Ravenhill lamented: “So far War claims have in every case been
quoted as adequate reasons for inability to cooperate in suggestions or
to respond to more definite requests.”11
7 Alice Ravenhill, The Native Tribes of British Columbia (Victoria: Charles F. Banfield, 1938), 10.
8 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 10.
9 Ibid., 11.
10 For Bullock-Webster, see J.L. Hoffman, “Bullock-Webster and the BC Dramatic School,
1921-1932,” Theatre Research in Canada [Online], 8, 2 ( June 1987). For Carl and Pickford, see
Peter Corley-Smith, White Bears and Other Curiosities: The First 100 Years of the Royal British
Columbia Museum (Victoria: Royal British Columbia Museum, 1989).
11 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 14.
Even though Ravenhill and the society were unable to solicit
government funding, they continued lobbying the government and
proceeded with their work of promoting young BC indigenous artists
within the province, throughout Canada, and abroad. In 1941, a rep-
resentative body of the Victoria society was formed in Oliver, British
Columbia, “which,” wrote Ravenhill, “included from the start three
Okanagan Indians.” Two years later, the first BC Aboriginal people
became honorary members of the Victoria society, after “several Chiefs
and representative individuals” attended meetings and assisted the
society in its efforts to “arouse more public interest.”12
Ravenhill ’s second book, A Corner Stone of Canadian Culture:
An Outline of the Arts and Crafts of the Indian Tribes of British Columbia,
appeared in 1944 after more than three years of labour on the part of
Ravenhill and her assistant Betty Newton. This monograph contains
drawings of designs created by Bill Reid’s great-great-uncle, Charles
Edenshaw, and Reid later credited this book with contributing to his
artistic identity and development.13 Corner Stone was distributed to
all of the “Indian schools” in the province. Its purpose was to revive
interest in, provide instruction for, and stimulate the production of
“traditional” arts and crafts among indigenous children. For Ravenhill,
Corner Stone was an expression of her belief that British Columbia’s
indigenous peoples were “a nation of artists,” with inherent tendencies
towards the visual and oral arts.
Work on Corner Stone commenced in 1941, when the dia office in
Ottawa commissioned Ravenhill to produce twenty wall charts of
various designs “to cover all phases of Indian art work and all parts of
the Province.”14 The charts, along with over a hundred pages of text
outlining the characteristics, significance, and legendary origins of each
design, were circulated among the Indian schools in the province. These
were also published in a condensed book form, for sale to the general
public.15 Ravenhill and Newton were paid one hundred dollars for their
work, which, as Ravenhill declared, did “not much more than cover the
cost of materials,” but they felt that their work was “richly worthwhile
as sowing precious seed.”16 Following the publication of Corner Stone,
Ravenhill stepped down from the presidency of the society because of
12 Ibid., 12-13.
13 Hawker, Ghosts, 89; Tippett, Reid, 67.
14 MacKay to Ravenhill, 17 June
1940, bciac Papers, bca.
See also Ravenhill to Bullock-Webster,
11 February 1941, box 1, file 2, bciac Papers, bca; G. Clifford Carl to Ravenhill, 21 February
1941, bciac Papers, bca; and Ravenhill to Carl, 25 February 1941, bciac Papers, bca.
15 G. Clifford Carl, “Foreword,” in Ravenhill, Corner Stone.
16 Ravenhill to Beatrice Cave-Browne-Cave, 29 June 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
“a disabling accident,” and her role in it was taken over by Dr. Carl of
the Provincial Museum of Natural History and Anthropology. However,
Ravenhill’s leadership and her approach to revitalizing indigenous arts
and crafts continued to influence the movement at least into the 1950s.
Ravenhill was a central figure in the revitalization of indigenous arts
and crafts in British Columbia, and her two books did indeed become
“cornerstones” of the movement. A word is required here on the larger
movement that informed the BC indigenous arts and crafts revival. Arts
and Crafts, an international reform movement that was both philan-
thropic and socialist, was based on an ideology that championed the arts
and crafts as a means towards economic self-sufficiency and moral uplift.
The movement took hold in England, the United States, and Canada
during the late nineteenth century, largely based on the philosophy
popularized by the British writer, artist, and socialist William Morris.
The socio-economic aspect of this philosophy encouraged a return to a
communal village economy, wherein artisans perfected their craft and
bartered their wares. Aesthetically, the Arts and Crafts philosophy
advocated imperfection as “evidence of the essential humanity of the
work process; by contrast, the perfections of antique handwork and
modern machine production were considered the products of different
types of ‘slave’ labour.”17 In other words, a return to the daily use and
production of beautiful, handmade objects was one solution to the ills
of industrial society. This movement, in its purest form, was embodied
in cooperative rural craft communities like the Shakers in the north-
eastern United States. By the early twentieth century, the influence of
the Arts and Crafts movement on many reformers and social workers
was apparent. Administrators of settlement houses like Hull House in
Chicago and Toynbee Hall in London adapted Morris’s ideas in their
social work, convinced that art education was the key to the moral uplift
of impoverished immigrants.18
In early twentieth-century Canada, Arts and Crafts movements
adapted variations of these earlier socialist ideas, which found parallels
in “modern” antimodernist sentiments. The BC indigenous arts and
crafts revival was a localized variation of this larger movement. Here,
pre-industrial society had consisted of only a handful of white settlers
17 Diane Waggoner, ed., The Beauty of Life: William Morris and the Art of Design (New York:
Thames and Hudson, 2003), 25.
18 For settlement houses, see Mary Lynn McCree Bryan, Barbara Bair, and Maree De Angury,
eds., The Selected Papers of Jane Addams: Preparing to Lead, 1860-1881 (Urbana: University of
Illinois Press, 2003); and Mary Lynn McCree Bryan and Allen F. Davis, 100 Years at Hull-House
(Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1990).
and a large population of indigenous communities. Thus, for British
Columbians, indigenous people were central actors in the Romantic
notion of the “primitive,” on which the antimodernist image of the
idyllic “premodern” society was based. Proponents of revitalizing in-
digenous arts and crafts believed that “authentic” indigenous designs,
aesthetics, colours, and techniques could only be produced by authentic
indigenous people, by means of “inherited ability.”19 In other words,
the essence of indigenous arts and crafts was its inherently “primitive”
nature. Equally important to this movement was the notion that, because
indigenous people in British Columbia had been colonized, much of
their knowledge of traditional arts and crafts had been, or was, in the
process of being lost.
The most immediate task during the early years of the revival was
the methodical process of defining what constituted authentic “Indian”
arts and crafts before that knowledge disappeared. In this way, the
BC Indian Arts and Crafts revival overlapped, in theory and in practice,
with professional and amateur salvage ethnologists of the day. But there
were key differences in their objectives: the former sought to revitalize
the arts while the latter aimed only to preserve material art objects.
In order to revitalize, however, traditional “Indian” culture first had to
be defined. This was Ravenhill’s agenda and it was what she achieved
with her two books.
Her interest in indigenous arts and crafts renewal was not unique,
nor was it carried out in isolation. For example, her contemporaries and
peers Maisie Hurley and George Raley also engaged in philanthropic
work that involved revitalizing indigenous art and culture in the
province. Their work differed from that of the late nineteenth- and early
twentieth-century salvage ethnologists and collectors, who focused their
attention primarily on the accumulation and preservation of material
objects.20 While Hurley is best known for the Maisie Hurley Collection
of Native Art that is now housed at the North Vancouver Museum and
Archives, she was also an educator and advocate of indigenous rights.
Her biographer, Sharon Fortney, explains that Hurley envisioned her
art collection “playing an important role in cultural education and in
the revitalization of Native artistic traditions.”21 Similarly, the Reverend
19 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 7.
20 For salvage ethnology, see Douglas Cole, Captured Heritage: The Scramble for Northwest Coast
Artifacts (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1995).
21 Sharon Fortney, “Entwined Histories: The Creation of the Maisie Hurley Collection of Native
Art,” BC Studies 167 (2010): 73. See also Janey Mary Nicol, “The Voice of Maisie Hurley,” British
Columbia History 45, 2 (2012): 37-43.
George Raley, who headed the Coqualeetza Residential School in
Chilliwack, believed that revitalizing indigenous arts and crafts was
essential to the practical training, education, and economic well-being of
indigenous children.22 His biographer, Paige Raibmon, discovered that
Raley’s ideas about the role of arts and crafts in improving the lives of
indigenous people in Canada were also inspired by the “New-Deal-for-
Indians” era in the United States in the 1920s and 1930s.23 In this period,
American Indian educational policy shifted from one that sought to
eradicate indigenous culture to one that aimed to develop indigenous
culture in the Indian schools. Even though Canadian Indian day and
residential schools maintained an official policy of cultural assimilation
until after the Second World War, by the late 1930s, individuals like
Raley, Hurley, and Ravenhill were active and successful in promoting
a program of revitalizing indigenous arts and crafts in these schools.24
Ravenhill ’s antimodernist critique of industrial capital echoed
William Morris and, more distantly, Marx’s ideas about the circulation
of capital.25 In Native Tribes, she notes the timeliness of studying pre-
historic peoples and cultures in the midst of an unprecedented economic
depression – the first great crisis of industrial capitalism in Canada.
Ravenhill describes 1930s Canada as
a period when comfort and convenience [were] measured by ability to
pay for their provision unrelated to the exercise of individual resource-
fulness; when every detail of daily life [was] supplied on a large scale
by mechanized methods; when distance [was] annihilated by modern
devices of transport, [and when] the achievements of a people isolated
for many centuries from contact with others [were] apt to be over-
looked and deprecated.26
Here, her argument for the importance of understanding pre-industrial
artistic skills is expressed as a critique of contemporary society. This
antimodernist aspect of her work, which drew from Morris’s writings,
ethnological practices of the day, New Deal politics in the United States,
and Marxism, contributed to her success in generating public interest
in indigenous arts and crafts.
22 Paige Raibmon, “A New Understanding of Things Indian: George Raley’s Negotiation of
the Residential School Experience,” BC Studies 110 (1996): 86-93.
23 Ibid., 90-91.
24 For indigenous arts and crafts in Canada, see Gerald R. McMaster, “Tenuous Lines of Descent:
Indian Arts and Crafts of the Reservation Period,” Canadian Journal of Native Studies 9,
2 (1989): 205-36.
25 See Karl Marx, Grundrisse, trans. Martin Nicolaus (New York: Penguin Books, 1973), 501-50.
26 Ravenhill, Native Tribes, 9.
Ravenhill’s antimodernist stance was further articulated as a critical
observation of the effects of European colonization and assimilation
policies. According to Ravenhill, pre-European Aboriginal peoples
expert in fishing, hunting, canoe making and house construction. But
the death blow was dealt to the exercise of their associated arts and
crafts when adventurers and traders and well intentioned missionaries
carelessly or ignorantly swept away the deeply seated customs of a
hitherto isolated “nation of artists” … with appalling rapidity. Grave
demoralization soon followed the introduction of hitherto unknown
alcohol, unfamiliar trading methods and diverse factors which left –
after a short period of attempted self-defence – a bewildered, irritated
people faced with the loss of their lands, their familiar methods of self
support, their religion, from which sprang stimulus to their arts and
not least, their self respect.27
Her conviction that revitalizing indigenous arts and crafts was necessary
to the overall well-being of indigenous Canadians was further voiced
as a more specific protest against Canadian dia policy, particularly the
Indian day and residential school systems.28 Ravenhill argued that, in
Canadian Indian schools: “the children are confronted with unknown
subjects in an unknown language – diverse from their own picturesque
forms of expression; a process described by Sir George Maxwell in 1942
out of his wide experience as ‘crippling and destroying a people’s soul;
fatal to self-respect and inducing in the individual contempt for his
own race.’”29 In light of her background, it is not surprising that, for
Ravenhill, the solution to these problems was the revival of indigenous
arts and crafts. Ravenhill and the Society for the Furtherance of British
Columbia Indian Arts and Crafts focused primarily on children, and
27 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 6.
28 Ravenhill was one of many individuals, both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal, who demanded
reform of the Indian educational system in Canada. Children who attended the schools,
their parents, chiefs, and reformers like Ravenhill resisted, protested, and advocated for
change throughout the twentieth century. For residential schools and resistance, see Celia
Haig-Brown, Resistance and Renewal: Surviving the Indian Residential School (Vancouver:
Tillicum Library, 1988); and J.R. Miller, Shingwauk’s Vision: A History of Native Residential
Schools (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1996).
29 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 6. Sir George Maxwell worked for the British civil service in Malaya,
eventually taking the post of chief secretary of the Federated Malay States from 1921 to 1926.
When Ravenhill wrote this passage in 1945, British colonial rule over Malaya was in the
process of being dissolved as a result of opposition by the Malay people. The Federation of
Malaya was established in 1948, and Malaysia gained independence from Britain in 1957, with
an indigenous Islamic government. See Sir William George Maxwell, The Civil Defence of
Malaya (London: Hutchinson and Co., 1944).
on the revitalization of arts and crafts in Indian schools, because they
believed that innate artistic talents were most recoverable, and responsive
to nurturing, in children.
Ravenhill was influenced by other intellectual currents. Her ap-
proach assumed a belief in racial essentialism. She assumed that the
knowledge and skill required to produce authentic indigenous arts
and crafts derived from an inherent indigenous essence. In a section
of Native Tribes entitled “The Study of Racial Origins,” she explains
that race is studied along four lines: prehistoric remains, anatomical
and physical characteristics, language, and “the type and standards
of culture revealed in a people’s customs and arts.”30 This idea that
the arts are representative of some kind of racial essence was similarly
articulated by one representative of the dia. In a public statement to
promote Ravenhill’s 1944 publication of Corner Stone, R.A. Hoey of the
dia office in Ottawa declared on behalf of the dia: “We believe … that
Canadian Indians have a real contribution to make to the prosperity
of the Dominion … by the exercise of their innate gifts of conception,
technique and intelligence.” In the book itself, Ravenhill similarly
Give an Indian boy a pot of paint and a brush and watch results.
Without Art School or instruction in method or style, animals, trees,
mountains are stored in his mind, alive, and ready to spring out and
express themselves in their own vitality and style, stored up by close
observation and retentive memory, often constituting an integral part
of his life, ready for expression at a moment’s notice.31
Although a philanthropic sense of duty was an underlying motivation for
both, the dia officials had traditionally favoured policies of assimilation,
while Ravenhill favoured a return to the racial and cultural essence of
the indigenous person through arts and crafts.32
While a lack of funding meant that government policy did not always
materialize into practice, Ravenhill’s brand of arts and crafts ideology,
with its focus on revitalization rather than museum-like preservation
and assimilation, was slowly being integrated into the official workings
of the dia during the interwar years. A dia anthropological division
was established in 1936, and experts like Diamond Jenness, Douglas
Leechman, and Marius Barbeau acted as consultants. The following
30 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 13-14.
31 Ravenhill, Corner Stone, 1, 2.
32 Ravenhill to the Community Drama Branch, Adult Education Department, Victoria, 12 June
1940, bciac Papers, bca.
year, “the revival and advancement of Indian handicraft” became official
government policy, but assistance from the federal government was
confined almost exclusively to Ontario and Quebec. The reason given for
this was as follows: “Indian handicraft projects, to be successful, impose
upon the Department an obligation to provide constant supervision
and this obligation has until now confined efforts largely to reserves in
Eastern Canada.”33 But, by 1940, the efforts of reformers like Ravenhill
to promote regional artistic accomplishments outside of central Canada
had gained the attention of dia officials, and the production and sale of
handicrafts had become official (if underfunded) policy on a national
“The Remarkable Gifts of Francois Baptiste”35
In addition to her publications and her success lobbying government
officials, Ravenhill’s brief but influential work with the Society for the
Furtherance of British Columbia Indian Arts and Crafts was marked
by two key accomplishments – the promotion of a young Okanagan
artist named Sis-Hu-Lk and a nativity play produced by the children
of the Inkameep Indian Day School. Ravenhill’s two Inkameep cam-
paigns contain all the main strands of her approach: the importance of
revitalizing indigenous artistic production and encouraging indigenous
economic self-sufficiency, and the centrality of racial essentialism to
the movement. Her ally in these campaigns was Anthony Walsh.36
Walsh was a teacher at the Inkameep Indian Day School in the south
Okanagan Valley near the town of Oliver. They began corresponding
in January 1939. Prior to this, both Ravenhill and Walsh had been
working, unknown to each other, on the common project of revi-
talizing indigenous arts and crafts among indigenous children. Born
in Ireland, Walsh had immigrated to Alberta after the First World
War and had begun teaching at Inkameep in 1930 after several years
working as a rancher, a forester, a cook, a berry picker, and a clerk.
33 Canada, Sessional Papers, Annual Report of the Department of Indian Affairs (1939-1940), 8.
34 Ibid., (1940-1941), 10-12.
35 Ravenhill to Bullock-Webster, 16 January 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
36 For Anthony Walsh, see Andrea N. Walsh, “No Small Work: Anthropology, Art, and
Children,” paper presented at the Canadian Anthropology Society Meeting, 9 May 2003,
Halifa x, Nova Scotia. See also http://w w w.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca /sgc-cms/
expositions-exhibitions/inkameep; and Thomas Fleming, Lisa Smith, and Helen Raptis,
“An Accidental Teacher: Anthony Walsh and the Aboriginal Day Schools at Six Mile Creek
and Inkameep, British Columbia, 1929-1942,” Historical Studies in Education 19, 1 (2007): 2-24.
He gained the cooperation of Chief Baptiste George, as well as some
of the parents of his students, in the task of revitalizing indigenous arts
and crafts. As well as providing time during school hours for art and
literary pursuits, Walsh encouraged his students to collect Okanagan
legends and stories from their parents, which they then reinterpreted
as plays. With Walsh’s guidance and the help of their parents, the
children made costumes and performed these dramas. Starting in
1939, Ravenhill promoted Inkameep’s artistic endeavours in Vancouver
and Victoria, and the Inkameep school gained some notoriety within
Figure 2. Anthony Walsh, n.d. Image I-61892 courtesy of
Royal British Columbia Museum, BC Archives.
British Columbia. Both Sis-Hu-Lk and the nativity play came from
Inkameep and attracted significant publicity in the early 1940s, when
the Vancouver Sun heralded Inkameep as “one of the last strongholds of
Canada’s Indian culture.” 37 International recognition soon followed. In
1945, the Inkameep school won honours at the Exhibition of Drawings
and Paintings held annually by the Royal Drawing Society of London,
and its work was among those selected to show the King and Queen at
Buckingham Palace at the first Exhibit of Canadian Children’s Art.38
37 Vancouver Sun, 14 April 1940, clipping in bciac Papers, bca.
38 Ravenhill, “Formation,” 7.
Figure 3. Sis-Hu-Lk, n.d. Image C-06211 courtesy of Royal British
Columbia Museum, BC Archives.
Central to this revival was Walsh’s student and protégé, Sis-Hu-Lk,
whose English name was Francois Baptiste. Sis-Hu-Lk was the grandson
of Chief Baptiste George, who died at the age of ninety-two in 1939,
eight months after Ravenhill and Walsh began their correspondence.
He lived, according to his obituary in the Family Herald and Weekly
Star, “to see the beginning of the revival of that culture among his own
people, due to his wisdom and foresight.”39 Born in 1921 at Inkameep,
Sis-Hu-Lk’s talent for drawing and painting was recognized early on by
his family and community, including his teacher. A studio was built for
him on the reserve, and, for a brief period in 1940, he was sent to study
at an Indian school for art in Santa Fe, New Mexico.40 Ravenhill was
instrumental in promoting Sis-Hu-Lk in British Columbia, Ontario,
Quebec, and Europe as “a BC full-blooded Indian and a young artist
of promise and distinction.”41
Sis-Hu-Lk drew and painted animals – horses, squirrels and skunks,
mountain sheep and deer, eagles, wild geese, and quail. These creatures
were rendered primarily in black and white, in a realistic but somewhat
two-dimensional fashion. In January 1940, Ravenhill persuaded Lady
Tweedsmuir to send several of Sis-Hu-Lk’s pieces to the National Art
Gallery in Ottawa.42 The response Ravenhill received from Arthur
Lismer, educational advisor for the gallery, was encouraging. Lismer
suggested the possibility of an “exhibition of Indian Artists’ paintings
in which Sis-hu-lk’s work [would] predominate.” He was impressed
with Sis-Hu-Lk’s work but was not willing to go so far as to agree with
Ravenhill’s idea that the indigenous person’s inherent artistic talent
should be left to flourish with as little outside interference as possible.
For Ravenhill, artistic talent was part of the innate racial essence of
indigenous peoples and was of value for its primitive, spontaneous, and
simplistic aesthetic.43 Lismer agreed that Sis-Hu-Lk’s style was “a racial
characteristic,” but it was one that did not align with “a white man’s idea
of anything that appears ‘decorative’ in line and motive,” and he was
“not so certain that [Sis-Hu-Lk] should be left ‘natural’ and untrained.”44
39 Family Herald and Weekly Star, 2 October 1940, clipping in bciac Papers, bca.
40 Daily Colonist, 30 May 1941, clipping in bciac Papers, bca.
41 Ravenhill to J. Harry Smith, Press Manager, cpr, Montreal, 19 June 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
42 Ravenhill to Bullock-Webster, 16 January 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
43 Ravenhill’s ideas about aesthetic and artistic development fall in line with the early-to
mid-twentieth-century Modernist art movement, which celebrated “qualities of immediacy,
spontaneity, purity, and indeed innocence” that were termed “Primitive.” In this Modernist
perspective, “Primitive Art” came from the artist’s unconscious and was closely linked to
children’s creative expressions. See Walsh, “No Small Work,” 2.
44 Arthur Lismer to Ravenhill, 20 July 1940, University of British Columbia Special Collections
(hereafter Ravenhill Fonds, ubcsc).
The exhibit was never to happen because Sis-Hu-Lk, who was then
nineteen years old and also working as a rancher with his family, did not
produce the larger works that the gallery commissioned. Nonetheless, he
did gain some local and national attention, and he brought indigenous
arts and crafts into the public eye.
In June of 1940, Ravenhill arranged an exhibit for Sis-Hu-Lk at the
Windermere Hotel in Victoria. Reviews were favourable. One newspaper
lauded his drawings and paintings as being “marked by vitality and
spontaneity, and reflect[ing] the characteristic Indian qualities of keen
observation and memory which is accurate and impressionable.”45
Another pointed to his “vivid realism and a strong sense of decorative
design, which promise[d] to carry him into the ranks of foremost
Canadian artists.”46 Sis-Hu-Lk received several commissions from
this exhibit, which, like the National Gallery commissions, he never
fulfilled.47 No records from Sis-Hu-Lk himself remain in the archives,
and his reasons for shunning the art world can only be inferred. His
work as a cattle rancher certainly would have inhibited his ability to
produce larger pieces, which would have taken more time from paid work
45 Daily Colonist, 23 June 1940, clipping in bciac Papers, bca.
46 Victoria Daily Times, 1 July 1940, clipping in bciac Papers, bca.
47 Ravenhill to Walsh, 3 August 1940, Ravenhill Fonds, ubcsc.
Figure 4. Painting by Sis-Hu-Lk, “Okanagan Nation” n.d. Image C-06220 courtesy of Royal
British Columbia Museum, BC Archives.
than he could afford to spare. Ravenhill repeatedly cited “lack of funds”
as an impediment to Sis-Hu-Lk’s development as a professional artist.48
This possibly explains why Sis-Hu-Lk never fulfilled his commission
or his artistic potential. In contrast to George Raley’s vision of a
“revival of Indian art and handicraft as a welfare movement,” Ravenhill
focused primarily on educational reform.49 She did, however, also view
indigenous arts and crafts as a possible economic motor. In a bid to gain
the support of dia officials, Ravenhill pitched her mission as having
the potential effect of “stimulating a gradual revival of their former
handicrafts among some of our Indians now on Relief as to preserve for
our Province some of its unique arts while restoring these dependent
people to at least a measure of self-support.”50 Her motive here was to
encourage economic self-sufficiency among indigenous people while at
the same time reviving the traditional arts. These aims, however, were
often economically unfeasible. For Sis-Hu-Lk, whose artistic endeavours
generated such a meagre hourly wage that his productivity suffered
when other work was available, practical realities intruded upon his
career as an artist. Nonetheless, indigenous artisans and craftspeople
had a long-standing tradition of selling their wares, even if sporadically,
and arts and crafts were a standard element of the economy of many
As well as imagining its economic possibilities, reformers and dia
officials alike encouraged the continued production of indigenous arts
and crafts for moral purposes – essentially, to redress the injury wrought
by colonization. The loss of indigenous cultures, reflected in the loss of
traditional arts and crafts, was understood to be an outcome of coloni-
zation and settlement. For Ravenhill, the revitalization of Indian arts
and crafts was a moral responsibility with national repercussions – one
that had the power to “knit more closely together members of our
own country and Commonwealth.”52 Thus, the project of marketing
indigenous arts and crafts in British Columbia was carried out with
considerable passion as well as with careful direction. For example,
Ravenhill worked closely with Walsh and the children at Inkameep to
produce Christmas cards for sale to the non-indigenous market. On the
one hand, Ravenhill provided detailed instruction as to the technique
48 Ravenhill to Webster, 16 January 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
49 Hawker, Ghosts, 74.
50 Ravenhill to MacKay, 28 May 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
51 Society for the Furtherance of British Columbia Indian Arts and Crafts, Report of the
Committee on Indian Arts and Crafts, September 1934, bciac Papers, bca.
52 Ravenhill to MacKay, 28 May 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
and subject of these cards: she identified the images to be used on the
front of the cards, instructed that a “thumbnail sketch of the tepee”
be used as background on the inside of the cards, and stressed the
importance of using colour in the illustrations. On the other hand, she
also emphasized the importance of authenticity, of allowing the children
to produce original work and “establishing individuality in both the
pictorial (outside) message and also in the words used.”53 Another project
initiated by Walsh involved a radio production entitled “Songs by the
Boys and Girls of the Inkameep Indian School.”54 However, Ravenhill
and Walsh’s most successful effort at marketing arts and crafts for a
non-indigenous consumer market was probably The Tale of the Nativity.
The Tale of the Nativity was originally staged as a play by the students at
Inkameep Indian School in the winter of 1939. It was published in book
form the following summer, with illustrations by Sis-Hu-Lk. Both the
stage production and the book met with a significant degree of media
attention and interest from the non-indigenous public. This nativity
play was set in the Okanagan Valley, and much attention was placed
on the regional flora and fauna that appeared in the production. In the
script, Mary and Joseph take shelter in a cave, where Jesus is born with
the help of a gathering of talking animals – a deer, a fawn, rabbits, and
chickadees. The miraculous healing of “a cripple” by the baby Jesus is
incorporated into the tale, as is the weaving of rush mats, a visit from
three Great Chiefs, and references to the Old Shaman and the Great
Spirit. The people in this play live in lodges, eat fish and deer meat,
wear fur robes, and fall asleep to the owl’s hoot and the coyote’s howl.
The play was performed for the public on several occasions throughout
the year. One audience member described the stage as being decorated
with “fir boughs, sage brush, wild rose bushes, birds and animals,”
and the cave as being “homelike and natural to the Indian child.” This
performance was lauded for its “native simplicity,” a hallmark descriptor
of antimodernist discourse.55 For example, the journalist Edna Kells
commented: “Simplicity, in fact, is the keynote of all the artistic effort
which has carried their [indigenous peoples’] fame.”56 For his part, Bob
53 “Inkameep Children’s Drama: On the Production of Christmas Cards” (1942), Ravenhill
Fonds, ubcsc. For “authenticity,” see Paige Raibmon, Authentic Indians: Episodes of Encounter
from the Late Nineteenth Century Northwest Coast (Durham: Duke University Press, 2005).
54 “Inkameep Children’s Drama: Songs by the Boys and Girls of the Inkameep Indian School,
Oliver, British Columbia – Radio” (n.d.), Ravenhill Fonds, ubcsc.
55 British Columbia Catholic, December 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
56 Family Herald and Weekly Star, 2 October 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
Lowe of the Vancouver Sun asserted: “The beauty of their work lies in
Published in Victoria by the Society for the Furtherance of British
Columbia Indian Arts and Crafts in August 1940, the Tale of the Na-
tivity booklet consisted of nineteen pages with eight illustrations by
Sis-Hu-Lk and was priced at twenty-five cents. The proceeds from the
booklet were to be “devoted to the remuneration of Sis-Hu-Lk for his
illustrations and to a fund to enable the committee to carry further
these objects, and thus contribute to Canadian culture.”58 The British
Columbia Catholic Review, which recommended wide circulation of
the booklet among Catholics in the province, described the story as
having emanated “from the minds of children of the first Canadians.”59
The Tale of the Nativity was sold to the non-indigenous consumer not
only as an expression of “naïve simplicity,”60 whose illustrations were of
a “purely native style,”61 but also as a work that was distinctly Canadian.
The apparent incongruity of promoting indigenous “authenticity”
through the single most important legend of Christianity, equal only to
the story of the crucifixion, appears to have gone largely uncontested,
and both the play and the booklet were a resounding success.
After Ravenhill retired from her position with the Society for the
Furtherance of British Columbia Indian Arts and Crafts, the organi-
zation continued, even more effectively, to promote the work of young
artists, primarily through museum exhibitions. In the 1940s, the society
was most notable in promoting George Clutesi, the Tseshaht painter
who gained significant notoriety as an artist, writer, actor, and activist.62
During the late 1940s and 1950s, the renamed British Columbia Indian
Arts and Welfare Society also provided a platform for politically active
indigenous artists like Ellen Neel and Mungo Martin to exhibit both
their artwork and their politics.63 These exhibitions often contrasted
older artefacts with newer works and challenged the notion of the
“Vanishing Indian” by demonstrating both consistency and change
in indigenous arts and crafts. Whereas philanthropy motivated non-
indigenous reformers like Ravenhill and Walsh, as well as others like
Maisie Hurley and George Raley, for many indigenous artists and
57 Vancouver Sun, 14 April 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
58 Alice Ravenhill, Review of The Tale of the Nativity, Northwest Bookshelf (1941): 84-85.
59 British Columbia Catholic, December 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
60 Daily Colonist, 3 December 1940, bciac Papers, bca.
61 Miscellaneous magazine clipping, no title, n.d., bciac Papers, bca.
62 For Clutesi, see George Clutesi, Stand Tall, My Son (Victoria: Newport Bay Publishers, 1990).
63 For Neel and Martin, see Phil Nuytten, The Totem Carvers: Charlie James, Ellen Neel, Mungo
Martin (Vancouver: Panorama Publications, 1982).
communities the motivation behind revitalizing their artistic traditions
Ravenhill had some unexpected mid-century political influence.
In the final years of the Second World War, both the provincial and
federal branches of the Native Brotherhood, the foremost intertribal
indigenous organization in this period, became increasingly activist.65
The rhetoric of human rights and social justice that the war produced
contributed to this rising tide of protest. Debates over enfranchisement
and compulsory military service were fuelled by the British Columbia
Native Brotherhood’s public nationalist statements of support for the
war, as “the real Canadians.”66 The North American Indian Broth-
erhood (naib), which was born out of the Native Brotherhoods in 1944,
advocated for representation of “the Indians of Canada” in Parliament,
a Royal Commission to revise the Indian Act, and “a new deal for the
indigenouss [sic] of this great country.”67 In 1950, the British Columbia
Indian Arts and Welfare Society and its “distinguished founder, Dr.
Alice Ravenhill,” were officially recognized by Indian Time magazine,
a national indigenous rights publication whose leadership overlapped
with the leadership of the naib and included Maisie Hurley.68 Indian
Time and the naib represented the genesis of national-level political
mobilization and organization in Canada at the end of the Second World
War. This was a defining moment in the indigenous rights movement,
and in these formative years cultural revival through the arts and crafts
provided one of the foundations of a unified and politicized indigenous
64 As Hawker argues, the interwar period marks a transition to increased government and
non-indigenous control over the production, distribution, and consumption of indigenous
art and imagery. However, as Leslie Dawn points out, this manipulation occurred within a
context of “internal contradictions and external opposition,” of land claims and assertions of
identity that “threatened to destabilize what had long been held as foundational truths for the
discipline of ethnography, for the principles of museum collecting, for enacting government
policies and legislation, and for acquiring territories.” See Hawker, Ghosts; Leslie Dawn,
National Visions, National Blindness: Canadian Art and Identities in the 1920s (Vancouver: ubc
Press, 2006), 272.
65 For the Native Brotherhood, see Paul Tennant, Aboriginal Peoples and Politics: The Indian Land
Question in British Columbia, 1849-1989 (Vancouver: ubc Press, 1990), 114-24.
66 Alfred Adams, President, Native Brotherhood of British Columbia, Vancouver Office, to the
Officers and Members of the Native Brotherhood of BC, 7 February 1945, bciac Papers, bca.
67 Andrew Paull, North American Indian Brotherhood, Grand National Convention Call,
16 July 1945, bciac, bca. For a recent account of Andrew Paull’s life and career, see Brendan
Edwards, “‘I Have Lots of Help behind Me, Lots of Books, to Convince You’: Andrew Paull
and the Value of Literacy in English,” BC Studies 164 (2009/10): 7-30.
68 Doug Wilkinson, pub., Indian Time (Vancouver), November 1950.
Starting in 1947, the University of British Columbia and the Provincial
Museum of Natural History and Anthropology turned their attention
to restoring totem poles from the Northwest Coast region. The project
involved many indigenous peoples, including Mungo Martin, Ellen
Neel, and Bill Reid. In 1959, Reid was commissioned by the University of
British Columbia to duplicate a series of thirty totem and house poles.69
By this time, Reid had absorbed Ravenhill’s carefully collected and
replicated designs, and her inspirational as well as intelligent writings.
She had hoped Sis-Hu-Lk would achieve provincial and national
recognition as an artist in the 1940s, but only in the following decades
would social conditions welcome an artist of Bill Reid’s ambition and
stature. Thanks, in part, to Ravenhill’s groundbreaking and committed
work with the Society for the Furtherance of British Columbia Indian
Arts and Crafts, and to her literary and teaching abilities, mainstream
audiences in British Columbia were prepared for the postwar Aboriginal
arts and craft resurgence, and her activism was recognized by postwar
leaders of human rights and social justice. Ravenhill was awarded an
honorary doctorate by the University of British Columbia in 1948, six
years before her death. Her cultural importance continues to be felt.
69 Tippett, Bill Reid, 105-22.