Alice Ravenhill to J.M Kennedy (Feb.6, 1941)


Alice Ravenhill to J.M Kennedy (Feb.6, 1941)


One of several form letters Alice Ravenhill sent out to the principals and teachers Indian Residential and Day schools across British Columbia to inquire about existing arts-based education initiatives and to invite these educators to join the BCIACWS in supporting and building on the initiatives began by Anthony Walsh and Noel Stewart. She explains that her intent with focusing on art in particular is to "bring about a more sympathetic relation between them and their white fello [sic] Canadians" and to replace the kitchy Aboriginal-themed souvenirs in tourist shops with actual artwork by Aboriginal students at Residential Schools, in the interest of showing them how to utilize their artistic talents to make a living.


Alice Ravenhill


Royal BC Museum, BC Archives (F/I/R19)


Feb.6, 1941


Duplicates to Rev. F Burnling, Reply - Hazelton
and Rev. F Inglfield, Alert Bay, No reply

Feb.6th 1941
To the Red. J.M.Kennedy. O.N.I.
Indian School.
Kamloops. B.C.

Dear Sir,

I venture to trespass upon you [sic] time to tell you of a movement started some months ago in Victoria, with the approval of the Director of the Indian Affairs Office at Ottawa and of Major McKay at Vancouver, to revive where opportunity offers, the latent arts of the young people in the Indian Schools of the Province with the view of assisting them to an improved economic future by the sale of accurate “souvenirs”; to incite them to contribute along these lines to Canadian culture, and, not least to bring about a more sympathetic relation between them and their white fello [sic] Canadians. These practical efforts arose from the start made at Inkameep under Anthony Walsh and at St. George’s School, Lytton under Noel Stewart, who have found that be encouraging the elder children to express their own ideas either of the mythical personages playing parts in their old folklore or in the painting of the wild life with which some are surrounded or of their own activities quite remarkable evidence of marked ability come to the surface in a fair proportion, capable of development into carefully supervised commercial levels. Major Bullock-Webster (A member of the Committee here of which I am Secretary) finds similar innate gifts show themselves in reproduction of native legends or plays in dramatic form.

You will I know, share my Committee’s desire to supersede the inaccurate representations of so-called B.C. art in souvenir stores throughout the Province; and those of this desire will take time and organization to realize. I am anxious to secure the interest of those in charge of these Indian schools by allowing me to hear whether any of the children have tried thus to develop their latent gifts along their own (untaught) lines, and whether the Art [page break] Instructor in your schools is interested in this effort and has tried experiments with the children.

Captain Barry is definitely interested in our project, and desirous of bringing selected representations of the outstanding skills of their forebears before the young people, not with intention that they should be copied, unless with the idea of reproducing them in different ways for eventual sale, but by stimulating them to endeavour to develop for themselves abilities which shall open in them means of honourable self support and a demonstration that they too can contribute to the economic and not least the artistic life of Canada. No doubt you have seen a copy of “The Tale of the Nativity” which my Committee published and of which many more than the 1000 copies printed have been called for from England and U.S.A. as well as Canada. We hope to publish further evidences of the Indian childrens’ gifts and I am hoping that presently you will trust me with specimens of spontaneous work along some lines from your own school.

Yours very truly,
[Alice Ravenhill]




Alice Ravenhill, “Alice Ravenhill to J.M Kennedy (Feb.6, 1941),” The Story is More than Itself, accessed September 23, 2018,