Alice Ravenhill to Miss Aitken (Feb.6, 1941)


Alice Ravenhill to Miss Aitken (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
[Min?] J. Hill. Cape Mudge


Dear Miss Aitken, (Alert Bay)

Our mutual friend, Noel Stewart, suggests I should write to you and tell you and Miss Fleck about the movement started a few months ago in Victoria, with the approval of the Director of Indian Affairs at Ottawa and of Major McKay at Vancouver, to revive, where opportunity offers the latent gifts of the young people in our Indian schools along the line of arts, crafts, and drama. (Major Bullock-Webster is a member of my Committee and that speaks for itself.) The main objects in view are to assist our Indians in a development which should presently provide an economic security for at least a few of them; should contribute to Canadian culture should gradually substitute accurate reproductions of authentic objects as substitutes for the hideous and misleading, inaccurate “souvenirs” at present offered to tourists; and not least should assist in establishing more sympathetic relations between them and their white fellow Canadians.

These practical efforts sprung from the start made at the Inkameep school under Anthony Walsh and at Lytton under Noel Stewart. Both have found that by giving the children entire freedom to express their own ideas of the mythical personages associated with their old and useful legends or in the painting of the wild life or the activities [are then] quite remarkable evidences of skill rise to the surface and not only in art but in drama, and craftsmanship. Obviously outstanding ability is not present in them all, but undoubtedly it is in a fair proportion.

I am most anxious to secure the interest and support of the staff of the various schools, realising the development of our object must take time; I am hoping those to whom I write will be kind enough to write me their own experience and points of view, and that they will give me the name of any teachers in other schools who would feel sympathetic [page break] towards our ideas.

I have an idea Captain Barry may already have said something about my Committee’s desires, and he is desirous of bringing before the young people selected specimens of the outstanding skills of their forbears, not with the idea of compelling them into exactly similar lines of expression, though hoping some may be carefully reproduced for “souvenir” eventually; but to stimulate them to try and develop in themselves abilities which shall open to them means of honourable self support and a demonstration that they too should contribute to the economic and artistic life of Canada.

Doubtless you have seen a copy of “The Tale of the Nativity” from Inkameep which my Committee published last Fall and of which many more than the 1000 copies printed have been called for from England and U.S.A. as well as in Canada. We hope later on to publish further examples of the gifts of our Indian Children in B.C., and I am hoping that you will trust me with specimens of spontaneous work in any form from your own school.

Yours very truly,
[Alice Ravenhill]




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