December 15th, 2016
The Tale Behind the Tale
The lounge of the Windermere Hotel was busy on the evening of December 27, 1939. Few people seemed to notice that there was a three-month old war on in Europe.
Alice Ravenhill smoothed down her best black taffeta dress and adjusted the lacey white jabot around her neck.
At the age of eighty-one she was as deeply involved in reviving knowledge of British Columbia natives as she had been in teaching about health and hygiene forty years earlier in England. She wanted this evening to be the start of promoting Indigenous arts and crafts in British Columbia.
She tried to quell her anxiety about the forthcoming reading of The Tale of the Nativity. How many of the influential Victoria residents that she had invited would turn up?
Her correspondent Anthony Walsh had to travel all the way from Osoyoos. Would he make it in time to present his dramatic version of The Tale? How reliable was this man that she knew only through eleven months of letter writing?
Walsh, pacing the deck of the steamer from Vancouver, had his doubts too. He had written The Tale of the Nativity with the input of his young students at the Inkameep Indian Day School, and this would be its first reading outside the small community of Oliver, B.C.
Would the people of Victoria see his students the same way he did — bright, and full of promise?
* * *
The successful presentation of The Tale of the Nativity signaled the beginning of several projects weaving through the next three years of Alice Ravenhill’s contributions to Indigenous arts and crafts in British Columbia. The first project (and initial step) was the formation of The Committee to Promote the Revival and Development of their Latent Gifts among Native Tribes of British Columbia with Anthony Walsh credited as the originator of the idea and included as co-founder along with Ravenhill.
The first meeting of the newly formed organization in January of 1940 was most likely held at the Windermere Hotel where Ravenhill and her siblings resided. A few of Ravenhill’s acquaintances had agreed to serve on the executive committee: Major Llewellyn Bullock-Webster, Director of B.C. School and Community Drama was titular Chairman. Betty Campbell Newton, the twenty-eight year old daughter of the Windermere Hotel manager, where Ravenhill and her siblings resided, represented the Victoria and Island Arts and Crafts Society. Madame Elma Sanderson-Mongin, a well-known French teacher in Victoria, brought her considerable social connections to the committee. Beatrice Cave-Browne-Cave, a music teacher in New Westminster, was listed on the committee, perhaps more for her name than for her actual involvement.
Anthony Walsh’s membership on the committee was honorary because he could not attend meetings regularly. He quickly fell into the role of mediator and liaison between the committee and his Inkameep pupils. Additional members were added throughout 1940; Alma Russell, former Archivist and Provincial Librarian whose presence Ravenhill anticipated to be “genuinely enthusiastic and stimulating;” Doug Flintoff, a Victoria printer and commercial artist; Willard Ireland, newly appointed Provincial Archivist; and Arthur E. Pickford, an anthropologist and ethnobotanist at the Provincial Museum.
The initial aims of the Society were spelled out in the First Annual Report for 1940:
To promote the revival of the latent gifts of art, drama, dance and song, as well as certain handicrafts among the Indians of this Province for the following reasons:
CULTURAL: To preserve for Canadian Culture by such revival certain forms of Primitive Art unique in character, consequently an asset of definite value to both nation and Province.
ECONOMIC: So to direct such revival, as to raise the products to commercial standards and thereby life a proportion of these Indian people off Relief, and incidentally restore to them a measure of self-respect and an independent livelihood.
ETHICAL AND CONSTRUCTIVE: To bring about a more sympathetic relation between fellow Canadians of diverse races through the practical demonstration of hitherto overlooked abilities, thereby definitely promoting national and international goodwill; a fact upon which the world depends for any prospect of permanent Peace. 
Publication of The Tale of the Nativity was the Society’s first project. As its secretary, Ravenhill sent many letters to Walsh, negotiating the text and drawings of The Tale. She slowly gained an idea of the breadth of Walsh’s art initiatives at the Inkameep Day School. “We are aware of how little we know of your efforts and accomplishments. We are like a reader plunged into the middle of a romance, who suffers from ignorance of the early development of its subject.” This unfamiliarity did not stop her from making suggestions for improvement in The Tale. She asked Walsh to let her rewrite the introduction. “Will you trust me to prepare the paragraph telling how The “Tale” grew out of your sympathy with your children? We do not want to put words in [their] mouths.”
Once a satisfactory introduction had been completed, she decided not to include Walsh’s name as partner. “Otherwise the whole might be credited to you; I think you will see my point.” Francis Jim Baptiste was asked to draw eight pictures for The Tale. Ravenhill’s favourite was a drawing of the Virgin Mary riding bareback on a horse with a chipmunk perched behind her. She sent suggestions for the illustrations to Walsh, ostensibly suggested by the Committee, but more likely coming from Ravenhill herself:
What we most desire are that they should be drawn from his [Baptiste’s] surroundings; that the faces should not be European; (in any case the Holy Family were Jewish) but the more typically Okanagan Indian these outlines are, the more illustrative they would be of the charming details of the “Tale”; though I well know an artist must express himself not the conseptions [sic] of others.
To Ravenhill’s eyes, the halos around the children’s heads were rather big, but she conceded, “Of course the [halos] are derived from the pictures or statues seen by the children and to omit them might distress or even shock those who dictated this conception.”
Ravenhill insisted that she did not want to put words into the mouths of Walsh’s students but her editorial touch was apparent. In one scene the word “preened” was used to describe how the Quails smoothed their feathers in preparation to become food for the Three Chiefs [Wise Men]: an unlikely choice of words for elementary school children.
Religious issues also arose. Anthony Walsh asked for a change in some of the wording in a reprinting the next year:
[W]ould it be possible to insert where the men arrive from the hillsides, if they could say, ‘Are you the Foster Father of the newly born Baby.’ Bishop Johnson [the Roman Catholic Bishop of the Nelson Diocese] thought that the idea of St. Joseph being the foster-father had not been made clear.
The Committee mulled over Walsh’s suggestions. Arthur Pickford sent his response in a letter to Ravenhill:
think we should not make any changes in the text unless these were necessitated by errors in the first edition. I find no such error in the presentation of St. Joseph and therefore think, Bishops notwithstanding, that we should not put that clumsy word “foster-father” in the mouths of these simple children. Such a word is out of harmony with the poetic flow and simplicity of the work as a whole.
Ravenhill replied confidentially to Pickford: “I may tell you we were very careful last year to evade one or two tiny suggestions of the Roman Catholicism in which these children have been reared.” She then informed Walsh that the Committee members were “unanimous in thinking [the request] would strike a false and unnatural note.”
Ever politically adroit, Ravenhill suggested to Walsh that the caption under the last illustration could be changed from “The Child’s Happy Boyhood” to “The Child’s Happy Boyhood with His Foster Father,” adding, “We hope that these slight changes will satisfy your Bishop; the point of foster fathership was raised to me from the same source last year and I am ashamed to say slipped my memory.”
Doug Flintoff in his capacity as a professional lithographer was asked to look at Baptiste’s work to see if it could be reproduced easily. Betty Newton, by now Ravenhill’s volunteer secretary, relayed Flintoff’s comments to Walsh: “He urges certain evidences of immaturity uncorrected, as they represent the lad’s own conceptions which add to the naïveté of both illustration and ‘tale.’” The illusion of an untrained prodigy persisted, despite Baptiste’s having spent a year at art school in Santa Fe, New Mexico. His far-seeing grandfather, Chief George Baptiste, the key figure in establishing and maintaining the Inkameep day school in preference to a residential school, had sent him there in 1938. 
Ravenhill doggedly pursued funds to publish The Tale. Sanderson-Mongin’s connections proved invaluable for this purpose. The names of the contributors were published at the front of The Tale and featured Lieutenant Governor Eric Hamber and Mrs. Hamber as patrons. The Anglican Lord Bishop of Columbia and Mrs. Sexton were listed, also the Right Reverend J.C. Cody, the Roman Catholic Lord Bishop of Victoria. Forty-two other individuals and organizations contributed, including Ravenhill’s lawyer, her doctor, Princess Chikhmatoff (a daughter of the famed Butchart family), several widows of prominent men, and key supporters from the Okanagan, including Dorothea Allison, Daisy Millar and naturalist H.J. Parham.
Ravenhill found a Victoria printer, J. Parker Buckle, to do the labour for free, and canvassed friends, relatives and acquaintances for money. Her sister Edith contributed five dollars; Nellie McClung sent two dollars. One thousand copies of The Tale were ready for sales in the fall of 1940. Ravenhill wrote letters to various bookstores and drug stores from a list provided by Walsh; she reported with irritation that she had received no replies. Support from the Roman Catholic clergy had been uneven with many letters to the priests going unanswered. The Sisters of St. Anne who had helped her develop some craft ideas were unable to buy copies of The Tale because they had no cash allowances. She asked Walsh, “Could the lack of support be because I am Anglican?”
The Committee membership was a matter of contention. Dr. Willard Ireland, Provincial Archivist, and Dr. Clifford Carl, acting Museum Director, were invited to join in 1941, making seven or eight members in total (The number is not exact because Bullock-Webster’s membership was problematic, as was Betty Newton’s). “I think we may educate Dr. Carl,” Ravenhill wrote to Walsh, at the same time complaining that Miss Russell was entirely “dead wood,” Mme. Sanderson was overworked and ill, Mr. Flintoff had to make up for the loss of half his income, and Mr. Pickford was the only member of the Committee who did any work at all for it. 
When Roman Catholic Bishop John Cody asked to be invited to sit on the Committee, Ravenhill responded tersely. The Bishop only wanted to join, she wrote to Walsh, because he feared that “[W]e are encouraging indecent and pagan dances in our Society.” She declared that the Committee could not have a Catholic representative unless there were also Anglican and Free Church representatives. Failure to do so “would unwisely overemphasize a controlling influence which would prejudice the Society’s efforts in the public eye.”
While Ravenhill and Anthony Walsh never openly discussed their religious differences, a letter written a few years later by Walsh to Harry Hawthorn, a UBC professor with a strong interest in Indigenous affairs, gives his perspective on the religious fall-out that directly impinged on the successes and failures of the Society:
Although Miss Ravenhill and I are very good friends, she is exceedingly biased towards Catholics in general, even though the Catholic Indian schools has [sic] cooperated the most with the Society. Unfortunately, she was very outspoken in her comments and of course there are always some people who like to stir up strife. In time the missionaries got to know of this attitude and were extremely cautious and somewhat cold towards the Society. I tried to get her to have a Catholic on her Council, but it was without success.
Ravenhill asked for one or two of Baptiste’s paintings so she could show them at the Bay or other stores where she would go to ask for support. With a lot of effort, nine hundred copies of The Tale had sold by December of 1940.
Perhaps predictably, the Indian Agents were uncooperative. Ravenhill wrote a confidential letter to Walsh relating how she had to sit through a tirade by the Indian Agent in Vancouver (who she declined to name) who “spoke with some violence” of Walsh’s work at Inkameep. The Indian Agent went so far as to claim that, in Ravenhill’s words, “[H]e knows that the much talked of ‘Tale’ is no original dictation to you from the children but your réchauffé of an original in one of the readers supplied by the Department to the Indian schools.”
The conflict with the federal Indian Affairs Branch indicated the pressure that Anthony Walsh was under in his innovative efforts to enliven the curriculum for his students. He had already extended the school day by an hour in order to include art and drama. In the summer of 1940, when Walsh had an opportunity to go to the Banff School of Fine Arts, Ravenhill admonished him to look after his health. “Take caution from an old woman and do give Brother Body a chance of relaxation during your time away from Inkameep.”
She also expressed her personal forebodings about what might happen at Inkameep should Walsh decide not to return. Her lengthy and heartfelt letter shows the extent to which she and Walsh had been able to develop a relationship in the year and a half they had been corresponding, and also her growing realization of the complexities of art promotion:
I dare to write a misgiving which recurs too frequently — namely your great devotion to the development of your dramatic interests and (presumably) gift. I fear lest the prospects opening to you and the narrowing financially of your life at Inkameep may lead to your resignation from Inkameep no doubt beneficial to you from all points of view but that of having started a great work which would inevitably — at its present stage — shortly and wholly disappear. It means a great self sacrifice for you if my surmise is correct but my experience of Francis’ complete inability to manage for himself at present. His entire dependence upon you to train him in the essential conduct of the business side of his future notable contribution to Canadian culture and full development of his great gift from God shows me that if your care and guidance and correspondence for him cease he will just disappear into limbo.
Presumably another 2 or 3 years might establish him under other sympathetic guidance. That is on the knees of the Gods! Please pardon me. We know so little of each other — you and I — but as an old and somewhat widely experienced woman I dare to write openly. Mr. Lismer would have put you forward as organizer of the Training School visioned in my suggestion. Which evidently was considered kindly at that one meeting at Ottawa when the scheme had to be laid aside due to the War and of course no human being knows when normal conditions will be resumed — but your great work at Inkameep must not die — though who am I to dare ask you a possibly great renunciation?
Something of renunciation I know — For purely family claims I had to abruptly cease a brilliant career in England — give up pioneer work — which alas! could not be consolidated because– like you — I had the vision and the ability and the opportunity to realize that vision — at that time entirely confined to me — a responsibility I had up til then frequently tried to share but the requisite personality and other qualifications was lacking — in my case it meant years of hard manual work upcountry — repression of gifts and much else — including my narrow means. Please forgive me for daring to write so daringly.
In the meantime Ravenhill continued to expand her new role of art promoter for Francis Jim Baptiste, drawing on her past experiences as a persuasive speaker in health and hygiene. She made plans for a June exhibition of Baptiste’s art work in Victoria at the Windermere Hotel, gently suggesting to Walsh that he ask Francis to send a thank you note ahead of time to the manager, Reginald Newton.
She also wrote about Baptiste to Arthur Lismer, one of the Group of Seven, who had given a series of well-received lectures on the importance of self-expression in art for children at the Victoria Summer School for teachers. Lismer responded with enthusiasm and practical advice to be passed on to Baptiste, and he must have mentioned the possibility of a one-man show at the National Gallery in Ottawa. Ravenhill turned this into a sure thing, announcing in the Victoria newspapers that, “Work of a gifted young British Columbia Indian boy is to be exhibited in Victoria for a week, before being sent to the National Gallery at Ottawa for exhibition.”
Ravenhill personally addressed and dispatched 150 notices of the art show and five hundred art-loving (or prodigy-seeking) Victoria residents came to the exhibit. While Ravenhill was disappointed that Lieutenant-Governor and Mrs. Hamber were unable to attend the opening, she did note that “some of the best social people in Victoria” had attended, as well as three very pleasant priests, but no Sisters from St. Ann’s.  She was gratified by the presence of the Honourable Mark Kearley: “He evidently has money, has come out to settle and has a great intention of helping Canada,” but she couldn’t resist a little jab: “He looks a little of a ‘Poseur’ — careless of appearance.”
Major Bullock-Webster had not gotten in touch with any CPR officials, as he had said he would, but “promises not to disappoint us over the Nativity Tale.” Ravenhill enlisted her sister and Betty Newton to talk to everyone present about The Tale; they told the story and showed the illustrations until they felt like gramophone records, or so she reported to Walsh. Nine pictures were sold, with requests for copies of three of them. A tenth picture, “Running Horses,” had an eager buyer if Daisy Millar of Oliver would consent to sell it, which she did not.
A note had also come from Francis, saying that he might come to Vancouver with his father, and Ravenhill was very optimistic about the good that would ensue from such a visit. When he finally did so on August 7, 1940, it caused much consternation. For the next few weeks Alice Ravenhill tried to figure out Francis Jim Baptiste’s visit and the issues that had arisen from the exhibition. She asked Walsh if either Francis or Billy had made any comments about the visit, but Walsh’s answer is unrecorded. She requested that Francis be referred to as Sis-hu-lk, his Okanagan name, “as people seeing his French name jump to the conclusion that he is a French Canadian or half French Canadian. The very unusualness of his Indian name to Western ears and eyes fixes his pictures in their memory.”
When Arthur Lismer was let go from the National Gallery in September, mainly because of war restraints, Ravenhill realized that there would be no one-man show for Sis-hu-lk in Ottawa, and she became despondent. “So long as I had years ahead of me,” she wrote, “I was never daunted; now with failing powers and very restricted means at 81 it is questionable how long I can go on at this pressure.”
The committee had failed to meet her expectations; two or three of them seemed to be interested, but were too busy to give any ideas. Betty Newton’s work was promising, but she knew nothing about the subject of arts and crafts, according to Ravenhill. And it looked like Sis-hu-lk would not complete any of the commissions. “People will enquire ‘when shall I get the picture from Francis’ now I say ‘never.’”
Adding to her despondency, Walsh had been offered a Rockefeller Travelling scholarship after his summer at the Banff School of Arts. Ravenhill saw this as a serious loss to the “cause,” but managed to be positive: “Have I ever congratulated you upon the appreciation of your great abilities which must have been mental elexir [sic] to you. How I wish we could have a talk.”
In addition, Ravenhill was shouldering most of the publication expenses of The Tale. Extra money was required to pay the printer, and she must have told Walsh about this. He promptly sent her some money, to which Ravenhill responded, “I do not pretend [your contribution] is not acceptable of course it will be reported to the Committee, and shall be refunded so soon as the amount is gathered in from the sale of the booklet.” She explained to Walsh that even though she and her siblings lived in a hotel, they had limited money for personal expenditures and were also sending money to their relatives in England who were suffering greatly from the effects of the War.
It is tempting to feel a twinge of pity for Alice Ravenhill. Still, the strength of her personality was well known: Gwen Cash, a reporter with the Vancouver Daily Province, characterized her as an “English Guardian Angel” regarding her work with Indigenous handicrafts, but suggested that she could be caustic at times. Ravenhill fully lived up to two mottoes she frequently quoted from Elbert Hubbard; “Never say die!” and “Difficulties show what men [sic] are!”
The Committee was still not working out as she had hoped. Major Bullock-Webster had suggested that the main point of it should be to gain recognition for Ravenhill’s “years of altruistic work,” as well as supporting undertakings to benefit “our Indians.” “I don’t think I want to be Chairman,” he wrote. “You could very well be both Chairman and Secretary yourself and we could support your plans.”
Ravenhill deflected Bullock-Webster’s suggestion, answering that his resignation would have to go through the Committee, and informing him of a couple of letters of support from her well-known British friends, such as one from Sir Michael Sadler, “great art critic that he is,” describing The Tale illustrations as “masterly.” Since Bullock-Webster had a reputation for being very socially conscious, this might have been enough to keep him involved a bit longer. 
In the meantime, Alice Ravenhill had yet another project on the go. She was preparing to “meet Mr. Coyote.”
 The name was changed to Society for the Furtherance of Indian Arts and Crafts in British Columbia in 1941 and Ravenhill referred to the association as “the Society” or “the Committee” interchangeably. It was later changed to the BC Indian Arts and Welfare Society in 1951. Ravenhill occasionally used other variations as well.
 AR to AW, 12 October, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 First Annual Report of the Committee concerned with the Revival of Indian Tribal Arts in British Columbia as a Contribution to Canadian Culture. 9575-41203, Library and Archives Canada [LAC]
 AR to AW, 7 February, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 3 May, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 9 May, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 26 January, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, n,d., c. March, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AW to AR, 6 May, 1941, Add. Mss. 1116, Box 1, BCA
 A.E. Pickford [AEP] to AR, 10 May, 1941, Add. Mss. 1116, Box 1, BCA
 AR to AEP, 10 May, 1941, Add. Mss. 1116, Box 1, BCA
 AR to AW, 10 May, 1941, Add. Mss. 1116, Box 1, BCA.
 Ibid. This statement would qualify as a white lie on Ravenhill’s part, since the correspondence clearly indicates she had no intention of changing the wording in the text, but was willing to change the caption on an illustration.
 Flintoff was also an early moviemaker in Victoria. “Little Rays of Sunshine,” made about the children at the Queen Alexandra Solarium — the institution at Mill Bay that Ravenhill helped found — was so touching it convinced a local service club to support the facility for a number of years. See http://victoriavideoclub.tripod.com/id80.html
 Betty Newton to Anthony Walsh, April 28, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL.
 “Inkameep Timeline”, Andrea Walsh (Ed.). Nk’Mip Chronicles: Art from the Inkameep Day School, Osoyoos Museum Society, 2005, p. 20. The Osoyoos Band built the school in 1915 and hired the first teacher out of their own funds. See Zoey Baptiste, “Chief Baptiste George”, Nk’Mip Chronicles: Art from the Inkameep Indian School , p. 17.
 See Jean Webber, “Dr. Anthony Walsh, the gentle revolutionary”, and Anthony Walsh, “The Inkameep Indian Day School”, on the Osoyoos and District Museum and Archives website: http://www.osoyoosmuseum.ca/. Much of the Inkameep pupils’ work is also catalogued on this site.
 Cody was the youngest Roman Catholic Bishop at that time in Canada. See http://wp.dol.ca/webportal/diocese/content/1/5/Former%20Bishops/1127
 AR to AW, 12 September, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 27 August, 1941, Box 1, File 8, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 13 January, 1942, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL.
 Anthony Walsh to Harry Hawthorn, 12 March, 1948, Harry Hawthorn papers. UBCSCL. Hawthorn, an anthropology professor at UBC, was instrumental in organizing the first annual Native Conference in 1948.
AR to AW, 25 April, 1940. Alice Ravenhill fonds. Box 1, File 8, UBCSCL.
 AR to AW, 20 May 1940. Alice Ravenhill fonds. Box 1, File 8, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 18 June, 1940, , Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 20 May, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 See “Art lectures are concluded,” The Daily Colonist, 27 July, 1935, p. 3.
 “To show Indian Boy’s Paintings,” Victoria Daily Times, 20 June, 1940, p. 7.
 Memoranda on the Exhibition of Francis Batiste’s pictures at Victoria. June 22 to 29, 1940. n.d. Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL.
 AR to AW, 3 July, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSLC. Mark Kearley, second son of a minor British peer (the 1st Viscount Davenport), went on to co-found the Victoria Art Gallery. He was also a war artist for HMCS Naden at Esquimalt, BC. See http://thepeerage.com/p36949.htm#i369485
 AR to AW, 3 July, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSLC.
 Daisy Miller to Anthony Walsh. 18 April 1941. Box 1 File 2/3, Add MSS 1116, BCA.
 An imagined scene based on the correspondence that ensued after Francis Jim Baptiste’s visit is located at the start of Chapter One.
 AR to AW [letter written by Betty Newton], 10 September, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 AR to AW, 12 September, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL.
 AR to AW, 26 September, 1940, Box 1, File 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL.
 AR to AW, 9 October, 1940, File 1, Box 8, Alice Ravenhill fonds, UBCSCL
 Gwen Cash, “Handicrafts of B.C. Indians find English guardian angel”. Vancouver Daily Province, 29 March, 1941, p. 2 Magazine section.
 Elbert Hubbard founded the Roycroft Movement in the U.S. His unconditional support of capitalism might be reflected in Ravenhill’s beliefs about the industrial value of Indigenous arts and crafts. See J. Clancy, “Elbert Hubbard, Transcendentalism and the Arts and Crafts Movement in America”, The Journal of Modern Craft, Vol. 2(2), 2009, pp. 143-160.
 Major Bullock-Webster to AR, 17 December, 1940, Add. Mss. 116, Box 1, BCA.
 AR to Major B-W, 18 December, 1940, Add. Mss. 116, Box 1, BCA.
 J. Hoffman, “L.Bullock-Webster and the B.C. Dramatic School, 1921-1932, Theatre Research in Canada Vol. 8 No. 2 (Fall 1987).