Woodfires: Indian Paintbrush

Growing up in the Okanagan, my nana was fascinated by Okanagan First Nations culture, drawing and copying pictographs from the rocks and cliff faces in the Vaseaux Lake area, and adapting Okanagan Indian legends into plays that were performed at the Inkameep Indian School in association with Anthony Walsh (a teacher at the Inkameep Day School in the 1930's). One play, "Why the Ant's Waist is Small," was produced in 1939/40 at Hart House in Toronto and in Banff, Alberta.

While not an unproblematic cultural association, Anthony Walsh is still credited by the Okanagan First Peoples as being a rare teacher who encouraged Okanagan visual art practices within the confines of the educational system at the time: "It is through Anthony Walsh that the young Aboriginal children were able to continue learning and further developing Okanagan art practices and non-Aboriginal education."


While my nana was helping to tell stories that weren't naturally her own, the cultural hybrid they represented at the time, and the new audiences they reached were, I think, a valuable creation that created new understandings and forms of respect between peoples, and were a unique art form in their own right.

I'll reprint "Why the Ant's Waist is Small," in a future post.

Indian Paintbrush

On trails where once the Indian roamed His crimson paintbrush grow - Gay symbol of forgotten things That no white man may know.

Spirit of all his singing fires Long since grown cold and grey, Once more in them the beauty lives We thought had passed away.