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Tuesday, May 3, 2016

The dining hall mural

At the risk of busting open a hornet's nest, I've spent the last while going through all the photos I have that show the mural in the dining hall.

For almost 40 years it was a fixture in camp, something that everyone saw, but few took the opportunity to really look.

Former camp director Hal Studholme painted it in 1961, to the right of the kitchen food-serving-hasher window, to accurately depict the traditional dress of Canada’s First Peoples.

Click here to see the album I've put together: 
Dining Hall Mural
It appears the mural - Hal painted similar ones in the old rec hall, also included in the photo album - may have been painted over in the late 1990s before the dining hall was repanelled.

However, no one, at least so far, can say with any degree of authority if that actually happened.

Perhaps Hal's mural was merely covered up by pine tongue and groove.

Is it worth looking to find out? It would take minimal effort to remove a couple of board's to take a peek. If it's still intact, perhaps then we can have a proper discussion about whether to preserve it.

Frankly, we've done a pretty poor job of keeping camp artifacts. We cram old plaques into boxes and what we think is too old and useless we either sink in the lake or burn.

Maybe this is our chance to make amends. Maybe.

"Leave it covered," Says Hal. "I did the thing with nothing but the deepest respect for the First Nations people it represented. I still hold that respect as my hallmark. Someone suggested that ‘good intentions’ don’t matter. If that is true, what else guides us? My conscience is clear in this regard. 

"I will bring along to the 125th a B&W photo of the mural and have it displayed near the wall to show what once was there, just for the historical record," Hal adds. "I have loved and tried to serve Stephens for 56 years. That must count for something, maybe good intentions?  

"Bless you all. Hal”

Below is a Facebook discussion on this topic that took place over several days more than a year ago.

- Bruce Owen

I don't understand Facebook but I discovered a picture that shows the Indian mural I painted in 1961, the year the dining hall was built. It was covered up in the 1970s(?) because a school teacher thought it was 'racist' and complained. I'd love to see it uncovered again before i pass on and at least get a photo. It took all summer to paint, after lights out with one 40 watt bulb for light! Thanks for the reminder. Hal
Ken Mason I can make some inquiries to see if anything can be done. Sadly, it may no longer exist, and at best it would be very difficult to access. The dining hall was re-recovered and finished in 2002, and likely a time or two between that one and the '70's. But there is no harm in asking. I'll speak with Wayne who would have overseen the 2002 work and Mike who is currently responsible for Camp.
Ken Mason Wish me luck, I'll do my best.
Brian Robert The mural was/is wonderful. As a staff person I watched HBS do the painting. It took a long time Hal but it was a wonderful contribution to Camp and one part of an Aboriginal education program at CS for many years. The mural as I recall depicted the various tribes and cultures of our Aboriginal ancestors from across our great nation.
Lynda MacIntosh I asked this question then(when it was covered up) and I ask it again now. What exactly is racist about celebrating the various tribes and cultures of our Aboriginal ancestors? This was a travesty and an injustice then and if the mural is lost for good, we have lost a piece of our history.
Amy Hawkins-Bowman As far as I remember it was still present in the '90's. Lots if of discussion about covering it at that time.
Heather Heinrichs If it is found, it would be great for some in depth discussion that includes the indigenous communities that it depicts about if it is appropriate for camp to have up or not.
Carol-Ann Magee funny, I was just thinking yesterday about the loss of that camp treasure, it always makes me sad that it was destroyed and I'd love to see it reconstucted if possible
Hal Studholme Not sure if this will reply to all who responded to my “Plea” about the murals, but anyway…My understanding is that they were simply covered up by layers of plywood as a compromise to painting them out. I have one black and white photo of them taken li...See More
Jen Wetherow To my knowledge, it has been covered (twice) but not painted over.
Michael Oldroyd I'll have a look through my pics from the 90's Hal. I'm certain I've got some partial colour images of the mural somewhere.
Megan Kumar I'm pretty sure it was covered but not painted over at that point. Perhaps Les Robinson or Maxime Caron remember?
Michael Oldroyd Alan MacKenzie posted this image just the other day with a partial of the mural Hal. Looks like the staff back in those days were allowed to bring their kids to camp smile emoticon
Alan MacKenzie That was camp director Doug McCewen (sp?) who lived there with his wife, kids and dog.
Jock Mc It was covered up in 1993 or 1994 I believe. I remember talking to Smitty about it at the time. I belive Megan Kumar is right, it was covered, not painted over.
Don Cochrane I'm pleased to hear that it probably wasn't lost. I do recall some initial discussions about the mural and whether it should be removed. I don't think that anyone was objecting to the fact that it was supposed to celebrate native heritage - it was some...See More
Don Cochrane Here is a photo from a desecration that took place in the 80s...
Maxime Caron I remember covering the painting with Les Robinson. Can't recall the year. We instaled plywood over the painting to protect it. If that would be removed I would imagine the painting to be in very good condition.
Brian Robert Don: Good memory, I too remember the signature, and how special it was. Thanks
Les Robinson Well it looks like I should weigh in. If memory serves, and I apologize if it does not. Hal's art work was covered in 1995. The staff of the time were not equipped to translate it's relevance to the current programing nor were they equipped to speak of...See More
Don Cochrane Les - thanks for this. I knew you'd likely know. I'm glad to hear that some thought was put into preserving this bit of Camp history. If memory serves, it likely takes up 3 sheets of plywood, maybe more, so perhaps something that could be relocated els...See More
Michael Oldroyd Sorry Hal. Could only find a couple of grainy partials I'm afraid. Both from 1991. This one a Hillbilly Ho-down. With Me, Sean Ryan,Matt Hannay, Jeff? Ron Tomasson and Patrick BergstromBibs LaFleche also features in this priceless beauty!
Michael Oldroyd This must have been 1991 final summer session with Camp Birchbark as Geoff Leggatt was at Camp - possibly running sailing camp?
Michael Oldroyd Hal, I remember you and some of the others, includingLynda, coming to camp and speaking to us during our staff training week in the early 1990's. The stories you folks would tell were brilliant and it was a real pleasure to hear them. It was certainly...See More
Ursula Wehner I am willing to speak with some of the elders from treaty3 as I am involved thru work with both bimose tribal council and Kenora chief advisory if the mural is uncovered regarding their thoughts on it.
Hal Studholme Wow. An old guy like me could be easily overwhelmed by the action . my simple question/comment generated. I even noted a comment or two about uncovering it might in itself create controversy if ,in fact, it is seen as 'racist.'. This, like my original ...See More
Ron Tomasson hope to see you on the island Hal
Les Robinson Looking forward to it Hal.
Hal Studholme Let me know if this gets thru’


Hal Studholme May have been the basic drawing I worked from for the mural (?) found in old Indian Lore files. Hal
Zoë Herbert Routh From what I remember of the conversations there was a lot of strong sentiment that the First Nations programming, and the murals, were really akin to "playing Indians" and it felt somewhat wrong to be doing so - no matter the intention to show respect ...See More
Hal Studholme Lynda, See my last comment under my name (if I did it right!! Best to you and Laurie and thanks for your kind words Hal
Bruce Owen What was covered up can be uncovered. Perhaps this is a project we can get our collective wits together to preserve a bit of camp history not so much to celebrate it, but to continue this conversation leading up to the 125th.

If memory serves, there ...See More

Eric Adams At the risk of prolonging this interesting thread, I thought I would make a few remarks. I was the Program Co-ordinator in 1995/96 and part of the Senior Staff that decided to preserve but cover the dining hall mural. There was, in our discussions lead...See More
Eric Adams Sorry, I posted before completed...
Eric Adams But by 1995 it was time to reevaluate and change our program, not because the previous programs had been intended to be disrespectful or racist, but because thinking had changed about the appropriate way to respect indigenous peoples in a context of on...See More
Jen Wetherow Thanks Eric Adams. Quick redirect of the topic here. Zoë Herbert Routh, you mentioned the removal of the six week plaques. I was at the helm during that period and made the final call to bring all the plaques down. It wasn't an attempt to create equali...See More
Alan MacKenzie Times do change. I don't suppose that the song involving a "Chinaman" and rolling down the hill like an aspirin pill is a current favorite. As for me, I'm still wrapping my head around wearing helmets and pfds and including girls...
Les Robinson Thank You Zoë Herbert RouthEric Adams, and Jen Wetherowfor your contributions to this thread and your service to the Camp community, we are better for it.
Zoë Herbert Routh Jen thanks for clearing that up! I can get off my never-needed soapbox now. The photos is a grand idea. That would be awesome! Eric - thanks for adding your eloquence to the recollection.
Punch Jackson Wow so many voices and decades heard from. The last "Council" was held in 1970 when Doug McEwen turned over the head dress to me as the incoming "Chief". That was the last Council. The staff team (1971) made a decision that we were not doing justice to the education side of the program. In all fairness I was not comfortable playing the Chief role.
Hal Studholme I sometimes get the sense that I should apologize for me service at Stephens. I am sorry I started this whole issue. Please let it die. Put it down to an old man and his reminiscences of another time best forgotten. Hal
Punch Jackson Jumping forward to 2015 I think we have a tremendous opportunity to utilize the murals as the starting point for a renewed relationship with the local Band and elders. Oral history tells us that Davey had a good relationship with local first Nations pe...See More
Alan MacKenzie I don't know you, Hal, but don't think anyone feels you did anything except contribute to Stephens. Your mural is and was much appreciated and the great sensitivity that has developed around it and related issues reflects our times. We were all part of...See More
Michelle Wilson Gougeon If there are plans to incorporate Aboriginal education and Aboriginal perspectives I would love to be a part of that.
Aaron Stechesen Ah the wonderful world of PC Camp politics. Now I remember why I haven't been back in decades.
Patrick Bergstrom I have lived on a reserve for 10 years. I think it is great. I grew up seeing that painting.