Born on the Inkameep Reserve near Oliver on December 6, 1920, Francis Batiste received the name Sis-Hu-Lk, meaning "always moving, always on the go,"; from his grandfather, Chief Batiste George. Encouraged by his art teacher Anthony Walsh, who arrived to teach at the Inkameep Day School in 1932 at age thirty-three, Batiste was selected to illustrate the publication of a "Native Nativity Tale"; with his pen and ink drawings in 1934, when he was fourteen. Two years later his drawings received commendations when they were exhibited in a children's display of the Royal Drawing Society in London, England. In 1940, Batiste was awarded the Bishop Johnson Gold Medal by the Catholic Women's League for his contribution to Canadian culture. With the help of his grandfather, Batiste studied art in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for a year and continued to exhibit his art, signing the name Sis-Hu-Lk.

In 1941, the Group of Seven artist Lawren Harris sponsored Batiste's attendance at a conference of Canadian Artists in Ontario, hosted by Queen's University, but Batiste stopped painting a year later with Walsh's departure to serve in World War II. In 1942, two thousand copies of the Tale of the Nativity, written by Anthony Walsh and the children of Inkameep, with illustrations by Francis Batiste, were published by the Committee to Promote the Revival and Development of the Latent Gifts of the Native Tribes of B.C., as engineered by Alice Ravenhill. This book imagines the birth of Jesus, as if it had occurred in the Okanagan Valley instead of Bethlehem. In 1944, the CBC broadcast a version of the Tale of the Nativity on Christmas Day. In 1951, some of Batiste's paintings were acquired by the Provincial Archives of British Columbia. Batiste briefly resumed painting in 1963. Initiated by his son, Chief Sam Batiste, the Osoyoos Indian Band has since reprinted the Native Nativity Tale, also known as the Tale of the Nativity.


Walsh, Anthony & children of the Inkameep Day School. The Tale of the Nativity (Committee to Promote the Revival and Development of the Latent Gifts of the Native Tribes of B.C., 1942). Illustrations by Francis Batiste.

[BCBW 2005]