Father Pandosy O.M.I.

49.84991° N / -119.468052° W

Original Okanagan Mission, southeast Kelowna

Father Pandosy, an Oblate priest, ministered to Natives and Europeans in widely separated parts of British Columbia for over 30 years, until his death in 1891. His mission, with its church, school and farms established in 1859-60 on this site, formed the first non-native settlement in the Okanagan Valley.

Father Charles John Felex Adolphe Marie Pandosy, known as Charles Marie, was born in 1824 at Margerides, France, near Marseilles. He was a member of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate (OMI) who had established a mission at Colville (now in Washington State).  Father Pandosy who had worked with First Nations for many years, was to go north and establish another mission. In October of 1859 Father Pandosy and a handful of settlers set out on their journey, accompanied by Cyprian Lawrence and his First Nations wife, Teresa, who was from the Okanagan Valley. On the 9th day of their journey they were stopped by Teresa’s uncle, Chief Chapeau Blanc (White Hat), and his band. Teresa reputedly stepped forward and greeted her uncle and convinced him to let Father Pandosy and his group continue on their journey.

The site chosen for their first winter was Duck Lake. They were ill-prepared and spent a wretched and hungry winter there. The shallow water froze around the edges so even procuring a good water supply was difficult. They were forced to eat the horses, which probably would have perished anyway from lack of feed. They looked for a better place for their permanent settlement.

In 1860 they found a suitable place 12 miles to the south at l'Anse au Sable (Sandy Cove) on the east side of Okanagan Lake, now part of Kelowna, on the banks of what is now known as Mission Creek. It was the first permanent non-native settlement in the Okanagan Valley with BC. The mission consisted of a house, a church and a school, and was run by Father Pandosy and Father Richard.

Pandosy was responsible for building other missions in the valley and he would travel from one to the other, making the day's journey between each of them on foot, without shoes. Besides performing baptisms, marriages and funerals, Pandosy instructed the native people in European agriculture techniques and interceded for them in matters of land and fishing rights.

In the 1960s, the Okanagan Historical Society took on the task of preserving the historic Pandosy Mission site. Many of the buildings were in disrepair. Work parties from the historical society and the Knights of Columbus laboured over the years to restore four of the original buildings, the Chapel, the Root-House, the Barn and the Brothers House. Other historic buildings have been moved to the site.

Today, it is jointly administered by the Okanagan Historical Society and the Catholic Church. The property remains in the hands of the Catholic Church. There is a caretaker on site and the grounds are open to the public seasonally.

Father Pandosy died in 1891, but eventually the whereabouts of his grave was forgoten. However, in the 1990s a group of students from the University of British Columbia set out to end the riddle of where he lay. His body was finally found in a vegetable field near the Mission, buried under a tomato patch. His grave is now commemorated with a small replica church.


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Q : Father Pandosy formed the first non-native settlement in the Okanagan.