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A Man Named Pandosy

Updated on January 11, 2018
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Rand Zacharias is a published freelance writer, author, poet, artist, photographer, and all around jack of many literary trades.

The Mission of the Oblate

It was a day of firsts for the historic Oblate Mission honouring a man who was more a version of Fess Parker’s Daniel Boone in real life than wine-swilling Friar Tuck or apple-growing Johnny Appleseed.

According to the Okanagan Historical Society’s 30th Report, In 1861 Pandosy met up on the trail with the Eli and Marie Louise Lequime family from Rock Creek, on a small buckskin.” For this celebration it was one of those rare days that we were all given the opportunity to remember those who came before us.

On August 7, 2010, the two organizers of this event, Alice (pronounced Alees) Lundy and Marguerite Berry, fulfilled a year and a half’s planning to entertain young and old to remember Father Charles Marie Pandosy’s pioneering venture into the interior valley of the Okanagan.

One of the firsts for the 150th anniversary saw several members of the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, including the Catholic provincial superior for English Canada, Father John Malazdrewich. Another first was hearing the national anthem of the Syilx (pronounced see-ux) People sung by a group of all ages.

Pandosy was known to sing everywhere he went, as many accounts state, and it is likely he would have enjoyed hearing the voices raised in celebration by the legacy of people he learned from—and whose forerunners he may have taught of European interests. Pandosy had spent 11 years in the Washington/Oregon regions, before being mandated to the Canadian Okanagan Valley, living amongst tribes learning the ways of the people of the land.

Chief Robert Louie spoke of dried berries, roots, dried fish and venison that were given by the Syilx during that first chilling winter upon hearing of Pandosy’s group being forced to kill some of their horses for fear of starvation. “It’s this generosity to each other,” states Alice Lundy, granddaughter of Dr. Paul de Pfyffer who once owned the land. He purchased it in 1908 from the Kelowna Orchard and Land Company. Lundy concludes her speech, “This is so important. Even today, the sharing of our cultures is what we tried to demonstrate on this occasion.”

It is of interest that the first pre-emption of 160 acres of land was carried out by John Baptiste MacDougall, of Metis and Irish descent, on March 20, 1860. He pre-empted another 160 acres on July 29 of that year—Father Pandosy’s Mission was not the first land claimed, as his preemption didn't occur until November 1860. This is recorded by Shirley Louis in her short chapbook, We Heard it in the Bushes. It is quite obvious the experience and previous pre-empting of land by MacDougall, along with the local tribe's influence, which brought Pandosy to stake the Mission’s plot. MacDougall later sold his land to Lord Aberdeen and it became what is today the historic site of the Gusuichan Estate.

John MacDougall’s cabin resides now next to the Mission’s small two-story Chapel. Pandosy-recruited pioneer Joseph Christien is also remembered by his two-story home, when Pandosy met the former mining labourer in the middle 1860s he was bartending in Victoria.The Christien home offered room and board to many Great War veterans, teachers, along with many others over the course of that early era of the Okanagan Mission.

As recorded by Victor Casorso in his memoire The Casorso Story, Pandosy was not averse to recruiting one and all to come to the prosperous valley.The German-speaking U.S. Cavalry trooper, Frederick Brent was one. The Italian-speaking Giovanni Casorso heard Pandosy’s Okanagan gospel of good news as, “There’s Nature’s etching of an Indian maiden, who for centuries had ridden her steed on a canyon wall.There’s a maiden asleep on a mountain top, gazing at the stars.If you take the time to study the valley, its legends and its people, there will be much to interest you.” The Frenchmen, Cyprian Laurence, accompanied by his First Nations wife, Therese, and his brother,Theodore, accompanied the Oblate party into the Okanagan Valley.

The Casorso family began a long history of renowned meat products which began with a cow received during difficult times from the MacDougall clan.

The community helped one another as the needs of each family arose.

Crafters created spinning wheel strings of wool, quilts and other forgotten skills from those days gone by. A small train for the kids was pulled throughout the grounds by a small locomotive tractor; a petting zoo to give children contact with animals raised on the Mission; music from the Rob Corbett Trio, Old Time Fiddlers and many others was performed and appreciated by the audience with cheerful applause and even a few dancers making the day attended by well over 3500 visitors a true success.

Edmond Rivere, of the Okanagan French Cultural Society, ended the speaking portion of the event. He’d travelled to Marseilles to discover Pandosy’s birthplace and legacy only to find that the bold priest seemed all but forgotten.The family living in the home of Pandosy’s birth—was not aware of the famed wandering Oblate.

“We look forward to working with you in the days, the months and the years ahead, well into the future, to ensure that all of the perspectives of the history of Father Pandosy’s Mission are represented,” stated Chief Louie.

It is fitting to remember that pioneering in the Okanagan Valley, and for the First Nations with the settling of the European, Chinese and East Indian cultures, the times were not easy or better than the present. Settlers gave up on claims of pre-emption losing all of their worldly wealth, the inhabitants lost the freedom of the land they had roamed for thousands of years and many conflicts arose during this era of clashing cultures.

However, those that offered the sweat of their brow, a generosity of the heart and understanding of this culturally-evolving time seem to have walked through history to leave a legacy of substance—a legacy revealing the importance of tolerance, appreciation of others and generosity.

Life-Size Statue under construction

Crystal Przybille's maquette in bronze before life-size clay work in progess.  The final statue to be completed in March 2012.
Crystal Przybille's maquette in bronze before life-size clay work in progess. The final statue to be completed in March 2012. | Source

British Columbia's early history

© 2011 Rand Zacharias


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