KELOWNA - Pandosy Street, one of Kelowna’s major downtown byways is named after Father Charles Pandosy, an Oblate missionary who was the first white man to settle in the Okanagan Valley.
But if you thought he was a child abuser, would you still want one of the City’s main streets named after him?
Pandosy is generally commemorated for his missionary work amongst the Okanagan people, for introducing agriculture to the valley and opening up B.C.’s Interior, drawing settlers to the area.
Less known, says David Jefferess, is that just four years after starting his Okanagan Mission school, indigenous families began taking their children away.
“They began dying so Syilx parents pulled them out and that first school closed after just a few years,” Jefferess says, adding there is both written and oral evidence of physical violence being used on the indigenous children in the Mission’s care.
Jefferess is a professor of cultural studies at UBC Okanagan and host and facilitator this weekend of Commemorating Pandosy - Why and How are Settler Founders Remembered. He views the workshop as part of the Truth and Reconcilliation Commission's recommendations on commemoration.
He puts Pandosy in a different league than the slave-holding icons of the Confederacy down south or even Lord Edward Cornwallis and Sir John A. Macdonald, two Canadians Jefferess says don’t deserve the honours they’ve received.
“They were reprehensible,” Jefferess says. “Pandosy had a more complex history. But if you look at it on the whole, his impact on the Syilx culture and way of life was horrendous.”
Jefferess is going right to the heart of the matter by holding the workshop at the Father Pandosy Mission historical site within sight of his grave, although he says it's not intended as a character assasination of the long dead priest, but rather a starting point for conversation.
With historical figures under review all over North America, Jefferess says the time was right to begin that conversation in the Okanagan, not just about Pandosy but about the whole experience of first contact as seen through indigenous eyes.
He’s not sure of attendance numbers, but as much as anything he wants those who do attend to hear the perspective of indigenous people who must live amongst constant reminders of their own cultural repression.
“It is time for Canadian society to commemorate in more truthful ways the history of Canada’s founding,” Jefferess says.
Jefferess is careful to say he does’t speak in any way for the Syilx people but says questions about the renaming of Pandosy Street are sure to come up in what he hopes will be a lively but balanced discussion.
The workshop, part of the AlterKnowledge discussion series, is scheduled for 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Saturday, Sept. 23 at the Father Pandosy Mission, 3685 Benvoulin Rd in Kelowna.
If you would like to join that discussion, register at Eventbrite.ca.
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