The mission of the Immaculate Conception is situated in the centre of the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan. It was founded in 1859 by Fathers Charles Pandosy and Pierre Richer and Brother Philip Surel. This mission is about 300 kilometres inside the Rocky Mountain chain, to the east of Fort Hope and Fort Yale, on the Fraser River. The Oblates obtained a vast area of land in this fertile valley and they soon developed a farm and an orchard. They exercised their ministry among about 2,000 Amerindians who lived in the region and a few hundred whites who settled there. At first the Oblates had an improvised shelter built by Brother Surel. Then, in 1861-1862, Brother Gaspard Janin built a house and a church. In a letter to Father Fabre, on January 10, 1863, Father D’Herbomez stated that there was a school, that there was always one priest who stayed at the mission while the other visited some of the Amerindian tribes who were little disposed to listen to the missionary. A new church was built in 1884.
Many priests and Brothers worked in this mission: Fathers Charles Pandosy and Paul Durieu (1859-1864), Pierre Richard (1858-1868), Florimond Gendre (1866-1873), Julien Baudre (1869-1878), Brothers Philippe Surel, Gaspard Janin, and especially Félix Guillet (1863-1867, 1875-1879, 1882-1888).
A report from the vicar of missions for British Colombia, in 1893, states that the mission of the Immaculate Conception community is composed of three priests, of whom one is an invalid, and one Brother. They work among the whites scattered in five centres in the valley and they evangelize the Amerindians who live in camps on ten reservations in the district. All are Catholics and have their church in the centre of their village.
In 1896 the Oblates had to leave their mission and their vast farm since Bishop Paul Durieu of New Westminster became the victim of an exploiting miner who took over the property.
Yvon Beaudoin, o.m.i.
Sources and Bibliography
G.A.: Okanagan, British Colombia: one
dossier, Act of canonical visitation 1882, conditions of the Personnel in 1893,
Letter from Bishop Dontenwill in 1894 etc.
ADO : varia (BP 133,U71)
Ortolan, Théophile, o.m.i., Les Oblats de M. I. durant le premier siècle de leur existence, Vol. II, Paris 1915, pp. 347-351, Vol. IV, Paris, 1932, pp. 412-415.
Missions OMI, passim, especially I (1862) pp. 93-185, 3 (1864) pp. 89-134 and 161-207, 31 (1893), pp. 408-409, 73 (1939), pp. 27-42; the reasons for departure, see Morice, o.m.i., Histoire de l’Église catholique dans l’Ouest canadien, Vol. IV, Saint-Boniface, 1923, pp.335-336.
Primrose, Upton, The History of Okanagan Mission, 1958, 81pp.
Ireland, W., The Old Okanagan Mission, 1942.