A Mission of Peace

In 1848 Father Charles Marie Pandosy was ordained on the Oregon Trail when news that the Whitman family had been massacred at Walla Walla, in the Columbia Plateau. Fear led to the feeling that more fully-ordained priests might be needed, perhaps to become martyrs, I don’t know. Perhaps to found more missions. Pandosy’s first mission, at the mouth of the Yakima River, was erased from memory by the clearances that moved all people from that area in 1943, so other people could come in and build a nuclear bomb. It’s a nature preserve now, below a confluence of freeway overpasses. In 1855, though, the feared massacre looked like it was going to take place, but was prevented by Pandosy’s diplomacy. He had earned the trust of the Yakamas, because he had taken the time to befriend the Yakama people, to learn their language, and to plant a 40 acre garden. For this act of peace-making, a posse attached to the U.S. Army burned down his mission at Ahtanum Creek and destroyed his crops and his Yakama dictionary, on the fear that he had been selling guns to the Yakamas. There was no evidence other than prejudice and fear. After the Yakama War, Pandosy was sent north to British Territory, and began the mission that would become the City of Kelowna and its strip malls, down the road apace from where I live today. He was not very good at converting people to his faith, but he was great at planting gardens and bringing people together and maybe handing them a cabbage. This is, perhaps, what you get from being ordained one morning at dawn on the Oregon Trail. Here’s a look into the church his brother Oblate fathers rebuilt at Ahtanum Creek. This is not a retouched or photoshopped photograph. This is the view into a hand-axed log church mid-afternoon on a sunny May day. I think of Pandosy as being the Father of the West: a farmboy from an estate outside of Marseilles, ordained among the buffalo, on a long walk across the Great Plains.

ahtanumwindowAhtanum Mission

 

One thought on “A Mission of Peace

  1. Father Pandosy may not have converted many to his faith, but he was a fine exemplar of it. That posse? Not so much, although they do typify the virulently ignorant mind.

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