History of Kelowna

Fascinating from the start.

Settment in the Okanagan Valley began over 6,000 years ago with the Sylix/Okanagan people who thrived on hunting, fishing, gathering, and trading. However, the first European settlement took place in 1859 by three Oblate missionaries. Father Pandosy, Father Richard and Brother Surel set up a mission for the area’s natives, traders and new settlers. Three of the original buildings remain at the Father Pandosy Mission Provincial Heritage Site.

In 1893, Lord Aberdeen, Canada’s Governor General, bought huge tracts of land in the valley in recognition of Okanagan’s fruit growing potential. He also built Guisachan House, now a 2.4 acre heritage site.

Kelowna became a city in 1905 at a time when the population was 600. Its name comes from the story of August Gillard, an early settler who crawled from an underground shelter just as a group of Aboriginal people passed by. The local people called out, “Kim-ach-touch”, meaning Brown Bear. Over time, this became Kelowna, meaning Grizzly Bear, which was easier to pronounce.

Today, Kelowna has a population of 122,000. It also boasts a rich history. See fascinating exhibits in the Wine MuseumBC Orchard Industry Museum, the Kelowna Museum and the Military Museum.