Believing Thomas

musings on the church calendar from one who seldom doubts

Henry Budd, Courtesy Project Cantebury

The first indigenous North American ordained as an Anglican priest was born about 1812 to parents who were members of the Cree tribe living at Norway House of the Red River Colony in the area now known as the Manitoba province of Canada. His name at birth was Sakachuwescam. His name was changed to HenryBudd in honor of a mentor upon his baptism in 1822 by Anglican missionary the Reverend John West.

At the Christian Missionary School established by Rev. West, Henry attended with other students including James Settee and Charles Pratt (or Askenootow). Other missionaries who, in addition to Rev. West, either raised or educated Henry Budd included George Harbridge and David Jones.

In 1828, Henry went back to Lower Church District (which became St. Andrew’s) to help his mother and sister-in-law, taking employment with the Hudson’s Bay Company. There he wooed and married Betsy Work, the daughter of a factor of Hudson’s Bay Company. When he had completed his contract with that company, Budd and Betsy bought a farm in the vicinity of the Red River (St. Andrews) rapids. There they began a family with six children:two boys and four girls. Then in September, 1830 Henry began preparing for serious religious work, studying for the ministry with the guidance of Reverend West.

However, he was not to attain ordination for twenty more years. Instead, he began teaching at the school of St. John’s Church in 1837. Three years later two missionaries, John Smithurst and William Cockran enlisted Budd’s services to head a mission to the Cree in the Cumberland House District. When he accepted that call the Budd family and Budd’s mother packed and headed to Paskoyac (a/k/a The Pas) and worked there until 1844 attempting, without much support, to make the mission a self-supporting one. They taught the Cree farming skills they had not known before (instead of merely hunting, fishing and trading furs as before). Then Budd provided a valuable service to the English Missionary James Hunter arriving later, teaching him the language of the Cree. Maybe this started an idea in Budd’s mind, for some time later he translated the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into the language of the Cree. Quite a feat!

On December 22, 1850, Bishop David Anderson came to the station and began the culmination of the success of Budd’s hard work of the previous decade in overcoming opposition by the Hudson’s Bay factor and some tribal leaders, by ordaining Budd an Anglican Deacon. Later, in 1853 he ordained Budd an Anglican priest and consecrated Christ Church established by Budd at the mission.

Budd continued to use the Pas as his operating base after Reverend Hunter left in 1854 and until he was sent to establish a new mission on the Saskatchewan River known as Fort a la Come. About this time some of his journals appeared in publications of the Church Missionary Society. With the completion of his training of Reverend Henry George to replace him at the Pas, in 1857, Budd moved on to the Nepowesin Mission further north where he began his ten-year ministry to the Plains Cree of Manitoba and Saskatchewan. Tragically there a scarlet fever epidemic from 1864-1865 took the lives of his wife, his oldest son and a daughter. After sending the surviving children to live at Red River, Budd worked on though hampered by an injury from a fall off a horse.

In 1867 after the reclassification of The Pas from a missionary station to a status requiring a native pastor, Budd agreed to return there and take a smaller salary than that paid to white missionaries despite his concerns about its decline while he was serving elsewhere. He continued there, successfully rebuilding the outpost, in spite of the collapse of the fur trade, until he developed influenza and died in 1875 of that and of despair over the loss of his remaining son which had occurred in 1874. His surviving two daughters were cared for by the Church Missionary Society.

This skilled linguist in both English and Cree had left a distinguished missionary career crowned by his translation into the Cree language both the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada. He is remembered by the Anglican Church of Canada on April 2, the date of his death and by the Episcopal Church in the U.S. A. on December 22, the date of his first ordination. +

(c) 2016 Thomas H. Peterson


Wikipedia. "Henry Budd." Web. Accessed December 2016.

The Lectionary. "Henry Budd." Web. Accessed December 2016.

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