The First Native Minister in the Church of England

by George Siamandas


Reverend Henry Budd was the first native minister and was ordained as Deacon of the Church of England on Dec 22, 1850. Budd was the son of a York Factory Indian and a Metis woman. He was a named Saskacewescam. Rev John West brought 8 year old Henry along with another Indian boy named Withewacapo from Norway House. Henry Budd was educated at the Anglican Church's Missionary Society at Red River. After obtaining enough religious education he was baptised after the rector of White Rothing Essex and named Henry Budd.

Budd was an excellent student that learned to write and to understand Christian doctrine. His mother and sister Sarah came to settle nearby at St Andrews. He left the school in 1827 and became a clerk for the HBC and between 1832 and 1834 he worked as an HBC tripper in the far west. In 1836 he married Betsy Work the daughter of Chief Factor John Work. His contract was up and he returned to Red River to become a farmer and in 1837 he replaced Peter Garrioch as schoolmaster at St John's church.


In 1840 Budd went off to Cumberland House with his wife and mother. His job was to begin to assimilate Indian children into Christianity. His work involved more than teaching. He had to help settle the natives who were more accustomed to a nomadic lifestyle. This meant building houses, establishing farms, raising cattle and crops, and somehow developing a food supply.

His efforts were not always well received. Most of the inter-lake Indians were quite resistant to his efforts. But he made progress. By 1842 Budd had 32 scholars and 42 adults attending church and preparing for baptism. In 1845 he was joined by Rev Hunter who gave Budd the time to minister to more of the mission's secular needs.


After studying Latin and Greek Budd was finally ordained a minister in July 1852. Budd Moved to the Pas were he continued his work including teaching the older native people to read and write the Cree syllabics. Budd developed a Christmas tradition were he developed the practise of delivering flour pemmican and grease to every family. And on New Year he invited everyone to his home for tea and cakes. Budd is described as a big man with a fine appearance, an eloquent preacher in Cree, and methodical and thrifty. His missions were models of neatness as were the gardens and livestock.


Henry Budd had a very tragic life. At the time he lost two sons, his wife and a daughter and himself suffered serious injuries in a fall from a horse. Before his own death in 1875 from influenza, the Rev Henry Budd would lose another three sons. Only two young daughters remained. Given the tragedies in his life, one wonders if he ever questioned his faith.


Budd was successful because of his own Indian identity, his knowledge of native languages and customs and his recognition of the need to accommodate both social and spiritual needs. Budd exemplified the ideal of 19th century Anglican missionaries trying to change the culture of Indian people. As a native, Budd accepted the habits of the English so well that he was given a raise to support his Victorian lifestyle. The Rev Henry Budd had a profound impact on the native people he came into contact with.

Budd died at the Pas April 2, 1875. An elderly Christian Indian reflected at Budd's passing: "sorry does not express what we felt. My own father died some years ago, but when Mr Budd died, I felt for the first time what it meant to be an orphan."


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