The story of Henry Budd

Rev. Henry Budd was the first Aboriginal person to be ordained in the Church of England in North America

Rev. Henry Budd

Henry Budd was born in Sakacewescam, near Norway House, Manitoba.  He received his training at the Native Indian School Establishment at Red River and in 1850 was the first Aboriginal person to be ordained in the Church of England in North America.

It is reported that Henry was a “superior” student, with a quickness of apprehension and the ability to read well and to answer complex questions of Christian doctrine”.  He also acquired the middleclass Victorian attitudes and values to which he was exposed to the extent that “he warranted a raise in salary to accommodate the expenses of a Victorian lifestyle.”  In spite of this, Henry was very effective in his ministry among the Cree people of Manitoba and Saskatchewan.

As teacher and lay catechist, Henry established a mission, including a school, at The Pas in 1840, a ministry he continued through to 1857.  He had only modest success at first, as several leaders in the area refused his missionary efforts, and a shortage of meat complicated his work.  In addition to teaching and preaching, he was responsible for the welfare of the settlement, helping to establish farms and raise cattle.

Henry spent the years between 1857 and 1867 at the mission at Nepowewin developing a mission school,  and serving in itinerant ministry to the Plains Cree of the region, a group he found much less receptive to his work than in The Pas.

In 1867 in poor health, Henry returned to The Pas, which was now suffering hardship.  He spent his remaining years devoted to reviving the village, which became the first permanent parish north of Red River.  The settlement prospered and expanded upriver to Big Eddy.

In the spring of 1875, Henry contracted influenza and passed away on Friday April 2.  “To his death, Rev’d Henry Budd remained concerned for the future of the native communities he had nurtured.”  The greatest tribute came from a member of the community – “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.”

Submitted by Liisa Ellen (Ellie) Eldridge, A.C.W. Office Secretary

 The information in this article is gleaned from a monograph titled “Reverend Henry Budd” published in 1981 by the Manitoba Department of Cultural Affairs, Historic Resources Branch and copied from a pamphlet from Henry Budd College for Ministry – Lent 2005.

Photo: Archives of Manitoba Photographic Collection. Ruperts Land.