John West, a priest of the Church of England and chaplain of the Hudson’s Bay Company in Rupert’s Land, arrived in the Red River Settlement in 1820 to work as the first Protestant minister in that territory. Early on he concerned himself with the selection and training of Métis and First Nations boys and young men at the Company’s posts, bringing George Harbridge, a schoolmaster, with him to Rupert’s Land. Early on West and Harbridge took charge of a young orphan boy’s education. This boy was Henry Budd, whom West baptized in 1822, along with the young son of Chief Withewacapo. West’s register from this time has this entry: “Henry Budd an Indian boy about ten years of age taught in the Missionary School and now capable of reading the New Testament and repeating the Church of England Catechism correctly.” Budd would go on to become the first person of First Nations ancestry ordained to the presbyterate in the Church of England in Canada.
Born around 1812, Budd received in his boyhood and youth such education and training as the mission schools in the Red River Settlement afforded. Budd left school after 1827 to become a clerk with the Hudson’s Bay Company. In 1836 he married Betsy, who was apparently a daughter of John Work, a factor of the Company. On the completion of his contract with the Company, he and his wife returned to Red River and bought farmland near St Andrews. In 1837 he was appointed to teach at St John’s parish school.
Budd showed ability as a teacher, and in 1840 John Smithurst and William Cockran, missionary priests then working at the Red River Settlement, asked him to go into the Cumberland House District to begin a new school and mission for the Cree. After a short time there, Budd began his evangelistic work in The Pas, a settlement halfway between two trading posts on the lower Saskatchewan, where he found a number of the Cree people already living and ready to receive him and his teaching. After two years of diligent work there were many candidates for baptism, and in the summer of 1842, Smithurst arrived in The Pas and baptized eighty-eight people into the Christian faith, including thirty-nine adult converts, twenty-seven infants, and twenty-two schoolchildren. Budd continued in sole charge of the work at The Pas until the arrival in 1844 of James Hunter, a priest from England. Budd interpreted for Hunter, taught him the Cree language, continued his work of teaching and itinerating, and superintended or took part in the various activities required to build up a missionary station in the wilderness.
In 1850, Bishop David Anderson, the first bishop of Rupert’s Land, visited The Pas and ordained Budd to the diaconate and then to the presbyterate. Budd remained in The Pas, assisting Hunter in his missionary endeavors until Hunter left in 1854, whereupon Budd assumed charge of the mission, much as he had over a decade earlier. In 1857 he was appointed to begin a new mission at Fort a la Corne among the First Nations people of the Plains. Budd ministered at the Nepowewin Mission until 1867, when he was recalled to The Pas. There he served until his death on April 2, 1875. His loss was keenly felt by the Cree people of The Pas. Archdeacon Mackay wrote in his biographical sketch of Budd (published in 1920) that some time after Budd’s death, he had remarked to an elderly First Nations Christian that he must have been very sorry when Mr Budd was taken away. “Sorry,” said the man, “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.”
Budd ministered almost entirely among the people of the First Nations, and he was a fluent and powerful preacher in the Cree language. He also wrote well in Cree and English. He was methodical and thrifty in the administration of the missions that he superintended, particularly important traits at a time when the Church Missionary Society paid a native missionary only half the stipend that a European missionary was paid. Among his enduring contributions are his work toward translating the Bible and the Book of Common Prayer into the Cree language.
Budd was buried at The Pas, in what is now Manitoba.
Creator of light, we thank you for your priest Henry Budd, who carried the great treasure of Scripture to his people the Cree nation, earning their trust and love. Grant that his example may call us to reverence, orderliness and love, that we may give you glory in word and action; through Jesus Christ our Savior, who with you and the Holy Spirit lives and reigns, one God, for ever and ever. Amen.
Henry Budd is commemorated on April 2 in the Calendar of the Book of Common Prayer of the Anglican Church of Canada.
The Collect is taken from the website of the Standing Commission of Liturgy and Music of The Episcopal Church.