Prophetic Identities
236 pages, 6 x 9
5 b&w photos, 3 maps
Release Date:01 Jan 2013
Release Date:25 Apr 2012
Release Date:25 Apr 2012

Prophetic Identities

Indigenous Missionaries on British Colonial Frontiers, 1850-75

UBC Press

The spread of Christianity is often presented as a story of conquest, of powerful European missionaries waging a cultural assault on hapless indigenous victims. Yet the presence of Indigenous men among missionary ranks in the nineteenth century complicates these narratives. What compelled these individuals to embrace Christianity? How did they reconcile being both Christian and indigenous in an age of empire?

Tolly Bradford finds answers to these questions in the lives and legacies of Henry Budd, a Cree missionary from western Canada, and Tiyo Soga, a Xhosa missionary from southern Africa. Inspired by both faith and family, these men found in Christianity a way to construct a modern conception of indigeneity, one informed by their ties to Britain and rooted in land and language, rather than religion and lifestyle. Although they shared a new sense of “nativeness,” the men followed different paths. Whereas Budd sought to create a modern Cree village to cope with the upheavals of the 1860s and 1870s, Soga tried to foster among his people a politicized, and Christianized, sense of African nationalism.

In telling this story, Bradford portrays indigenous missionaries not as victims of colonialism but as people who made conscious, difficult choices about their spirituality, identity, and relationship with the British colonial world.

This book will appeal to students and scholars of indigenous studies, colonialism and empire, Christian missions, and Canadian and African history.


  • 2013, Shortlisted - Aboriginal History Prize, Canadian Historical Association
Tolly Bradford is among very few historians to compare the spread of British colonization and mission Christianity in nineteenth-century North America and Southern Africa. This thoroughly researched and well-written book examines what it meant to be indigenous and Christian at a time of violent and exploitive European colonial conquest and portrays indigenous missionaries Henry Budd of western Canada and Tiyo Soga of the Eastern Cape as active agents with minds of their own. Timothy J. Stapleton, Professor of History, Trent University
Offering a fresh perspective on aboriginal leadership and adaptation to Christianity, Prophetic Identities is particularly noteworthy in its comparative approach showing the origins of a form of indigenous identity in two very different communities. This book will have a significant impact on the fields of missionary literature, colonial projects, aboriginal-newcomer relationships, and indigenous identity. Jean Friesen, Associate Professor of History, University College, University of Manitoba
Tolly Bradford is an assistant professor of history at Concordia University College of Alberta in Edmonton.


Introduction: Indigenous Missionaries, Identity, and the Colonial Frontier

Part 1: Journeys to Ordination

1 From “Orphan” to “Settler”: The Making of the Reverend Henry Budd

2 From Wars to a Prophet: The Making of the Reverend Tiyo Soga

Part 2: Lives

3 Alienated and Connected: Finding Positions

4 “Placed in very special circumstances”: Defining Themselves

5 Advocate and Adviser: Spreading Their Word

Part 3: Legacies

6 Henry Budd’s “Great Transformation”: A Cree Village Community

7 “The Destiny of the Kaffir Race”: A Xhosa National Community

Conclusion: Indigeneity and Empire



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