Northern Translation Brief: Mushuau Innu Language Project

Our Dear Partners,

In our previous Translation Briefs, we promised to spend some time going deeper into each of the “priorities” identified in the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative.

Naskapi & Mushuau MapThis time, we would like to tell you about the Mushuau Innu language project. The Mushuau Innu and the Naskapi people are both descended from the nomadic caribou hunters who lived in the barren ground of northern Quebec and Labrador. They call their language Mushuau Innu aimun: Mushuau means ‘barren ground’, Innu means ‘person’ and aimun means ‘word’ or ‘language’.

1886_FortChimoVisitors_JRHBefore the beginning of the 20th century, there was no distinction between a “Naskapi” group and a “Mushuau Innu” group. Some were associated by family ties to the northern East Cree on Hudson’s Bay, and others were associated with the Montagnais (Innu) of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and central Labrador. But their nomadic lifestyle and dependence upon caribou was what made them a distinct people. Their language was related to both of these other people-groups, but had a core of features that was different from their neighbours on the coasts.

1903_innu_tradersThen, around 1916, when the inland Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort McKenzie was established, many of these hunters and their families began to center their activities around that post. About the same period, other hunters began to frequent other Hudson’s Bay Company posts, especially the Davis Inlet post on the coast of Labrador. Of course, many hunters and their families would visit either post, depending on the relative convenience of the location.

In the 1920s, during a period when caribou were not plentiful, many Innu people began spending their summers near the Davis Inlet Hudson’s Bay Company post, because of the accessibility to food and trade goods.

hauling freightBy the mid 1940s, many of the western group that later came to be known as “Naskapi”, were working for the Company hauling cargo between Fort Chimo and Fort McKenzie.

By the 1950s, the Fort Chimo group moved to the Schefferville area permanently. The Davis Inlet group, having been moved by the Newfoundland government to Nutak 170 kilometers up the Labrador coast, decided to return on their own to Iluikoyak Island near the Davis Inlet Hudson’s Bay post, and in the 1960s were settled permanently in the Davis Inlet community, known as Utshimassits by the Innu.

Contrasting Naskapi and Mushuau Innu

The Mushuau Innu community and the Naskapi community, having started out as virtually the same people-group, over the past half-century have diverged into two distinct communities:

St. John's Anglican Church, Kawawachikamach

St. John’s Anglican Church, Kawawachikamach

The Naskapi settled inland, in the province of Quebec, and maintained ties with the Cree near Hudson’s Bay. The Mushuau Innu settled on the coast, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and maintained ties with the Montagnais (Innu) in central Labrador and the Lower North Shore.

The Naskapi received their Christian teaching from Anglican clergy and has a church that is part of the Anglican diocese of Quebec. The Mushuau Innu received their Christian teaching from Roman Catholic clergy and their St. Anne Tshukuminu church is part of the Catholic diocese of Cornerbrook and Labrador.

St. Anne Tshukuminu Catholic Church, Natuashish

St. Anne Tshukuminu Catholic Church, Natuashish

The Naskapi read and write their language in a distinctive local variety of Cree syllabics, (like this: ᓇᔅᑲᐱ ᐃᔪᐤ ᐃᔨᒧᐅᓐ) very similar to the writing system used by the Northern dialect of East Cree. The Mushuau Innu read and write their language in a local variety of the emerging standard Innu spelling system (formerly referred to as Montagnais, like this: Tshishe-Manitu e ui kueshkatishit).

The Naskapi signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA) in the late 1970s, which enabled them to build their own new community of Kawawachikamach in 1983. The Mushuau Innu continued to struggled until the end of the century in difficult living conditions, and were finally provided with the new community of Natuashish in 2003.

Finally and significantly, the Naskapi have the New Testament in their own language, published in 2007, and a team of trained and experienced mother-tongue translators and Naskapi-speaking elementary school teachers, and ongoing work in language development and ongoing Old Testament translation. The Mushuau Innu do not (yet) have these things in their language.

Classroom Assistant Workshops

September 2011 visit to Natuashish

September 2011 visit to Natuashish

Over the past eight years, we have made several visits to the Mushuau Innu community, often bringing along some of the Naskapi language team to inspire and motivate Mushuau Innu speakers and community members. During these visits we and our Naskapi friends have met with educators, clergy, community leadership and resource persons, sharing our vision and encouragement for increased Mushuau Innu language development, and the central place that mother-tongue literacy and scripture translation can have for Natuashish as it has for Kawawachikamach.

September 2013 visit to Natuashish

September 2013 visit to Natuashish

Norma Jean and I have been invited back each year for the past four years by the Innu School Board to conduct workshops for the Innu-speaking classroom assistants. There are no Mushuau Innu speakers yet who have the training, certification or qualifications to be classroom teachers, so the role of teacher in all the grade levels is filled by English-speaking professional teachers engaged from outside the community. But because many of the younger Innu children begin their schooling with little knowledge of English, the school hires classroom assistants to act as interpreters in the primary and elementary grades. These persons are uniquely positioned to teach the basics of literacy skills in their mother tongue, if they are provided with some guidance and access to Innu-language materials. Many Innu classroom assistants do not have any post-secondary training–their primary asset is that they are speakers of the children’s first language. Showing them some basic teaching skills can begin to equip them to lead the children into learning.

IMG_9083This Feburary 2015 we were back in the Natuashish community on the invitation of the school board to conduct another workshop for the classroom assistants. Extreme cold and other setbacks rendered the Mushuau Innu school building unusable when the heating system failed. Nevertheless, we were able to make arrangements to secure a meeting space in the Health Services building across the street from the school, and we facilitated daily workshops with a group of nearly a dozen Innu classroom assistants.

IMG_9043IMG_9042Norma Jean covered strategies for teaching activities that could be conducted in Innu-aimun, following the model and curriculum of the English classroom teacher. The yearly cycle of Innu traditional cultural activities were proposed as a framework for teaching Innu language topics. She showed how using this topical format could cover many language competencies and generate learning activities for each grade level.

IMG_9044Bill prepared an abridged version of the Innu Dictionary adjusted to meet the needs of the Mushuau Innu speakers, and installed a digital version on the participants’ laptops. He also demonstrated simple techniques for accessing and using Innu language materials on their computers, and got them started on creating their own Mushuau Innu materials for classroom use.

We were both careful to be sensitive and listen to the participants each day and adjusted our workshop topics so that we would meet the particular needs that the Innu classroom assistants expressed to us.

IMG_9076When the workshop was over and in the evenings we were able to visit in some of the homes, meet with leaders and caregivers, visit elders and attend church services.

IMG_9027IMG_9064Once again, we are struck with the deep spiritual and social needs in this community, and while we are grateful for the welcome we received to conduct this workshop, we are still convinced that developing their capacity to have access to God’s word in their own language is essential so that they can continue to take the needed steps toward healing the hurts in their community. A simple Internet search on “Davis Inlet” will turn up a litany of many of the challenges this community has faced over the years, but this post is not the place for that. This post contains hope that the Mushuau Innu people themselves can begin to find their healing in a deeper knowledge of their Creator as expressed through the medium of their own language, which is their identity and legacy.

IMG_9084IMG_9086We are so grateful for the privilege of being invited to join in this process at Natuashish. Please remember to pray for the classroom assistants, the school and the Innu community leaders and elders in the coming weeks and months as they move forward. Thank you so much for your prayers for us as we traveled all those miles and days to spend this time with them.

Pray too that the Lord of the Harvest will send workers who can facilitate a Mushuau Innu language project full-time for the long-term, just as the Naskapi have had.

We are happy, but once again pretty tired! Pray for us for a refreshing week back in British Columbia.

This is the fourth of a series of messages describing each of the “priorities” identified in the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative that began with the story of the Mason Cree Bible, the (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation, and the Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree Translation project . If you missed those, you can still read about them here:

Mason Cree Bible

(Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation

Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree Translation

We encourage you to click on those links and review the stories, the Initiative and our vision and involvement in this work.

The (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation, the Mason Cree Bible, the Oji-Cree Translation and the Mushuau Innu projects are just four of the “priorities” identified by the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. Keep watching for other posts right here that will feature the other “priorities”, including the following components of our vision:

  • Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) workshops
  • Naskapi Old Testament Translation project

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Links to donate for our financial support:
in Canada: http://www.wycliffe.ca/m?Jancewicz
in USA: https://www.wycliffe.org/partner/Jancewicz

IMG_9075

 

 

Northern Translation Brief 14Nov2014

Our Dear Partners,

You remember over the past few months our “briefs” have focused on our broadened vision and expanding activities in First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building across Canada. Starting from what God is doing with the Naskapi community in northern Quebec, He is leading us to other related language groups that also have a deep need to hear God speak to them in their languages as well. The Naskapi people are very closely related to people at a community in Labrador called “Natuashish”, where the Mushuau Innu language is spoken. We expected to be there during these weeks of November, but God had other plans for now. We may be able to be back there in February.

Our gathering with First Nations speakers and church stakeholders in Prince Albert in June identified several other priorities beyond our starting point with the Naskapi in northeast Canada, including the following:

  • The continued work on bringing the legacy (Mason) Plains Cree Bible to publication
  • The continued work on the contemporary (Cuthand) Plains Cree text through consultant checking and preparation for publication
  • The establishment of a Bible Translation / Language development project for Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree (and the surrounding Oji-Cree communities)
  • The establishment of a “Pan-Cree” Bible Translation initiative that would result in a cluster of several dialects working on the translation of the same passage(s) at once. This Cree cluster would get its start with a series of Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) training workshops, targeted at training speakers identified from each participating community. The workshops would include training in Cree syllabics, use of computers, Cree language and literacy (reading and writing), and have as their goal the translation of some short but worthy and useful passage of Scripture for each community. These workshops would also include participation of translators from First Nations across Canada, including Naskapi, Innu and Oji-Cree.

Besides these four, our work still continues on other priorities that are connected to the Capacity-Building initiative:

  • The continued work on Naskapi Old Testament translation, scripture engagement, and translator training.
  • The continued connection and relationship-building with the Mushuau Innu language community in Labrador.

Cree Map July 2014a

Over our next few “Translation Briefs”, we would like to take you deeper into each one of these priorities; how God is at work in these areas and how you might continue to pray for these language groups. As we shared with our friends and supporters during our Partnership Development tour last month, that “multiplication” (not just “addition”) is one way these priorities will be met: So pray with us that the Lord of the Harvest will send additional team members to join us in this work. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “…There is a real opportunity here for great and worthwhile work…” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
So in the next few days, we’ll send out a Translation Brief about the Mason Plains Cree Bible.

Until then, thanks for your interest in our work and your prayers.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Please also remember our daughter Elizabeth who is going to Labrador this week and making a visit to the Natuashish Mushuau-Innu community with the “Labrador Creative Arts Festival” (LCAF)
https://www.facebook.com/131612796945171/photos/a.594239127349200.1073741827.131612796945171/594248440681602/?type=1&fref=nf&pnref=story

Northern Translation Brief 01Nov2014

Home from our Fall 2014 tour! (but not for long!)

Our Dear Partners,

We just rolled into the driveway at our Aldergrove Cottage in British Columbia after 10 weeks of being “on the road” for our Fall 2014 development trip. We praise God and thank you for your prayers for protection and provision covering 12,694 road miles. In the past six days alone, we covered 3291 miles–52+ hours in the drivers seat.

Other statistics? We visited three First Nations communities: 5 days in Kingfisher Lake, Ontario (Oji-Cree), 10 days in Kawawachikamach (Naskapi) and 3 days at the Mohegan Tribal Territory, in Connecticut (Algonquian Conference).

We visited 8 churches–several of these have prayed and supported us for many years–and we had the opportunity to share our work and vision at many of them, and Bill preached at two of them. We were welcomed into the homes of at least a dozen of our friends and supporters who graciously shared their hospitality with us. We also visited with many friends and relatives along the way, it was so good to see some who we had not seen in many years. We made some new friends, too. Some of you who receive this letter are among them.

We slept in some 29 different beds! (including sleeping-bags in our tent-camper, many guest rooms, and some hotel rooms, too.) Tonight, we sleep in our own bed after 69 nights away from home.

But not for long! One of our priority First Nations language communities is Natuashish, the Mushuau Innu language that is so closely related to Naskapi–the community on the north coast of Labrador. It is very difficult (and expensive) to get to this community. But God has made a way for us to get there this month: While we were in Kawawachikamach with the Naskapi, the leaders of the Innu School Board in Labrador contacted us and asked us if we would come to Labrador to conduct a professional development workshop for the Innu-speaking language teachers and teaching assistants. We will be doing follow up workshops in both Innu communities in Labrador, which means we will be in Natuashish from November 9-14. So we leave British Columbia (by plane, this time) late at night this Tuesday, November 4 and fly back on November 23. The Innu School board is paying for the entire cost of the trip for both of us, which is a real blessing and a great opportunity to serve again in our language development roles in these communities.Kawawa & Natuashish

We appreciate your prayers for us as we un-pack (and re-pack) and go back to the people in Natuashish who still do not have access to God’s word in their own language. Pray for open doors and open hearts.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 26Sep2011

Our Dear Partners,
We would like to thank you for your prayers for us as we traveled to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish on the Labrador coast. We are very happy to report a good trip, a warm welcome, and many good and positive contacts with regard to helping the Mushuau Innu language community to take some steps towards building capacity to start a local translation project into their dialect. The Naskapi Mother-Tongue Translators who work with us at Kawawachikamach, Phil, Silas and George, were very encouraging to their Mushuau Innu speaking counterparts at Natuashish. Indeed, speakers from the two communities, Naskapi and Mushuau Innu, have very little difficulty in understanding each other’s speech.

Naskapi MTTs and the Mushuau Innu chief and deputy

We met with the Mushuau Innu leadership at their council office, including the chief, Simeon Tshakapesh, and the councillor in charge of education, Simon Pokue. We also spent time at the Natuashish school, and made some important contacts there for Innu language literacy and helping to establish consistency in spelling.

We discussed the possibility of Bible translation work with Sister Sheila, who serves the parish church at Natuashish, and also with Cajetan Rich, who serves in the church as one of the Innu language lay-readers. Cajetan helped us with a draft publication of a church book, providing us with recommended spelling changes and revisions.

We are grateful for hospitality and assistance from workers with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, who serve the community by hosting a Sunday School and the school breakfast program. We were provided with an excellent opportunity to meet with the Hon. Peter Penashue, the first Innu Member of Parliament, who was visiting in the community at the time.

Meeting with Hon. Peter Penashue MP

Finally, representatives from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) were in Natuashish meeting with local leadership, and they took the time to also meet with us to learn about how language-based development work has benefited the Naskapi community, and how it could also be applied in the Natuashish community.

To top it all off, back at Kawawa three days after getting back ourselves, we were unexpectedly visited by an entourage from the Natuashish community: The Mushuau Innu band council chartered two aircraft and flew direct from Natuashish to Schefferville with 28 visitors, including their chief and deputy, some elders and youth, and various other leaders in their community. They toured the Naskapi community, got re-acquainted with relatives, and met with the Naskapi translation department where we work on Bible translation. They were very interested in learning from the Naskapi team how they might establish a similar initiative in their own community.

Monique Rich and Norma Jean

Now that we are back here in Kawawa working on Naskapi Old Testament and literacy, and the Mushuau Innu have gone home to Natuashish, we are looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in both communities.

Thank you for continuing to pray for both of these communities, their response–and ours.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 06Sep2011

Our Dear partners,

We are preparing for our second trip to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish on the Labrador coast. As most of you remember, this community is closely related to the Naskapi in the interior; in fact their recent ancestors were the nomadic caribou-hunting families of the barren grounds of what is now Quebec and Labrador. Some of these families centered their trading around Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo) near Ungava Bay and the rest were settled around Utshimassits (Davis Inlet) on the Labrador coast, since the early 1900s.

The Fort Chimo group moved to the Schefferville region in 1956, and they are now the Naskapi of Kawawachikamach.

The Davis Inlet group relocated to Natuashish, a new community built on the mainland in 2002.

The Mushuau Innu community is well known in Canada because of widely publicized social problems:

<Natuashish on CBC>

Because of their shared history, the Naskapi language spoken where we work in Kawawachikamach is very close to the speech variety spoken in Natuashish. But there are significant differences that developed over the past 100 years due to contact with outsiders:

  • The Naskapi live in Quebec, the Mushuau Innu live in Labrador
  • The Naskapi live inland, the Mushuau Innu live on the coast
  • The Naskapi write in Canadian Syllabics, the Mushuau Innu write in a Roman orthography
  • The Naskapi are Anglicans, the Mushuau Innu are Catholics
  • The Naskapi are in the Quebec school system, the Mushuau Innu are in the Newfoundland school system

In the spring of 2008 we tried to take a trip to Natuashish, but we were hindered by foggy weather on the coast.

Bill and two other Naskapi colleagues made it there in April of 2010 for a four-day visit.

Bill and Norma Jean will be leaving Friday, 9 September with his co-worker (and former Naskapi chief) Phil Einish, and mother tongue translators Silas Nabinicaboo and George Guanish.

For an interactive Google Map (zoom in and see the Natuashish village) try this link:

<Kawawa to Natuashish>

On Friday we are scheduled to fly south to Wabush, in western Labrador, and then east to Goose Bay in central Labrador. Sunday, 11 Sept we are scheduled to fly north to Natuashish on the coast, spending five days there before returning back the way we came starting Friday, 16 Sept.

The goals of this trip include presenting the possibilities of a community-based language development project that would include scripture translation into the Mushuau Innu language for Natuashish.

Thanks for your prayers for good contacts, travels, and outcomes.

Pray for us: “that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we would be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9
(The apostle Paul expresses it better that I can.)

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 08 April 2010

Our Dear Partners,

Thank you for praying for Bill’s trip to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish last week. He went with two Naskapi co-workers and they all returned on Friday, April 2.

The remote communities of Kawawachikamach and Natuashish are the two communities where most of the nomadic caribou-hunting groups from the northern half of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula were settled. Their languages and culture are still very similar. But they have been separated from each other now for about 100 years.

So one of the purposes of this trip was to determine whether materials produced for Naskapi could be used for the Mushuau Innu. Since there is a degree of mutual intelligibility, we had hope that this would be the case.

The data we collected, however, leads us to a different conclusion. The Mushuau Innu may be able to decipher some of the Naskapi translation, but that is a long ways from being able to use it. There are differences in not only the sound system of the languages (that being the first thing one notices) but also differences in the grammatical structure as well as a different inventory of lexical items (sometimes, they use different words altogether). So our Naskapi work will at best be of indirect help to them.

On the other hand, many Mushuau Innu individuals expressed a strong desire to have a language project started in their community, and several of them indicated that they would like to be involved. They said that they would like to have a Bible translation project started in their own dialect, so that they would not have to “decipher” (translate from) the existing Bible translations in related dialects.

The Naskapi team then offered to help the Mushuau Innu to form the partnerships that can help them to get started with a translation project in their own language. We can help them find the training and assistance they will need to carry this out. Their local government, their church, and their school leadership all expressed their support for their own translation project.

Now, Bill has to prepare a report for the survey trip for several audiences: The Mushuau Innu community and the Naskapi community would like to use this trip as a catalyst for more cultural exchanges. Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International, along with other potential stakeholders, need to have the linguistic survey data that Bill collected analyzed in order to better assess the specific ways that the two dialects differ. And the groundwork needs to be laid for the Mushuau Innu team to begin on their own translation project.

During interviews with Mushuau Innu speakers, discussing the possibility of a translation project in their own language, they said:

“Our dialect is different; why should we have to learn a different language in order to read it?” –Innu teacher at the school

“We would like to be allowed to use Mushuau Innu spelling to write our language.” –Innu office worker

“A Mushuau Innu translation of the Bible is long overdue.” –clergyman ministering to the Innu for the past 30 years

“Forming a committee to work on a Mushuau Innu translation is something that is needed,” and “What do we have to do to get started?” –former chief of the Natuashish community

“I don’t want my children to be speaking only English in the future.” –former band manager

“We would be happy to have help (from Wycliffe) to start our own Bible translation project.” –Mushuau Innu church lay reader

Thank you again for your prayers for this trip.

Keep on praying for Bill as he spends the next few weeks writing the reports, for the vision for a Bible translation of their own to grow in the Mushuau Innu community, for the Naskapi to know what they can do to help them get started, and for God’s continued work among these people in the north.

Blessings, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 23Mar2010

Dear partners,

I am preparing for my first trip to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish on the Labrador coast. As most of you remember, this community is closely related to the Naskapi in the interior; in fact they were once just one loosely-related collection of nomadic caribou-hunting families. Some of these families had been settled in around Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo) near Ungava Bay and the rest were settled around Utshimassits (Davis Inlet) on the Labrador coast, since the early 1900s.

The Fort Chimo group moved to the Schefferville region in 1956, and they are now the Naskapi of Kawawachikamach.

The Davis Inlet group relocated to Natuashish, a new community built on the mainland in 2002.

In the spring of 2008 we tried to take a trip to Natuashish, but we were hindered by foggy weather on the coast.

Bill will be leaving Friday, 26 March with his co-worker (and former Naskapi chief) Phil Einish. They will take with them Tshiueten Vachon, the new Naskapi language worker trainee.

For an interactive Google Map (zoom in and see the Natuashish village) try this link: <Trip to Natuashish>

This Friday we are scheduled to fly south to Wabush, in western Labrador.
Saturday we fly east to Goose Bay in central Labrador, where we will meet with the Natuashish chief and council (who are also traveling this week).
Monday we are scheduled to fly north to Natuashish on the coast, spending four days there before returning back the way we came on Friday, April 2.

Thanks for your prayers for good contacts, travels, and outcomes, and for Norma Jean as she holds down the fort back in Schefferville.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 09 March 2010

Our dear partners,

We have been blessed with a new young Naskapi co-worker who we have hired to work part time on translation projects. His name is Tshiueten Vachon (pronounced “Chee-wa-tin”, which is the Naskapi word for “north wind”.) He started working along side Bill on February 23 and has been learning to use the computer to type in Naskapi, and is just beginning to learn about translation into his Mother-tongue.

Our other co-worker, Silas, has been out of work on a medical leave for about a month, and may be out for another month, as he recovers from a back injury. Bill has been doing training with Tshiuetin and some of Silas’ work himself and with the help of others at the office.

We have another window of opportunity to visit the Naskapi’s closest neighboring dialect community again, the Mushuau Innu speakers at the Natuashish community in Labrador. You may remember that we attempted a language survey trip there in 2008 but were hindered by bad weather on the Labrador coast. We are planning to attempt a visit at the end of this month, so see what interest there is in that community for work on local language projects, including Bible translation. Bill and some Naskapi co-workers are planning to leave Schefferville on Friday, March 26 for a week-long visit.

We have known for a long time that the languages of the two communities are very close, but among the questions that need to be answered are “how close?” and to what degree that materials we have produced for Naskapi may be useful for the Mushuau Innu, what adjustments are necessary, and the feasibility of making those adjustments.

Norma Jean is about to begin a weekly sewing group with the Naskapi women in the community; they have also asked her if she could incorporate a Bible study at the same meeting.

So praise God with us for these opportunities and pray with us as we seek to follow God’s guidance in them all.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean