Northern Translation Brief: Swampy Cree Language Project

Our Dear Partners,

This Northern Translation Brief is a special edition focusing on the Swampy Cree Language Project. It is part of a set of special editions that highlight the “priorities” identified by the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiativewhich have been featured in earlier Briefs.

The Swampy Cree language, which is also known as Maskekon or Omushkego is a variety of Cree, and part of Algonquian language family. It is spoken in chain of Cree communities in northern Manitoba, the eastern edge of Saskatchewan along the Saskatchewan River, and along the Hudson Bay coast into Ontario and down along the coast of James Bay. The Ethnologue reports a population of about 2500, and that language use is “vigorous” but also “threatened”, as are nearly all First Nations languages spoken in Canada.

We have been aware for some time, since beginning work with First Nations church leaders in this area, that there was a need and desire among this leadership to help establish a locally-controlled language program including Bible translation with this community. In October 2017, we were invited to accompany Bishop Lydia Mamakwa and Bishop Mark MacDonald to visit communities in the heart of Swampy Cree territory, Split Lake (also called “Tataskweyak” in Cree) and York Landing.

Thompson, Manitoba to Split Lake and York Landing

Our host for this visit was Rev. Larry Beardy, a Cree speaker, an Anglican clergyman, and the Cree language teacher at the school in Split Lake. He grew up speaking the Cree language, but as a Residential School survivor can testify of nearly losing his mother tongue during those years of his childhood, separated from his family and community. After returning home from Residential School Larry started to attend church where Cree was spoken using the prayer book and Bible and sang Cree songs using the Cree hymnals, determined to regain what was lost. Forty-three years later, he is proud to be fluent in his mother tongue and can read and write his language, Cree.

Rev. Larry Beardy (seated) with Bishop Lydia Mamakwa and Bishop Mark MacDonald

The event that brought the clergy (and me, Bill) together in this community was the consecration of a newly-built church building in the York Landing community, across the lake from Tataskweyak. The beautiful new Anglican church building at York Landing was consecrated during services conducted by Bishop Lydia Mamakwa (the bishop of the first entirely indigenous diocese of the Anglican Church of Canada) and Bishop Mark MacDonald (the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada). Here are a few pictures of the beautiful service:

Opening prayers and welcome by the Chief of the York Landing community

The Bishops ceremonially “knocking at the door”, and the Chief welcoming them to their building.

Children singing in Cree

While it was indeed a great privilege and honour to be invited to this event, the main reason that I went to visit these communities was to share with them how other First Nations communities have established Bible Translation programs of their own, such as Naskapi and Oji-Cree, and how we might help the Swampy Cree communities to do the same. In particular, to tell them about how God is preparing the Next Generation of language program facilitators, like Alice & Martin Reed.

To this end, Larry generously arranged for me to meet with several groups of Cree people to listen to them and answer their questions. We met with local church leaders and lay-readers one evening over dinner, and they learned about the kinds of things that a team trained in linguistics and education can do for a locally-managed language project.

Church leaders supper meeting

Church leaders supper meeting

Church leaders supper meeting

We mentioned earlier in this brief that Larry is also the Cree language teacher at Chief Sam Cook School, the school in the Split Lake community (nursery through grade 12). He invited me to visit the school and the “Land-Based Education Program” that was being held out away from the community “on the land” and share with the staff and student participants about how a translation and language program benefits the whole community.

School children arriving at the Land-Based Education camp by boat

Boys splitting firewood

Hearty breakfast in the cabin

Preparing traditional food (moose)

Gifts for the visitors

The school staff and student participants at the Land-Based Education Program made us feel welcome and appreciated, and they indicated to us how much they wanted to include Cree language as part of their curriculum to reinforce Cree culture.

Just before we had to leave to go to the airport in Thompson, Larry also arranged for us to meet with the Education Director for the Tataskweyak Education Authority, Alfred Beardy. He shared his own vision to incorporate the Cree language as a central part of the curriculum in all levels, and expressed his desire for help with the development and production of educational materials. This kind of capacity-building is exactly what our Next Generation Wycliffe teams, like Alice & Martin Reed, have been prepared for.

Alfred Beardy, Education Director, sharing his vision with Larry & Bill

When we left the Tataskweyak community at the end of our brief visit, we thanked God for their welcome and for showing us the many opportunities for service to them in language development and Bible translation. The following morning, in my hotel room I received an email from Larry on behalf of the church, school and community of Tataskweyak:

“…I know the translation work you do works, and it is a process for language use and survival. I believe my God is loving and gave my people a language. It is a gift and in the heart of my people.
May I recommend, we begin the process to introduce Martin and Alice Reed to the Mistah Wasaha Cree of Tataskweyak? I believe that we must accept what God is offering.
Tataskweyak will welcome the Reed’s expertise.”

Dear readers, you have no idea what a joy and blessing it was to read those words from Larry Beardy in his email to me. It confirmed the hope and desire that we have had for the Swampy Cree language community that God has laid upon our hearts and the prayers on your lips for many years. Rejoice with us for this wonderful answer to your prayers!

Alice & Martin Reed are eagerly responding to the invitation from Larry on behalf of his church and community. They will be finishing their internship with the Naskapi community in Kawawachikamach at the end of October, and then make their first exploratory visit to the Tataskweyak community the second week of November.

Would you pray with us for them as God shows them the next steps of their journey and the good things that He has for the Mistah Wasaha Cree of Tataskweyak and the Swampy Cree language group?

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

… are you still reading? Thank you for your interest and your encouragement!

Click here for a link to Alice & Martin’s newsletter <link>

Scroll down here for a few more pictures of the community of Tataskweyak.

St. John the Baptist Church, Tataskweyak

Tataskweyak community health centre

Tataskweyak street scene

Ferry service between Tataskweyak and York Landing communities

Tataskweyak Arena (ice rink)

Kistepinanik Hotel & Restaurant

Welcome to Tataskweyak Cree Nation

It’s a long gravel road from Thompson to Split Lake (90 miles, 145 km)

Thompson, Manitoba has the nearest airport (and Walmart, and McDonalds, and Tim Hortons)

Split Lake is also more than 90 miles FURTHER NORTH than Kawawachikamach!

Split Lake, Manitoba–Tataskweyak Cree First Nation

Thank you! and good night!


Northern Translation Brief 13Sep2017

Our Dear Partners,

Norma Jean and I returned from our fall trip to the Naskapi Translation Project at Schefferville and Kawawachikamach late in the day Monday 11 Sept 2017. This trip had multiple purposes—mainly to connect with Alice & Martin Reed, who have been serving their 8-month internship there with the Naskapi translation project since March, and to bring Matt & Caitlin Windsor with Hazel there to begin their own internship with the Naskapi.

Caitlin, Matthew & Hazel Windsor ready for their trip to Northern Quebec

Why are we all with the Naskapi?

You may recall reading about the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative on these pages. God is at work bringing his message of hope and love into First Nations communities across Canada. The Naskapi community continues to be an inspiration and example to other First Nations language communities to have the Word of God in their own mother tongue too. These language communities have asked for help doing this–and God has blessed us by growing our team with the Next Generation of Language Program Facilitators, like the Reeds and the Windsors. They have been invited to serve in the Naskapi language program as “Linguistics Interns”, as they learn to live in an isolated northern First Nations community and work along side the Naskapi translators in their language program.

The trip went well, and we feel that Alice & Martin have been doing very well serving the Naskapi project since their arrival there last March. They have been helping the Naskapi team and administration to focus and prioritize their Bible translation projects and to move them along with manageable and concrete goals. Several more chapters of Exodus have been team-checked for consistency and naturalness under Alice’s guidance, and a publication of the book of Psalms in Naskapi is underway. At the same time, they have made remarkable progress in language learning, integrating their lives into Naskapi community and culture, and building deep relationships. They will be ready to move on to their own assignment by the first week of November. More about that below.

Alice & Martin Reed taking part in local activities at Kawawachikamach

Matthew & Caitlin survived the long, long road trip with us starting on August 20, and then the train trip to Kawawa on August 24, arriving around midnight. They moved into Ruby Sandy-Robinson’s house which had been vacated (and cleaned and prepared) by Alice & Martin a couple days before. Alice & Martin were offered to house-sit at another Naskapi house in the community a few doors away from Ruby’s house where they were staying. This allowed the Windsors to have more space which they needed at Ruby’s house. Ruby remains very happy to host the interns in her home.

Cait & Hazel in the “soup” aisle (ᓱᐸᐳᔾ), Matt & Cait at the translation office

Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, a linguist from Memorial University in Newfoundland, also came to work at the Naskapi Development Corporation offices on the review and editing of more Naskapi stories and legends, as she has done for the past several years in the month of September. Recently Bill coordinated the production of the next Naskapi story book ᐃᔅᒂᒋᐛᑎᓂᓱᐅᒡCaught in a Blizzard, which, like many of the recent Naskapi books was illustrated by our daughter Elizabeth. The new print copies arrived at Kawawa during this trip.

We were very encouraged by the way that both new Wycliffe teams, the Reeds and the Windsors, worked together and with their Naskapi hosts. We ask that you remember to pray for them during the next few weeks of “overlap” between the two teams, as the Reeds complete their internship in November and the Windsors stay on with the Naskapi until April of next year.

Serge & Minna

Norma Jean and I stayed in our old house in town in Schefferville, and came to Kawawa to work with the Naskapi language staff and community each day. We were also working on the house getting it ready to rent or sell: we met with one couple who came up from Parole de DieuInstitute Biblique Bethel  (Word of Life–Bethel Bible Institute) in Sherbrooke. This couple is listening for God’s call in their own lives for ministry among the Naskapi and Innu people in Quebec: their names are Serge & Minna Lauzon. We are waiting and praying with them for direction concerning our house in Schefferville: they may be in a position to rent or eventually buy the house, depending on how God leads them in the weeks to come. They spent four days at our house there with us during the two weeks we were there ourselves. Won’t you pray for them with us?

Before Norma Jean cut the grass…

The Naskapi translation team continues to work on the team-checking and review of the book of Exodus. There are still some style and naturalness (and consistency and acceptability) issues that the team is working through. The linguistics intern teams will be guiding the translation team toward the completion and publication of this book in the weeks to come. They also are helping the Naskapi develop a long term translation and scripture engagement plan that provides the Naskapi community with an Old Testament panorama that can be achieved by focusing their efforts on chronological selections from the remaining Old Testament. And this with continued work on the Naskapi dictionary, grammar and literacy.

The Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree translation committee has invited Matthew & Caitlin to come live with them at their community in Northern Ontario very soon after their internship is completed in April of next year.

Matt & Bill with the Kingfisher Lake Translation Committee in July 2017

And there are several Swampy Cree communities to the northwest of the Oji-Cree in northern Manitoba that have indicated an interest in having Alice & Martin come to work with them there. Bill will be visiting Swampy Cree speakers and church leaders at a clergy conference at Thompson, Manitoba in October. Please pray that God will make His plan and His will clear to all concerned, so that this language and all the other First Nations language groups in Canada that have been waiting for the scriptures in their mother tongues won’t have to wait too much longer.

Thank you for your prayers for us over the many miles and days of this trip, and for your continued prayers for the Naskapi, Cree, Innu and Oji-Cree; and for the Windsors and the Reeds and others who are being called to join in what God is doing in the north.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

PS: as a reminder, please take the time to visit the websites of the Next Generation as they serve the Naskapi and continue to walk in obedience and faith, and as they prepare themselves to help other language groups experience the joy of hearing and knowing God’s Word in their own languages.

Alice & Martin

Matthew & Caitlin

…and scroll down to see more pictures of our time with the Naskapi community!

11:00 pm and STILL not sleepy!

Jaiden at church

Community gathering at the ballfield

Alice in her “Pow-wow” dress

Martin with the drummers

Mr Bill & Mama Jean hanging out with Jaiden

Bill and David Swappie–he reads the Naskapi Bible every day.

Norma Jean with Suzan Swappie–…so does she.

Jaiden came for dinner

School cook-out

Norma Jean pitches in

Back home on the train