Northern Translation Brief: Kingfisher Lake Translation Checking

Our Dear Partners,

In the complex task of translating the Bible, it is helpful for a translation team to break the process down into manageable and measurable steps. The new Oji-Cree translation team is working on the project chosen by their church and community–that is, the scripture verses contained in the weekly (Epistle and Gospel) lectionary readings used in Sunday Services.

For each passage, the translation team work through steps in order to ensure that the translation in their mother tongue is clear, accurate, natural and acceptable.

  • The first step is the “First Draft“, which includes learning what the original passage means and then expressing that meaning in the translator’s own words.
  • The second step is a “Team Check“, during which the translator reads her First Draft to the other Oji-Cree translators in the translation team, and the team offers suggestions, corrections, or advice. The translator then makes appropriate revisions.
  • The third step is a “Community Check“. The text is printed and distributed in a preliminary form that other members of the community can read (or be read to), and the translator receives feedback and suggestions from Oji-Cree speakers of different ages in the community. The translator again makes appropriate revisions.
  • The fourth step is a “Back Translation“. A team member who did not work on the translation reads the text without referring to the original source, and makes a translation back into English. This English language back translation can now be used to verify whether the translation is complete and accurate.

You can see a progress chart showing these steps at one of our previous posts Northern Translation Brief 05Oct2016.

After the team accomplishes these four steps, the passage is ready for step five, a checking session with a Translation Consultant. A translation consultant is a person trained in linguistics, cross-cultural studies, Biblical languages and content, along with in-depth experience working in minority-language translation programs in the field.

In January 2017, the New Oji-Cree Bible translation team had their first “Consultant Check”.

Travel to Kingfisher Lake

On Monday Morning, January 23, Norma Jean and I drove to Ruth Heeg’s house in Waterloo, Ontario, and her husband Dick drove us to the airport in Toronto. Ruth brings extensive translation experience in a lifetime career of Bible translation in Wycliffe and also as a translation consultant with the Bible Society.

We met up with Meg Billingsley at the airport. Meg is a “translation consultant-in-training” and is being mentored by Ruth. Meg also has had several years of field experience in translation projects for Plains Cree in Saskatchewan and Mik’maq in Nova Scotia. We all checked in at the airport and flew together to Thunder Bay, Ontario, and spent the night there.

Ruth Heeg and Meg Billingsley

On Tuesday Morning, January 24, we got a message from the airline that serves the remote First Nations communities in Northern Ontario (Wasaya) that there were weather delays, and that our plane would not leave Thunder Bay until mid afternoon. So we had breakfast and lunch together. We had planned to arrive in Kingfisher by 10:00 in the morning on Tuesday. That was not going to happen now.

Waiting in Sioux Lookout

After flying to Sioux Lookout in the afternoon, we got on the late plane to Kingfisher, but it was still snowing and foggy, and so after flying up and “over” Kingfisher, the pilot turned the plane around and we went back to Sioux. By now it was 8:30 PM. So we spent one extra night en-route at Sioux Lookout.

STILL WAITING

On Wednesday Morning, January 25, we got up early to go to the airport, and we were put on the “waiting list” for the morning flight up north, which was also cancelled by weather. Finally, they put us on the late flight in a bigger plane (a Dash-8) so all the folks who could not get north in the past few days could all go together. The only hitch was that we were told that our bags would follow later. We finally got in to Kingfisher Lake at about 8:30 PM on Wednesday night after spending both Tuesday and Wednesday at the airports.

Translation Checking

The translation team was all ready to work on Thursday morning, and so we all sat down, had our greetings, our prayers and we got started. The translation team agreed to also work on Saturday afternoon because of our time in travel. We let the translation team and Bishop Lydia set the schedule.

Planning the workshop

Working on the text

Ruth K, Zipporah and Jessie

Each day we would begin with devotions and a Bible reading in the Oji-Cree language, prayers and a (Cree) hymn, and then I would turn over the workshop session to Ruth and Meg. I first briefed the team on the purpose of a consultant check, and then Meg got right into it with the passages that she had prepared. The entire team worked together, with one team member (Jessie) handling the updates and revisions to the text and another (Zipporah) updating the back-translation. All of the team participated and answered Meg (and Ruth’s) questions.

Other Scripture Engagement Activities

Their former Bishop of the Keewatin Diocese, Rt. Rev. David Ashdown, came for the weekend for services in the community. He preached in all the services, and they were well attended. One of the major Sunday services (the “English” service, held in the afternoon) was held in the school gym, being larger, and it accommodated the “blessing of the school”. At this service, the new Oji-Cree translation of the Epistle and the Gospel was read in the local language, and the translation was well-received by the large Oji-Cree speaking congregation in attendance.

Bishop Ashdown and Bishop Lydia also performed a consecration service for the new chapel in the lower level of the Mission House. It was named the “Chapel of the Holy Elders”, being named in honour of the Oji-Cree elders who were instrumental in the early Christian life and self-determination of the diocese of Mishamikoweesh.

Mission House Chapel

Service of consecration

Reading the scriptures

Bishop Ashdown signing the new vestry book

Norma Jean and I then participated in the new Sunday School that the translation team from Mission House has set up, in anticipation of the trip that we have planned to work with the Oji-Cree Christian Education team on Vacation Bible School this July. We are hoping to bring some people from our home church in Simcoe, ON to assist at this, Lord willing.

Kingfisher Lake Sunday School

Parents helping their children

Sunday School crafts

God made colourful caterpillars

Norma Jean also led the translation team in the production of a scripture engagement project, a church banner with “Love One Another” (ᓵᑭᐦᐃᑎᔪᐠ in Oji-Cree) on it, from John 13:34. The team participated in the design and some of the sewing, but somewhat less than usual, so that they could give more time to the consultant checking with the translation consultants.

Planning the Future

On Friday, Norma Jean met with the translation team and the Sunday School team to talk about a summer youth activity, “Vacation Bible School”. The Oji-Cree team suggested that the topic could be the story of Creation from Genesis. Norma Jean would be working with the translation team in the months to come to prepare culturally-appropriate Sunday School and Christian Education curriculum that more closely corresponds to indigenous life in the north.

The team told us that they wanted to be sure that the Gospel was clearly presented throughout the week, so that the children had an opportunity to hear and respond to the good news about Jesus. The Oji-Cree team also said that any helpers from outside the community should not simply come up and conduct the Vacation Bible School themselves–but rather that the activity be used to train the Oji-Cree Sunday School teachers and staff to learn how to conduct and present a Vacation Bible School program. With this in mind, each of the activities would be presented in both the Oji-Cree language and English, with the Oji-Cree Sunday School teachers fully involved in all activities with the Kingfisher Lake children.

The dates that they proposed for this summer’s Vacation Bible School activity in Kingfisher Lake are July 17th to the 21st, just after the Dr. William Winter School.

On Saturday, we met to talk with Bishop Lydia who shared her ongoing vision for the Oji-Cree translation project, future plans, and the kinds of support and help that they would like from us. She said that she will be meeting with some of the church leaders in the area of her diocese (in northern Manitoba) that speak the Swampy Cree language about the possibility of having a similar translation project started in one of the Swampy Cree communities that she has spiritual leadership over. She suggested that “Split Lake” or one of the other communities near there might be a possibility.

Bishop Lydia asked Bill to help her with her diocesan website, and also help to expand the Oji-Cree translation project so that so that the team can work on the translation of other Bible- and worship-related materials (such as Prayer Books, Christian Education Materials and Hymnals) into the Oji-Cree language.

ISMM Diocese Website “under construction”

When we discussed the future, which included having Meg continue to check scripture as it becomes ready, the question of regular communication with the translation team came up. The team suggested setting up a private Oji-Cree Bible Translators “Facebook Group” to do this. This way Meg or any other member of the team may be able to call them all together using a Facebook message to the group, and then ask consultant questions either on Facebook Chat or Skype.

Oji-Cree Bible Translator’s Facebook Group

Wrapping up the Workshop

The weather cleared on Monday, January 30, and we continued to work all day as before, with Meg doing most of the checking sessions. Bill also presented a training module about key Biblical terms (we accumulated a number of new ones in Oji-Cree during the checking) and how to use the Paratext computer program to keep track of these.

Bill also set up a new work computer for their newest team member Saloma Sainnawap, and he did general computer maintenance and software upgrades on all the other team computers. He also looked after equipment and “technical details” in general while Meg (and Ruth) ran the checking sessions.

Ruth K, Zipporah, Jessie and Saloma

As a new translation consultant, Meg handled herself very well with the Oji-Cree team, being sensitive to their needs and their level of ability. They said that they would be eager to have her come back to continue work with them as the need arises, and we feel the same way!

Coming back home on Thursday February 2 we were delayed by about an hour at the Kingfisher Lake airstrip waiting for the plane to arrive, but they made up the time by transferring us quickly between planes in Sioux. The flight back to Toronto was fine, but Norma Jean’s bag was lost in the Pearson baggage handling area. It was delivered to our house the next day. Ruth’s husband Dick picked us up. We had a late supper, Meg got a ride home from the airport by a friend, and we got home to Windham Centre late at night on Thursday, after picking up our car at Ruth’s.

All in all, it went well, even after missing two days of work because of flight delays.
Thank you for your prayers and especially thanks to God for His work and word in the lives of the Oji-Cree people.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 05Oct2016

Our Dear Partners,

Thank you for your prayers for us during the past several days: Norma Jean and I have been in Kingfisher Lake, northern Ontario with the Oji-Cree Bible Translation team, conducting an on-site workshop there. Since translating the very first verse of their translation project less than 18 months ago (read about that here: <link>), the team has completed 2478 verses of the Bible in first draft. Of these, 464 verses have been checked and reviewed by their entire team, and 404 verses are back-translated and ready for a consultant-check.

progress-chart-sept2016We began each day singing a hymn from the Cree hymnal together, and reading a devotional on the Oji-Cree scripture text that they would be “team-checking” or “back-translating” that day.

dscn2168The team learned and practiced preparing and formatting the printed Sunday scripture readings that are used in their church each week. They learned some more advanced skills in translating names, flora & fauna of the Bible and major Biblical terms using the computer database tools designed for Bible translators.

In a nutshell, we taught and practiced translation procedures that the Oji-Cree team asked us to teach and practice–giving them what they needed as they needed it.

Our travels up north here from down south was delayed by a day because the little plane could not land on the gravel strip at Kingfisher Lake last Tuesday morning in the fog. So after an unplanned stopover in Sioux Lookout, we came back and landed last Wednesday. But we thank God for His help and grace to accomplish all He wanted to do with the team during the days we had together.

windham-to-kingfisherLord willing we fly all the way back home to southern Ontario on Thursday, October 6 (three planes, six airports, 1100 miles, 12 hours, two time zones, one Canadian province).

Thank you for being an essential part of this work, and helping the Oji-Cree to have better access to God’s Word in their own language.

Blessings, Bill and Norma Jean

Fall moose hunting harvest, Kingfisher Lake 2016

Fall moose hunting harvest, Kingfisher Lake 2016

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Northern Translation Brief: “The Next Generation”

Our Dear Partners,

When the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Gathering was held at Prince Albert in 2014, there were several projects that were prioritized, including work on Oji-Cree, Cree and Naskapi Bible translation projects, along with activities focused on building the capacity of the local communities to accomplish these translation goals. At the second Gathering at Toronto in 2016 these priorities were repeated and expanded to include other First Nations language communities with Bible translation needs.

This “Translation Brief” talks about a key component that God is using to help address these needs: the Next Generation of Bible translation facilitators and team members!TranslationNextGeneration2


“Jesus told them, ‘The harvest is plentiful, but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field.’ ” –Luke 10:2


Is there a linguist in the house?RecruitingPosterpicture

More and more around the world, the speakers of minority languages themselves are gaining the skills they need to translate the Bible into their own mother tongue. But communities still need someone to walk with them and help them to gain confidence in those skills, and to assist in the many technical and academic ways that are needed when a community chooses to begin a Bible Translation project.

In our experience there are many things that can happen at once, and having trained Bible translation facilitator team working on site for an extended period is essential for training, coordination, mentoring and helping, and building a network of relationships that is vital to the success of the project. Even in situations where there is a mature mother tongue translation team like in the Naskapi community, there are a myriad of ongoing tasks that a facilitator with linguistics and language development training and experience can make easier.

Cree Map July 2014aWe want to highlight for you some of these new teams who are soon to be headed north to work alongside our First Nations friends who are committed to their own translation projects, so that you get to know them better as we are, and can pray for them.

Matthew and Caitlin Windsor

Cait & Matt Windsor

Cait & Matt Windsor

Matthew and Caitlin are from Vancouver Island, British Columbia, Canada. We met them while we were living in Aldergrove, BC and Norma Jean was following her graduate coursework from 2013-2015 at the Trinity Western University campus in Langley BC. Matthew was enrolled at CanIL, the Canadian Institute of Linguistics, also on the Trinity Western campus in Langley, in preparation for service in Bible Translation. During their time there, we shared with the students about the work that we do with the Naskapi translation project in Quebec, and the need for Bible Translation in other First Nations communities.

Caitlin and Matthew responded to God’s call on their lives and were accepted to Wycliffe Bible Translators of Canada in December 2014, and in the spring of 2015 we received confirmation that they would work with First Nations communities in northern Canada.

Cait&Hazel

Hazel Windsor

They visited the Naskapi community with us during a working trip in support of the translation team in the fall of 2015, and are now trusting God to raise the financial and prayer support team that they will need before they move to northern Canada.

In January their first child was born, Hazel! She is a very precious blessing and she already brings much joy to their home!

Martin and Alice Reed

Martin and Alice

Martin & Alice Reed

Martin and Alice are newlyweds, just having been married on March 12, 2016. They met while training for Wycliffe Bible translation ministry at the Graduate Institute of Applied Linguistics (GIAL) in Dallas, they are united by a shared passion for crossing language and culture barriers to make God’s Word accessible to all. They were both accepted into Wycliffe USA in the fall of 2015, and have been approved to join the translation teams working with First Nations communities in northern Canada.

Alice and Martin also must complete raising their support like Caitlin and Matt, but they have an additional hurdle to negotiate: as US citizens, they must satisfy Canadian immigration regulations before being allowed to work in northern Canada.

Martin and Alice will be joining us on our next working trip to Kawawachikamach to visit the translation team and get acquainted with the Naskapi community.

Linguistics Internships

The founder of Wycliffe Bible Translators, William Cameron Townsend, had not only established a curriculum of linguistics training for new teams preparing to serve in minority language communities, but also a component called “Jungle Camp” in Chiapas, Mexico, where teams would be trained to live in remote, cross-cultural situations. Other versions of this orientation training were also established through the years to suit the region and the culture. We still see this as an important step for new Bible translation facilitation teams.

KawawaFall2012

Kawawachikamach

IMG_8002

some members of the Naskapi translation team

Both the Windsors and the Reeds will be spending an internship period in service to the Naskapi language project in their remote northern First Nations community of Kawawachikamach. The Naskapi language team and leadership has agreed to host this internship period and help the new teams to get a start on language and culture learning with them, while the new teams assist the mother tongue translation staff with their current translation and language program, all the while being supported and mentored by Bill and Norma Jean. This will provide these new teams with practical experience before they take on their long-term assignment in another First Nations language program somewhere else in the north. Both new teams hope to begin their respective internships sometime in 2017, first one team and then the other.

A day-to-day work routine with the Naskapi team will also help the Naskapi to be successful and accelerate in their own Old Testament translation goals, and in training new Naskapi language specialists as well.

Meg Billingsley

Meg Billingsley

Meg Billingsley

Meg is not a stranger to First Nations Bible Translation in Canada. She joined Wycliffe Bible Translators and was assigned to the Plains Cree translation project around 2002, working from Prince Albert Sasksatchewan. She took an assignment with the Mi’kmaq translation project at Sydney Nova Scotia around 2008, where she has served as facilitator until this year. This month she begins her training to become a translation consultant, and she will be moving to Ontario to begin applying those skills alongside First Nations mother tongue translators, beginning with the first draft translation being produced by the new Oji-Cree translation project.

A translation consultant is someone who works with translation teams in a variety of languages to support translators in their work and help them to produce a translation which clearly and accurately communicates the meaning of Scripture in ways that sound natural in the language.

As she gains experience, she will be mentored by senior translation consultants. We expect that she will do much of her work from a distance and make short term visits into the language communities for checking sessions. While she is part of the “Next Generation”, she comes to the work in Northern Canada with nearly 15 years of experience working with First Nations languages, and we are happy to have her along!

Ben Wukasch

Ben Wukasch

Ben Wukasch

Ben Wukasch has expressed his interest and hopes to be involved in what God is doing in bringing the Scriptures into the heart languages of First Nations people in Canada. He graduated from Princeton in the States, where he majored in Environmental Engineering and minored in Linguistics and Latin American Studies. He was involved in both mission work in Latin America and wrote his thesis on Appropriate Technology and Peru.

Ben was involved in a project where the Quechua speaking residents of a small village on the outskirts of a city problem-solved and decided on a project for their community. He then studied Biblical Greek and Hebrew at the University of Toronto, and later on completed a Master of Applied Linguistics and Exegesis (MLE) degree at Trinity Western with CanIL.

He looks forward to someday joining what God is already at work doing in Canada, among its most ancient citizens, and he appreciates your prayers as he seeks God’s will for his life.


The Canadian Bible Society has worked along side Wycliffe in several of the indigenous translation projects over the years. They too have recently recruited additional staff to serve in translation projects in the north:

Catherine Aldred-Shull

Catherine Aldred-Shull

Catherine Aldred-Shull

Catherine is the daughter of Ray Aldred (Th.D., Wycliffe College) a Cree from the Swan River Band in Alberta. Catherine received her BA in Biblical Studies from Columbia Bible College in 2010 and Masters in Religious Studies & Bible Translation from McGill University in 2013. Earlier this month she accepted a position in the Bible Society as “Translation Officer Trainee”.

She has a long association with the Canadian Bible Society, particularly with the Montreal District which supported her studies in linguistics at McGill University. She has also worked with the Society’s Translation Team on indigenous languages. She expects to be working with some of the Cree language communities in Saskatchewan.


Bible translation is the responsibility of the whole church. We certainly can’t do it alone. Nor can just Wycliffe, or the Bible Society, or the indigenous church or language community. We need each other and we certainly rejoice that God is calling a new generation of field workers, facilitators and specialists to work alongside the First Nations people that God is calling to Himself.

Prayer Requests:

Pray for Matthew and Caitlin Windsor and little Hazel:

  • that God would grant them patience and that they would stay rooted in Jesus as they wait and prepare in Comox
  • that God would continue to connect them with the people He has identified to contribute financially and prayerfully to the translation work
  • that they would be a blessing to their families and their church family during their time on Vancouver Island
  • Get current prayer requests and connect with the Windsors here: https://thewindsorsupnorth.com/

Pray for Martin and Alice Reed:

  • Washington Visit: They will be in the Seattle and Portland areas 7/27-8/2 to share about their Wycliffe ministry. Pray for strong connections and new partners.
  • Church Interview: The missions committee at Alice’s home church will interview them on 7/24. May God use it to form an even deeper partnership.
  • Immigration: Pray for the application process to continue smoothly.
  • Get current prayer requests and connect with the Reeds here: https://www.wycliffe.org/partner/reed

Pray for Meg Billingsley:

  • for all the work to be done in finishing things up with the Mi’kmaq translation, with packing and moving, and with beginning her translation consultant training. Pray for the Lord’s peace and empowering in the midst of it all.
  • for favor with immigration workers and government officials as she travels to her training in South Asia later this month, for safety in travels and health and protection while she’s there. Most of all that the Lord would be at work in and through all her interactions and relationships wherever she goes.
  • that the Lord will lead her to the right apartment in southern Ontario, and that she will finish her work among the Mi’kmaq well.

Pray for Ben Wukasch:

  • that God would make His direction clear to Ben as he seeks to serve in First Nations Bible Translation ministry
  • that Ben would be faithful day-by-day in the ways God is using him now in ESL work and welcoming newcomers to Canada

Pray for Catherine Aldred-Shull

  • that her transition to her new position working with the Canadian Bible Society will go smoothly, including any moves and orientation
  • that God would guide her as she starts the 3-year United Bible Society (UBS) Translation Officer training cycle this September
  • that God would lead her to areas of engagement in the Bible translation task in Canada that would be fulfilling and effective

And finally, please pray for all of us, that our interactions and work would be a blessing to each other and to the First Nations and indigenous language communities that God has called us to serve.

Thank you for your prayers for us all.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean

 

Northern Translation Brief: Naskapi Translation Project

Our Dear Partners,

This Northern Translation Brief is a special edition focusing on the Naskapi Translation Project. It is part of a set of special editions that highlight the “priorities” identified by the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative, which so far have featured the following components of the vision:

The Naskapi Translation Project got its start long before we first visited the community of Kawawachikamach in northern Quebec in 1987. Indeed, the story of God at work bringing His message into the language of the Naskapi people is woven deep into their history as a distinct people group. You can read some of that history here: A History of the Naskapis of Schefferville, and, specifically relating to Naskapi literacy and scripture, here: Grammar Enhanced Biliteracy (especially pages 32-54).

We hope that you find this story of the Naskapi translation project interesting–but if you don’t have time to read it all right now, we encourage you to scroll down and read at least how Naskapi people today have connected their vision to the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative.

There is also a narrated video slide-show of the story of the Naskapi Language and Bible Translation on YouTube at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb0QxyXC8Ig

Naskapi leadership, 1977. Photo Collection LMW, accession number "1977, 5-18" (Ludger Müller-Wille, photographer).

Naskapi leadership, 1977. Photo Collection LMW, accession number “1977, 5-18” Joseph Guanish (chief) 2nd from left at the table. (Ludger Müller-Wille, photographer)

In the 1970s, Joseph Guanish was the chief of the newly-recognized Naskapi Band of Schefferville, later called the Naskapi Nation. joe guanishThroughout his leadership, he consistently expressed a strong vision and influence for Naskapi language development and Bible translation.

During this same period, the North America Branch of Wycliffe Bible Translators was launching a broad survey of the languages in Northern Quebec to determine translation need. Such a need was identified for (at least) Algonquin, James Bay Cree, Montagnais, Atikamekw and Naskapi.

Naskapi MapThe survey workers visited the Naskapi community and not only determined that there was a need for language work, but also met Naskapi community and church leaders who encouraged Wycliffe Bible translators to come and help them.

By 1978, Wycliffe members Lana Martens and Carol Chase had accepted the challenge to begin to help provide the Bible and other materials in the Naskapi language. They were also involved in the other language development projects underway at that time, and were invited to assist with the Naskapi Band’s language projects, including the Naskapi lexicon and a grammar sketch.

That same year, Naskapi leadership presented a brief to the Quebec government requesting assistance in economic and language development. One result of this was the formation of the Naskapi Development Corporation (NDC), the local Naskapi entity mandated with engaging in the work that has resulted in the translation of the Naskapi Bible.

Heath challenges and other circumstances prevented Lana and Carol from continuing their on-site work after 1983. No Naskapi scriptures had been published by that time.

In 1984 we (Norma Jean and Bill) joined Wycliffe Bible Translators while we were studying linguistics at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) program at the University of Washington. The following year we were accepted for service with the North America Branch of Wycliffe. After completing Bible School undergrad and linguistics training and raising support, we accepted our first assignment to the Naskapi project in 1987. We moved to southern Quebec that year with our children to take a short French course, and then arrived in the Naskapi community Northern Quebec in June of 1988.

Benjamin, Elizabeth and Noah --1988

Benjamin, Elizabeth and Noah –1988

We were welcomed into Noah Einish’s house, a Naskapi elder who was living alone at the time and we still marvel at his generosity and willingness to invite a white family to share his home.

The story of our time in Kawawachikamach from 1988 to the present would fill many books that we are not writing here! But after 4 years of relationship-building and language learning we were invited to be involved with the Naskapi Lexicon (dictionary) project, which was one of the first language development projects taken on by the Naskapi Development Corporation (NDC). By the time this dictionary was published in 1994, the NDC had already committed some of its own resources to several other Naskapi language development projects, including Bible translation.

Naskapi MTT course at Kawawachikamach --1992

Naskapi MTT workshop at Kawawachikamach –1992

A local translation committee was established, starting with a Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop which was held in the community with help from SIL and the Bible Society. This committee helped to guide the translation team on behalf of the community.

Bill helped George Guanish to translate the first scriptures into Naskapi: stories from the life of Christ in the “Walking With Jesus” series by the Canadian Bible Society.

George Guanish --1994

George Guanish “Walking with Jesus” –1994

In 1995, Bill was invited by the local Anglican priest to help him to produce the weekly scripture readings for the Naskapi church. This project was continued year-by-year and eventually led to the publication of the complete Sunday Lectionary readings in 2013.

In 1996, Silas Nabinicaboo was hired by NDC and while being trained by Bill he began to translate the book of Genesis into Naskapi.

Silas Nabinicaboo "Genesis" --1996

Silas Nabinicaboo “Genesis” –1996

In 1997, Peter Einish was hired by NDC and trained to translate the first 10 chapters of Exodus and then the book of Luke. He eventually left the position to continue his education, and in 1999, Noat Einish was hired and trained to continue the Luke project, her first draft was finished in 2001.

Noat Einish, Gospel of Luke --1998

Noat Einish “Gospel of Luke” –1999

In 2001, the James Bay Cree New Testament was dedicated and distributed. This is a Wycliffe translation project in a closely related language that would be used as a primary source text for the Naskapi project. That summer in 2001, the Naskapi team successfully translated the book of Philippians into Naskapi using James Bay Cree for guidance as a source text. The experiment went so well that the team decided that fall that they would work their way through the entire New Testament by this method, continuing with the book of the Acts of the Apostles. This was done by developing an incremental computer-aided adaptation approach coupled with an extensive community-checking and review procedure.

In early 2002, the first draft of the book of Genesis was completed. Silas then joined in the work on the New Testament translation and adaptation project, beginning with the book of Matthew.

In summer 2002, Bill and Joseph Guanish continued to implement the incremental computer-aided adaptation of the Naskapi New Testament. This work continued through the fall and into the spring of 2003, with the result that the entire Naskapi New Testament was completed in first draft, reviewed and also recorded in audio.

Bill & Joe Guanish New Testament read-through --2003

Bill & Joe Guanish New Testament read-through –2003

In June 2003, we moved to Connecticut to care for Bill’s father. During this period from 2003-2009, Bill traveled to the Naskapi community several times each year, while Silas traveled to Connecticut occasionally. The Naskapi New Testament was fully read-through, community-checked, consultant-checked and prepared for publication.

me&sil2P1010008P1010011 P1010014 P1010015 P1010006On September 16, 2007, the Naskapi New Testament was dedicated at St. John’s Church, Kawawachikamach, with archbishop Bruce Stavert presiding.

Lana Martens at the Naskapi New Testament Dedication -- 2007

Lana Martens at the Naskapi New Testament Dedication — 2007

In October 2007, translation work on the read-through, community-checking and consultant-checking of the book of Genesis commenced, as well as work on drafting all of the remaining Old Testament readings for the Sunday Lectionary.

In March 2009, while we were back in Kawawa to check Old Testament readings and do some literacy training, it was made clear to us that there was a growing desire among the people there to read in Naskapi, and to know more of the scriptures. So, during the summer of 2009 we moved back into the Naskapi community to continue the work in literacy, Old Testament translation and scripture engagement.

Norma Jean connected with the Naskapi curriculum development department at the school, and Bill focused on increasing literature production and taught literacy and reading pedagogy to Naskapi adults. All three years of Old Testament Sunday Lectionary readings were completed and published with the New Testament readings in a week-by-week format.

Three-Year Sunday Lectionary in Naskapi -- 2012

Three-Year Sunday Lectionary in Naskapi — 2012

IMG_4425For five summers, 2009-2013, we also attended and staffed the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) program at the University of North Dakota, while applying the skills we learned to developing Naskapi literacy, resulting in the successful training of several Naskapi teachers and Mother Tongue Translators (MTTs) through the Naskapi-McGill teacher training program. We also saw a marked increase in interest and ability in reading the scriptures in Naskapi, and in Naskapi literacy among adults and children in the community.

Naskapi-McGill teacher training

Naskapi-McGill teacher training

Naskapi Adult Literacy

Naskapi Adult Literacy

During this period, the advances and success in the Naskapi community with regard to language, literacy and education caught the attention of other First Nations leadership beyond the province of Quebec. We accompanied representatives from NDC and the Naskapi Nation and the Naskapi school several times to facilitate the educational development of the Labrador Innu First Nations communities in Sheshatshiu and Natuashish.

Naskapi & Mushuau Map

Mushuau Innu Teacher Training in Natuashish, Labrador

Mushuau Innu Teacher Training in Natuashish, Labrador

In January of 2013, the Naskapi Development Corporation made a significant needed investment in human resources by recruiting and training for four additional full-time “Language Specialist” positions. Over the years, the NDC’s work on many of its language projects had progressed somewhat slowly partly because of the limited number of adequately trained and experienced language workers.

Four new Naskapi language workers -- 2013

Four new Naskapi language workers — 2013

These new translators followed new Naskapi language training modules developed by Bill for the Naskapi teachers, which enhances their reading skills with instruction in Naskapi language structures.

In February 2013, the Old Testament book of Genesis was dedicated at St. John’s Church, Kawawachikamach. This is the first major Old Testament book completed in Naskapi.

In the spring of 2014, we took part in meetings between Wycliffe/SIL and the Canadian Bible Society (CBS) at the CanIL Harvest Centre on the Trinity Western University campus in Langley BC. It became clear to all the representatives from both organizations that more could be done to meet the remaining Bible translation needs evident within the Cree group.
Translation Initiative 2015In light of our own experience in the Naskapi project and the transition of that project toward an increasing level of Naskapi leadership and capacity, we were encouraged by our administrators to seek God’s direction, increase our input and attention to other related language translation needs in Canada, and begin to leverage our own experience and education towards consulting and mentoring new teams and translation projects in these areas.

First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Gathering

In June of 2014, First Nations church leaders and Bible translation resource persons came together for a series of meetings held in Prince Albert, Saskatchewan (follow the link to the Bible Society story about this Gathering). The purpose of this event was to share vision and information, deepen relationships, and to listen to the needs and desires of First Nations people with regard to access to the scriptures in their heart language. Stakeholders and strategic partners (First Nations leadership, the church) began a dialogue towards building Bible translation capacity within First Nations communities to meet those needs, and to discuss interests and future plans to this end that would require coordination and communication.

Bishops Lydia Mamakwa, Mark MacDonald and Adam Halkett

Bishops Lydia Mamakwa, Mark MacDonald and Adam Halkett

One of the most exciting things that God did at this Gathering was to have some of our Naskapi friends and colleagues attend. Cheyenne Vachon and Marianne Chescappio (both of whom are grandchildren of Joseph Guanish, the Naskapi visionary and elder who was instrumental in the Naskapi Bible Translation project) attended the Gathering and shared with the participants how God’s Word in Naskapi has been having an influence on the Naskapi people, their community and their church.

Cheyenne Vachon, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, Bill and Norma Jean at the Prince Albert Gathering

Cheyenne Vachon, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, Bill and Norma Jean at the Prince Albert Gathering

Marianne and Cheyenne also brought with them video interviews with other Naskapi church members and elders who shared what having God’s Word in their own language meant to them.

Not only did God use these testimonies powerfully among those who attended the Gathering, but the Naskapi team has also reached out to join in the task to help other First Nations language groups begin to get the practical help they need to translate the Bible into their own languages. They did this by agreeing to host “linguistics interns” who have been called to serve in other First Nations communities across Canada in their own Naskapi community.

Naskapi Linguistics Internships

First Nations communities need translation help from resource partners, including the skills of linguists and specialists equipped to assist with language development tasks, technical training and capacity-building so that they can confidently translate the Bible into their own languages. These linguists and resource partners need to complete their training in a First Nations community where they can learn to be sensitive and respectful to First Nations culture, and to begin to learn First Nations language patterns. This can be accomplished by having these linguistics teams hosted by the Naskapi language project as interns, where they can gain this valuable first-hand experience. At the same time, these linguistics intern teams assist the Naskapi translation team on-site to move the Naskapi projects ahead and help continue to build the capacity of the Naskapi translators.

Matthew and Caitlin Windsor

Matthew and Caitlin Windsor

In August and September of 2015, we brought Matthew and Caitlin Windsor, new members of Wycliffe Canada, to meet the Naskapi translation team. They have responded to the call to serve First Nations by facilitating Bible translation in their languages, and plan to complete their preparation by doing an internship with the Naskapi translators. Lord willing, they will begin their internship with the Naskapi sometime in mid-2016. We invite you to follow their journey at their website “The Windsors Up North“, and to keep them in your prayers.

It is so exciting to see God’s ongoing work in First Nations communities, and especially to see Him begin to use the Naskapi people themselves to encourage and help other First Nations communities to hear God speak to them in their own languages.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean

 

 

 

 

Northern Translation Brief 23Nov2015

Our Dear Partners,

November 2015 on-site workshop at Kingfisher Lake

At the end of October, 2015, we spoke with Bishop Lydia Mamakwa at her diocesan office in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh (Anglican Diocese in Northern Ontario) to plan on another visit to help her team prepare the first set of church Scripture readings for Advent 2015.

November 2015 Workshop, Kingfisher Lake

November 2015 Workshop, Kingfisher Lake

She asked if we might come the first week of November, so we made plans to do so.

We traveled to Kingfisher Lake from our home on Monday and Tuesday, November 2 & 3. We were accompanied by Wyclffe Canada representative Terri Scruggs, from Calgary. We were all delayed by almost one day because of weather, but were finally able to arrive late Tuesday night.

The workshops begin

On Wednesday, all five translators were available to work with us all day, starting their session at 9:00 AM. The translation team discussed their daily schedule, and since some of the translators have other duties to perform each day, they decided that they would meet each afternoon for a workshop session right after lunch, and work together until suppertime. They also agreed to meet together on Saturday afternoon as well. We worked with translators on an individual basis every morning.

Encouragement from partner organizations

Terri Scruggs

Terri Scruggs

Terri Scruggs, the Wycliffe Canada project administrator, brought greetings from the Wycliffe Canada office in Calgary where she works, and reminded the Oji-Cree translation team that Wycliffe Canada is available to assist and support the project with prayer and church contacts. She shared how happy they were with the progress that the translation team has already made, and described to the team how other Christians in churches across Canada who have heard about it are excited about the Oji-Cree Bible Translation project, and interested in praying for and connecting with the Oji-Cree translation team.

She described a Wycliffe Canada initiative called “Kingdom Friendships” that they facilitate between Canadian churches and organizations like the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh that are involved in Mother-Tongue Bible translation. She also encouraged the translation team to share how the translated scriptures are having an impact in their own lives and in the lives of the other people who read them.

Daily training schedule

Oji-Cree Lectionary Chart

Oji-Cree Lectionary Chart

Each day we began the workshop day with a hymn from the Cree hymnal, prayed together for the project, and shared a devotional Bible reading that focused on the Bible text that the team had worked for that day. Next we covered a refresher lesson about basic translation principles that we introduced at the Guelph Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop in April (click here to see this story). Bill also helped the translators to move the project from the “First Draft” (step 1) stage through the other checking and review stages that a Bible translation requires, spending time every day working through the procedures for the other stages.

Other topics covered were how to be sure they knew the meaning of the text before attempting to translate it, how every culture has an effect on the presentation of the meaning of the message, including those cultures that the Bible was originally written to. They also did some brief video studies of the culture and geography of the Bible lands in Jesus’ time, and constantly referred to the print and online resources available that can help the translators to understand the culture and the times.

Oji-Cree Word List

Oji-Cree Word List

During the “Team Checking” time each day, the translators discussed the selection and spelling of words that would come up often in their translation work, and, as a group, settled on using certain words and their spelling for consistency. These were written on a flip chart by the team members, and then typed into a computer file with their meanings in English, and kept on a shared computer folder so that they could add to the list of words in the weeks and months to come and refer to it during their drafting and checking sessions.

Scripture engagement – God’s Word in Oji-Cree for the church and community

Because of the importance of connecting the rest of the Oji-Cree community with the work of the translation team, Norma Jean prepared materials to make church banners that not only celebrated the Advent season in artistic symbols, but also include Oji-Cree language scripture and scripture portions. This will help the church and community at large to connect with the translation work that the team is doing into Oji-Cree.

Oji-Cree Church Banners

Oji-Cree Church Banners

The entire team participated in the hands-on activity of making designs, choosing scripture verses, preparing the syllabic lettering and assembling the banners. These banners are being displayed at Mission House and at St. Matthew’s Church during the season of Advent and Christmas. All of the spare materials and tools for making these scripture engagement banners was left at Mission House after the workshop was over so that the translation team can continue to make their own.

Christmas Book

Christmas Book

We also described some of the Bible-based children’s books that they had produced in Naskapi, especially the full colour “Jesus is Born” Christmas story in Naskapi. They showed the translators how they could easily replace the Naskapi language text in the computer files for these books and then produce Oji-Cree versions of these books for use in the community. Translation team member Zipporah Mamakwa has already completed the draft of the Oji-Cree text for this project and we expect to have books ready for Christmas.

Another scripture engagement project that was started at Bishop Lydia’s request in the summer is the Book of Alternative Services in Oji-Cree. This started out as a rough translation of pages from the Anglican Book of Alternative Services, with a hand-written version on facing pages in Oji-Cree syllabics, produced “in-house” on a photocopier. We took these materials to start from and produced a professionally-printed prototype (checking copy) of the Book of Alternative Services, Holy Eucharist in Oji-Cree. IMG_2340IMG_2341IMG_2344Five of these checking copies were left with the translation team and Bishop Lydia, who will review and revise the books so that a final publication can be made for use in the church and community.

Fellowship and relationships

A “Gospel Jamboree” was also taking place in Kingfisher Lake the same weekend of the translators workshop. We were privileged to attend three sessions of the Jamboree, and we ourselves sang together once in Naskapi (In the Sweet Bye and Bye) and Bill also sang another time in Cree (Jesus paid it all). IMG_2320IMG_2319IMG_2205They enjoyed being part of this cultural and spiritual celebration, and it was especially good to hear many young people in the community singing Gospel songs in Cree or Ojibwe. We were encouraged and hope that this trend will continue, and that more and more people in the community become engaged in the language development work, and begin to create some of their own songs in Oji-Cree.

We also participated in the first annual Remembrance Day ceremonies that were conducted by the Kingfisher Lake First Nation Canadian Rangers patrol on November 11.

IMG_2350IMG_2355IMG_2368Current translation progress

Since the translation team began translating their first few Bible verses themselves into Oji-Cree on 23 April 2015 at the Guelph Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop, the team has made steady progress. As of the end of this workshop they have translated a total of more than 1200 verses in “First Draft” (step 1), moving toward the goal of having all the Sunday readings prepared for St. Matthew’s Church for this coming year.

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Church Lectionary Readings

During the workshop, Bill guided the team through the “Team Check” (step 2) procedure for all the readings for the Advent and Christmas services. This part of the procedure has the entire translation team working together on the same passage, reading through a translation that one of the team members has already completed. This helps the translator to make corrections and adjustments to her translation so that it is more clear, accurate and natural. So by the end of the workshop on November 11th, all the readings were ready for printing out for the Sunday church services through the end of December 2015.

Meeting with Bishop Lydia

Because of family and ministry responsibilities, Bishop Lydia Mamakwa was only in the community on Saturday and Sunday during the workshop weeks. She graciously took time to meet with us late Sunday afternoon before she had to leave for another ministry trip outside the community. During this meeting, we reported to her about the progress of her team and the activities of this workshop.

We covered several topics with the Bishop that concern the new Oji-Cree translation project. They prayed with her for her family and her travels, and reported on the work with the translators during the first four days of the workshops. They discussed some of her goals for the project and did some planning about when we might come back to Kingfisher Lake again.

The Bishop said that she would be pleased to have the Oji-Cree Bible Translation team be part of Wycliffe Canada church connections and have the Oji-Cree team, committee and project remembered and prayed for regularly.

We grateful that the Bishop took the time to meet and pray with us, and feel that God is at work in her and in the Oji-Cree Translation project.

Continuing work after the workshop

The translation team reviewed the next steps that they will need to take over the coming months to stay on schedule with the translation goals that their committee has set.

Team Scripture Checking

Team Scripture Checking

They will continue to translate the “First Draft” (step 1) of the Epistle and Gospel for the Sunday readings according to the schedule in their Bible Translation office. They were also encouraged to meet together as a team at least once per week, in order to accomplish the “Team Check” (step 2) for the next readings in preparation for the Sunday lectionary.
The team was taught the procedure to prepare the checking printouts for the “Community Check” (step 3), and they practiced printing out drafts of the scripture portions that they translated. These were then brought to some of the committee members and elders who have volunteered to read through and check the translations. Some of these print-outs will also be formatted and copied for distribution as “church bulletins” that contain the Sunday Lectionary Reading in Oji-Cree, and everyone in the congregation can take them home with them to read them later.

Formatting and Printing

Formatting and Printing

Finally, the team will begin to do the “Back Translation” (step 4) in preparation for a consultant-check which will be eventually necessary before the publication of the scriptures in books. This checking procedure will also ensure that the translation is accurate and clear.

We are grateful for the support and warm welcome that we always receive during our stays in Kingfisher Lake with the Mission House staff, and look forward to our return to the community later in the new year.

Please pray that God will begin to use His Word in the hearts of the Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree people as they start reading it together every Sunday starting this Advent (November 29).

And while you are thinking of us, please remember us as we will be traveling to the Naskapi community in Northern Quebec on that same day. We plan to be with them through the Second Sunday of Advent.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

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Teamwork for Scripture Engagement

Jesus is the Light of the World

Jesus is the Light of the World

Materials left for more banners

Materials left for more banners

Daily workshop sessions

Daily workshop sessions

IMG_2333

Hands-on practice

Discussing the text

Discussing the text

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Young family at church

Heading home from church

Heading home from church

The scriptures for every generation

The scriptures for every generation

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Northern Translation Brief: Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree

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.

Oji-Cree narrowThis time, we are telling about the (Kingfisher Lake) Oji-Cree Bible Translation project. Oji-Cree is a language spoken in northern Ontario, inland in the Severn and Winisk River basins. In Oji-Cree, the language is called ᐊᓂᐦᔑᓂᓃᒧᐏᐣ Anihshininiimowin.

We have just returned from a two-week visit to the Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree community. We first visited the community for a few days in September 2014, when they decided to form their own Bible Translation committee. They asked us to return to help them with setting it up and doing initial training with the individuals that they would choose to work on their translation.

Oji-Cree Bible Translation Committee

Oji-Cree Bible Translation Committee

In the months between that visit and this one, their committee identified and recruited several persons willing to serve as their Oji-Cree translation team. Their team is guided and supervised by their Bible Translation committee, which consists of elders, local church leaders, and interested community members. We attended a committee meeting at the beginning of our two weeks there, when they expressed their commitment and desire to begin the work, which is sponsored by the Kingfisher Lake First Nation council, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church vestry, and the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.

IMG_8869IMG_8811IMG_8816Each day of our time in the community, we conducted training workshops for the mother-tongue translators, which included securing (sometimes borrowing!) laptop computers, setting up the syllabics font and keyboarding program, and providing training and practice in using the Oji-Cree syllabic writing system on the computers. For most of the translator trainees, this was their first experience using their own language on computers.

IMG_8860Thanks to the timely generosity of the managing editor of the soon-to-be-released ᑭᑎᓯᑭᓯᐍᐏᓂᓇᐣ Anihshininiimowin Oji-Cree Dictionary, we received digital copies of this incredibly useful book, along with its introductory materials, and part of the training course was devoted to the use of the dictionary and looking up words. The team is so grateful to have this resource!

Cover Page-aFinally, we began to teach translation for beginners and the new trainees practiced by translating, reviewing and back-translating John chapter 2, “Jesus changes water to wine”.

Mission House, a facility of St. Matthew’s Church in Kingfisher Lake, is not only the headquarters of the Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh and Bishop Lydia Mamakwa’s office, but is also the repository of the collected writings of the venerable Dr. William Winter. William Winter

 

William Winter (1921-2011) was a visionary Oji-Cree church leader who devoted his life to pursuing the dream of a self-determining, self-sustaining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada, which has been carried by the elders for over six decades. Under his leadership First Nations Christians chose to move carefully and prayerfully along the journey to make that dream a reality. William Winter was also a prolific writer and a student of the Bible.

 

IMG_8892IMG_8894His writings include sermons and Bible study materials, as well as historic documents and journals, written in the Oji-Cree language over the course of several decades. Some of his writings are being used as teaching materials for the translation trainees.

IMG_8829IMG_8821IMG_8827We were invited to describe the project on their local radio broadcast, and we also began to learn some Oji-Cree words and phrases ourselves. We visited the school and met with the Oji-Cree language teachers there, and at the end of our time we enjoyed a feast of moose meat stew and bannock, and expressed our thanks to our hosts in the community.

IMG_8877IMG_8883Finally we attended another meeting of the Bible Translation committee, during which time they discussed the scope of the project and what the next steps should be. They would like to work on the Scripture readings used in Sunday services (the Lectionary) first, using these to build up their inventory of God’s Word in their own language for later Scripture publications. They are also interested in translating their prayer book services into their local dialect as well, along with other projects, including the transcription and translation of the writings of the late Dr. William Winter for the Oji-Cree community and beyond.

IMG_8762We are optimistic and enthusiastic about their strong desire to take action to bring God’s Word to their own people in their language. The committee is eager to send at least five of their translation trainees to the First Nations Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop that is being planned for the middle of April in Guelph, Ontario. There will be more news about that coming event in a future Translation Brief.

IMG_8721We are so grateful for the privilege of being a part of this work God is beginning to do in Kingfisher Lake. Please remember to pray for their committee and their translation trainees during the coming days and weeks 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.

We are happy, but oh so tired! Pray for us for a refreshing week back in British Columbia.

This is the third 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 and the (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation. If you missed those, you can still read about them here:

Mason Cree Bible

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

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

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

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Northern Translation Brief: “The Bible in Plain Cree”

IMG_8541

Mason Cree Bible

In 1891, The Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology Bulletin, (Vol 13, issue 1, U.S. Govt. Printing Office) listed only two “whole Bibles” in its “Bibliography of Algonquian Languages”. The Bible in Massachusetts by J. Eliot, and the Bible in Cree by W. Mason. The “Eliot Bible” was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1663, and it is the first Bible of any language to be printed in North America, and the first Native American language Bible.

Almost 200 years later, the Mason Bible in Cree was published in London by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1862, and thus was the second Native American (First Nations) language Bible.

IMG_8543The overleaf on the 1908 (J.A. Mackay) revision of the Mason Cree Bible says “The Old Testament in Plain Cree”, which is a reference to the variety of the Cree language that is spoken “on the plain“, which in modern times is referred to as “Plains Cree”. Although the names “W. (William) Mason” and “J.A. (John Alexander) Mackay” are the individuals generally associated with this book, how this Bible actually came to be is an engaging and remarkable story:

James Evans Teaching Syllabics

James Evans Teaching Syllabics

James Evans, a Wesleyan Methodist missionary, developed a syllabic orthography for translating religious works into Ojibwe in the mid 1830s. In 1840 he was assigned to Norway House at the northern end of Lake Winnipeg in present-day Manitoba. He lost no time in adapting his syllabic writing system to Cree, the language of the First Nations peoples there. Read more about this remarkable writing system here (click). You will recall that this is also the writing system used for Naskapi, and many other Canadian languages.

Rev William Mason

William Mason

Evans was succeeded at the Norway House mission in 1843 by William Mason, who also married Sophia Thomas that same year. Sophia was the daughter of a Cree woman who was married to Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor Thomas Thomas. Sylvia Van Kirk (1983) writes:

“Sophia, the youngest daughter of former governor Thomas Thomas, had been placed in the care of the Church of England missionaries at an early age. An apt pupil and “a good pious girl”, she grew up a devout Christian. In 1843, she married the Reverend William Mason and, with her knowledge of Cree and her sincere interest in the welfare of the Indians, was a great help to her husband’s ministry at Norway House. Although she had a delicate constitution, Sophia was reputed to have devoted herself unceasingly to the operation of the Indian day school, visiting the sick, and translating hymns and scripture. Her lasting work was the production of a Cree Bible.

norway houseAnne Lindsay and Jennifer Brown (2009) continue Sophia’s story in an article by the Manitoba Historical Society:

“In 1858 the Masons moved to England where they oversaw printing of the New and Old Testament in Cree syllabics. These printed Cree syllabic texts were credited only to William Mason, which set off complaints from Native co-workers John Sinclair and the Reverend Henry Bird Steinhauer that they had contributed substantially to the work. William Mason’s own remarks suggest that his wife’s role in the translations was considerable. Sophia Thomas Mason, whose health had always been delicate, began to suffer pleurisy soon after arriving in England, and her work on translations was often stopped when she was overwhelmed by pain. In July 1861 she gave birth to her ninth child, and in the fall of that year the last of the Old Testament books was printed in Cree syllabics. On 10 October 1861 she died of tuberculosis.”

Sophia’s husband’s journal entry on her death stated, She has been spared to accomplish a great work, the Cree Bible; and to bear such a testimony for Jesus amongst the heathen, by the patience with which she suffered, and her zeal and persevering labours to make known the glorious Gospel of salvation…”

Joseph Lofthouse (1922) wrote, “The translation of the Bible into Cree was to a very large extent the work of Mrs. Mason, who was a native of Red River, had grown up amongst the Indians, and understood their language perfectly. It is the most idiomatic and by far the best translation that has ever been made in Cree. … Mrs. Mason on her dying bed finished the last chapter of this marvelous book, which has been such a blessing to the Indians of the whole north country.”

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Mason Cree Bible at St. Matthew’s Church, Kingfisher Lake, Ontario

It is this book that even today sits on the pulpits of hundreds of churches in First Nations communities across Canada, from Hudson’s Bay to the Rocky Mountains.

As you can see from the map, Cree territory covers a vast area and indeed includes several distinct language varieties. Linguistic work over the past half century has documented these varieties, and their characteristics are described in the Ethnologue. (click the link for more information). In many cases, the contemporary language variety spoken in these communities is quite different from the dialect of Cree used in Mason’s Bible. In these situations, previous generations of speakers learned to read the “Plains Cree” syllabics, and this practice developed a hierarchy of bi-literate “experts” who served as catechists, deacons, lay-readers and clergy, and these persons were able to teach others in their own language variety by translating from Mason’s Bible.

Mason Cree LanguagesOver the years, some of the linguists who study these languages have quipped that “God Speaks Cree”, referring to the special position that the Mason Cree Bible holds in the hearts of many speakers of different varieties of Cree, Ojibwe and Oji-Cree. Indeed the situation is similar to the way the King James Bible is held in high esteem in many Protestant churches, or even, in communities where the local language is very different from the Cree in the Mason Bible, the situation may be compared to the way the Latin language was revered in Catholic churches before Vatican II allowed services in the local languages.

The copy that Bill is working from here pictured belonged to a member of the congregation at St. Matthew’s Church in Kingfisher Lake, Ontario. You can see how it is well-worn from use, and many pages have detailed annotations by the user.

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Mason Cree Bible annotated in Oji-Cree

But because of a fundamental shift in the way literacy skills are passed on in these First Nations communities, many younger speakers of these Aboriginal languages are growing up not being able to understand the language in the Mason Cree Bible, making it necessary to produce contemporary translations and other language materials in the mother-tongue of the local community.

Nevertheless, the Mason Cree Bible still holds a place of honour and stature across Cree territory, and for that reason one of the priorities of the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative is to produce a modern, digital publication of the legacy Mason Cree Bible. The Bible Society arranged to have the text keyboarded in the early 1990s, and in recent months is reviewing it for consistency and standardization.

To do this, reviewers compare the keyboarded digital version (either in a printout or on-screen) to a printed copy of the 1908 Mackay revision. Since Bill can read the syllabic script, he is participating in the efforts to complete the review along with other Plains Cree speakers and facilitators. Here pictured is an example of the review process from the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus Chapter 5 at verse 11

Leviticus Chapter 5 at verse 11

Mason Cree digital version @ Leviticus 5:11

Mason Cree digital version @ Leviticus 5:11

Print version compared with digital version

Print version compared with digital version

Once the review work is done, not only will we be able to once again provide new and improved printed copies of this much-loved volume, but the text will also serve as an interactive, searchable digital resource that may be accessed on computers and handheld devices and also used as a reference work for contemporary Cree and Oji-Cree Bible translation work by translators for years to come.

This post has been an extended feature on the topic of just one of the “priorities” identified by the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. Keep watching for other posts right that feature some of the other “priorities”, including the following components of the vision:

  • (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation project
  • Oji-Cree Translation project
  • Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshops
  • Naskapi Old Testament Translation project
  • Mushuau Innu language project

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Please also remember our daughter Elizabeth who is in Labrador this week with the “Labrador Creative Arts Festival” (LCAF)
https://www.facebook.com/131612796945171/photos/a.594239127349200.1073741827.131612796945171/594248440681602/?type=1&fref=nf&pnref=story

References:

Lindsay, Anne, and Jennifer Brown.  2009. “Sophia Thomas Mason, Cree Translator”, in Memorable Manitobans, The Manitoba Historical Society. Accessed November 20, 2014.
http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/mason_st.shtml.

Lofthouse, Joseph. 1922. A Thousand Miles From a Post Office, or, Twenty Years’ Life and Travel in the Hudson’s Bay Regions. Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada.

Peel, Bruce. 2003. “Thomas, Sophia”, in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/thomas_sophia_9E.html.

Van Kirk, Sylvia. 1983. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Northern Translation Brief 23Sep2014

Our Dear Partners,

It’s snowing! Where? Here in Kawawachikamach where we have been for the past week for Scripture engagement and literacy workshops with our Naskapi translation partners. IMG_8008We have enjoyed beautiful fall days but on the last day we our flight was canceled and we were delayed by an early blizzard, so we simply stayed put and worked an extra day here.

IMG_8014Naskapi teachers literacy workshop

We team-taught several sessions for the Naskapi language teachers at the school, helping them with literacy, materials, and grammar-teaching skills.

 

 

Naskapi grammar and translation

IMG_8002Bill worked with the translation staff at the Naskapi Development Corporation and consultant linguist Marguerite MacKenzie on Naskapi stories and legends for publication, and a better understanding of Naskapi grammar.

 

 

Womens’ sewing circle

IMG_8073During several evenings, Norma Jean led a women’s sewing class, and several women completed quilt projects and enjoyed fellowship and tea. Norma Jean also had an opportunity to model leading a women’s Bible study session for some of the local women.

We thank God for another opportunity to enjoy the friendship and hospitality of our Naskapi friends at Kawawachikamach and to encourage them in their faith and ongoing language development and translation work.

IMG_8038Starting today, Lord willing, we begin a tour of the Eastern United States to visit several supporting churches, friends and family. Hope to see many of you in the coming days.

Thank you for your prayers.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

Kingfisher Lake

Our Dear Partners,

Kingfisher Lake is one of a dozen Oji-Cree speaking First Nations communities in Northern Ontario. We spent the first week of September here meeting with church and community leadership, educators, elders, and other residents about the possibilities of helping them set up their own Bible translation program. They reminded us once again that for decades their church and people have had to get by with translations used by the surrounding languages (Moose Cree, Plains Cree, and Ojibwe) but they don’t yet have adequate access to the Scriptures in their own language. They were gracious, and we listened to them tell us about their desire to begin their own language project to address some of these needs.IMG_7831 IMG_7830 IMG_7829

On the last day of our visit, they met with us to say that they would be forming their own translation committee, and invited us to come back again to begin training them to start their own Bible translation project. We made plans to go back to see them in mid-winter.

We drove down through Thunder Bay and Michigan and we are now at the Bible Society offices in Kitchener, Ontario, where we will be meeting with them over the next few days to talk about progress with the Oji-Cree, Naskapi, Innu and Cree translation programs.

Thank you for your prayers for our travels and meetings. We went another 2000 miles by car since we last checked in with you all last week.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 22Jan2014

Pray for Silas

Our dear partners,

SilasBillNJMost of you are familiar with Silas, our friend and Naskapi translator that we have worked so closely with over the years. We continue to work with him from a distance on translation projects that we exchange by Internet and email. He has also been serving as an ordained deacon at the Naskapi church, a busy Naskapi Nations councillor, and the lead translator at the Naskapi Development Corporation. But recently we received a message from him that he is very discouraged, long term and painful health issues have got him down, and he recently shared with us that he is thinking about resigning.

All we are asking you to do is to pray for him. Pray that God will help him, encourage him, and remind him that He loves him, and that with God’s help Silas will make good choices.

07HOMEWe have appreciated his friendship and partnership in helping to make God’s word accessible to his people. Right now he just needs to be lifted up in prayer. Would you do that for him?

Blessings, Bill and Norma Jean