In September 2023, the lifelong investment of Harvey Satewas Gabriel in his Mohawk language will culminate in the publication of a complete translation of the Bible from English to Mohawk.
When he was 17, he was astonished to hear his United Church minister John Angus translate Scripture into Mohawk as he preached—the first time Harvey had heard Mohawk read aloud. From that very day, he began thinking about translation.
A fluent Mohawk speaker, Harvey was eventually asked to read the Scriptures in Mohawk at church. But reading in Mohawk required that he translate short portions. In 1980, those efforts led him to embrace the challenge of translating the entire Bible.
For more than 40 years he laboured, at times working alone, and at other times with scholars from CBS, and always with unwavering encouragement from his wife Susan. A grant from the United Church of Canada Foundation, and linguistic and translation expertise from the Canadian Bible Society helped him finish this great task.
Now at age 84, he’s looking forward to the unveiling of the first Mohawk Bible, being published by CBS. “I don’t think anybody just comes along and says, ‘I’m going to translate the Bible.’ I don’t think that is how it is done. I think God will test you like he tested me in 1957.” Harvey certainly has met the challenge.
(Report adapted from The Eastern Door.)
Renewing language and culture, a force for healing
The impact of colonization on Indigenous languages is a major theme in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s 2015 report.
Colonial power structures greatly reduced the use of Indigenous languages in Canada, with grave implications for the well-being of Indigenous people and communities.
In many Indigenous Canadian communities, the translation of and engagement with the Scriptures is seen as strategic and valuable for the revitalization of language and culture. CBS is eager to collaborate and welcomes requests to engage in Scripture translation, publication, distribution, and engagement for Canada’s Indigenous communities.
“A woman saw the Ojibwe/Saulteaux Shorter Bible we had and said ‘This is my language—where can I get a copy of this?’ As I handed her the Bible and told her she could keep it, she burst into tears and said, ‘I have been praying for a Bible in Ojibwe.’ She took my hand and with tears running down her cheeks thanked God that He had brought her the Bible. We were very moved.” —Nation at Prayer, a CBS partner, from Mission Fest 2022
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