Scriptures and Scriptural Resources in Indigenous Languages
Since the beginning of CBS (Canadian Bible Society), it has been our mission to help all people hear God speak through His Word – in a language closest to their heart.
Over 1.8 million people in Canada identify as Indigenous. 47% of First Nations people in Canada self-identify as Christians. We are honoured by the invitation to work alongside Indigenous partners to advance language reclamation efforts.
“Our church is the only place remaining where Inuinnaqtun is used; so, this translation project is an important calling.”
— Edna Elias, team member, Inuinnaqtun Scripture revision.
Being able to access the Bible in their own languages is particularly important to the spiritual and cultural life of these communities. As per data released by Statistics Canada from the 2021 census, about 243,000 people reported being able to speak an Indigenous language. It is a decline from the 2016 census when that figure was around 251,000. In 2016, for about 40 Indigenous languages in Canada, there were only about 500 speakers or less.
CBS is currently engaged in Bible translation in four Indigenous languages.
In August, CBS published the first complete Bible in Mohawk. Today, Mohawk is spoken by an estimated 10% of the 30,000 people that make up the total Mohawk population. At a celebratory evening in Caledonia, Ontario, CBS commemorated the efforts of Harvey Satewas Gabriel to translate the Bible into the Mohawk language.
Reclamation of Indigenous languages is key to healing and restoration. “Bible translation is a key component of bringing languages back. We are pleased to be working in partnership with the Indigenous communities to make that happen.” says Jeff Green, Director, Scripture Translation, CBS.
As we continue to learn and grow in our actions, and as we strive to explore ways in which we can support Indigenous communities toward healing, we remember the words of Mr. Justice Murray Sinclair: “Reconciliation will not be easy and it will take time, but to make it happen, we must believe it should happen…”
The Legacy of the Mohawk Bible
In this video, Harvey Satewas Gabriel tells the poignant story of the inspiration and dedication that led to the translation of the complete Bible into Mohawk. “Why don’t we have our own Bible?” a young Harvey asked his mother when he heard a pastor reading the Bible in English. Harvey recollects his mother asking him, “It’s going to be a long project. But who will translate it?” Today, after decades of relentless work, Harvey is grateful that the Mohawk community has the Creator’s Word in a language that speaks to their hearts. “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.” Matthew 24:35.