“When Christianity was introduced to our people in the mid to late 1800s, our people fully embraced it because it fell in line with our Inupiat values,” said community leader Crawford Patkotak.
“But at the same time the suppression of our language was in our face. ‘Learn English language. Do away with your native language.’ The damage is very much alive in a lot of people still.”
Ida Olemaun, a translator from the community said, “Everybody spoke Inupiat. When we had to attend eighth grade, that’s when the breakdown started. It breaks my heart, it really does, because I have five children and I cannot share the emotions and the feelings when I speak my language… It’s built in me. It’s part of me.”
Mourning the loss of their language and wanting to preserve it for their children, a team of women, some over the age of 80, began translating the Bible. They are now supported by CBS specialists but at the outset they had no guidance.
Yet, said Molly Pederson, they strongly felt God’s presence. “You know we couldn’t just do this by our own strength. God shows us that He’s right there with us. I know that we are not doing it alone,” said Molly. “We are inspired. we are given words. He’s there helping us.”
“We’re so overwhelmed. It becomes alive. You cannot prevent yourself from saying ‘Amen. Hallelujah!’ God is so good. God is so great,” said Ida. “With everything our people have had to endure, I believe we cannot hang on to the hurt of the past,” noted Crawford. “We cannot afford to pass that hurt on to the next generation. And the only way we can do that is through the Word of God.”
Learn more about the Canadian Bible Society Translation Projects.
Indigenous Language Translation Benchmarks
In 2001, CBS published the Eastern/James Bay Cree New Testament. A new edition published in 2021 was presented to Pope Francis in Rome by the Indigenous delegation on March 30.
- Old Testament and Gospels ready for final review
- Rest of the New Testament books edited and ready for consultant checking
- Published the revised New Testament
- Typeset and printed the whole Bible
- First-pass revision of Pentateuch complete
- Pentateuch & Psalms publication Printed and is on its way to Alaska
- Team review of Joshua and Ruth through 1 Kings finished and 1 Samuel checked by consultant
- Gospel of Mark and Scripture readings from prayer book published digitally
Read more about our Translation Projects in Canada.
These 30 illustrated Bible stories promote reading skills while introducing children to the joy of reading God’s Word. In 2021, CBS published the Inuktitut series as e-books, and they will soon be printed. The Woods Cree version is close to completion.
“(Never learning our language) cut lines of communication between me and all the Inupiaq-speaking elders, including the ones who knew Jesus as their personal Saviour. When I spend time on this project, I increase my knowledge of Inupiaq and am left feeling whole and healed.”
~ Willie, a young volunteer on the Inupiaq translation project