CANADA: Translation: Indigenous Languages
From a position of humility, of affirming hope, and engaging the complexities of reconciliation, we are honoured to be invited to work alongside Indigenous Canadians for the good of their communities.
In many Indigenous Canadian communities, there is renewed hope for the revitalization of language and culture, centred around translation of and engagement with the Scriptures.
Languages are living entities that go to the core of who we are. CBS works with partners to translate and revise Bibles, New Testaments, and Bible portions in the Indigenous languages of Canada. These partners include speakers of the language, local organizations, and local and national churches.
Some of our products, such as the Mission: Literacy series, can be a resource for Indigenous language classes in schools and churches. Meanwhile, because of our historical involvement in making the Scriptures available in Indigenous languages, we are approached from time to time with questions about the availability of older Bible translations or the possibility of supporting new translation projects.
Over 1.6 million people in Canada identify as Indigenous.
63% of First Nations people in Canada self-identify as Christians.
In many Indigenous Canadian communities, engagement with the Scriptures is seen as strategic and valuable for revitalizing language and culture.
Indigenous Bible Translation Projects
The Complete Bible In Mohawk
The first-ever Bible Society translation was the Gospel of John in Mohawk in 1804. In 1880, a translation of the four gospels by Sosé Onasakenrat was published.
Sosé’s great-grandson, Harvey (Satewas) Gabriel, was part of a CBS translation project in the early 2000s to complete the translation of the Mohawk Bible. The project was dormant for some years, and recently restarted. CBS is working with Harvey and others with the goal of publishing the first complete Bible in Mohawk.
The project is a partnership with the Mohawk Council of Kanesatake and the United Church of Canada.
Target date: The complete Bible proofread and reviewed by Summer 2023.
The Complete Bible In Inuktitut – Revision
Inuktitut, also called Eastern Arctic Inuktitut, is spoken primarily in Nunavut and in Nunavik (northern Quebec) by the Inuit people. It is one of the official languages in the Nunavut territory.
The whole Bible was completed in 2012, and now CBS is helping the Church revise the 2012 publication. Recent milestones include the completion of the New Testament, which is currently available through the Digital Bible Library and the YouVersion App (soon to be available in print), and the creation of a Children’s Bible in Inuktitut. Additionally, the Mission: Literacy series of Bible story books will be translated into revised Inuktitut by Spring 2022, and a recording program is planned once the revision is done.
– New Testament completed in January 2021
– Old Testament 50% completed by the end of 2026
North Alaskan Inupiaq Old Testament
With the New Testament in hand, completing the Old Testament (OT) will make the whole Bible available. Many people have come forward to be involved in the translation process, and most are volunteers, working out of a sense of calling to complete the OT in Inupiaq, for the blessing of the Church and the community. Their involvement greatly accelerates progress.
Inupiaq is the collective term for the Inuit dialects spoken in Alaska and immediately adjacent parts of Northern Canada. It is closely related to other Inuit languages across the Arctic in Canada and Greenland. There are roughly 2,600 speakers. It is considered a threatened language with most speakers at or above the age of 40.
– Publication of Pentateuch and Psalms by Spring 2022
– Old Testament completed by the end of 2026
Inuinnaqtun Scripture Portions
Inuinnaqtun is one of the official languages of Nunavut.
CBS hosted an Inuit Bible translation conference in Nunavut in early 2017, and participants from the central Arctic requested help with some work in Inuinnaqtun.
The first accomplishment of the collaboration was to convert their Bible portions from the 1980s (Ruth, the Four Gospels, Acts) into electronic format and make them available through YouVersion, an online and mobile Bible app. Next, volunteers translated the Mission: Literacy stories, which were published by CBS in 2020.
Volunteers are also doing a fresh translation of some books and have almost completed the Gospel of Mark.
CBS is committed to helping them with their biggest challenge, to update the language and spelling in their translation of the Anglican Book of Common Prayer, which is mostly Scripture. Our investment is in ensuring contemporary and accurate language and preparation for printing. The book will be published by our long-time partner, the Anglican Church of Canada.
– Gospel of Mark completed by early 2021
– Publication of Anglican Book of Common Prayer completed by Spring 2021
Indigenous Bible Engagement Resources
The Canadian Bible Society (CBS) is making God’s Word available TO remote Indigenous communities In their heart language. CBS has partnered with Crossroads First Peoples Voices (FPV) to provide Bibles and Scripture resources for families and children in isolated communities across Canada, including the Arctic.
Each community receives shipments with several Scripture resources for sharing, including: Bibles for youth and children, Bibles in Indigenous languages, Bible portions and Scripture Selections, children’s Bible engagement resources, and other items for home study.
Hope for First Nations People
Pikangikum is an Ojibwe First Nation in northwestern Ontario. Colleen Estes, a missionary in Pikangikum for 23 years, says she has never seen such a hunger for the gospel.
“Since no outside ministries are allowed on the reserve (during the COVID-19 pandemic), the gifts received from CBS are being used at many outdoor gatherings.” Colleen couldn’t keep up with handing out the Bibles and had 22 requests within a few hours of the arrival of the shipment at her home.
When God’s Word speaks in a people’s heart language, lives are changed. Your support today is vital in helping complete these translation projects with Indigenous Canadian communities.