Northern Translation Brief: The “Whole” Bible in Naskapi

What is the “Whole” Bible in Naskapi?

This summer, July 2020, we helped the Naskapi Development Corporation produce and print this book that contains all the Scripture translated into Naskapi so far.

The “Whole” Bible in Naskapi

But the word “Whole” is in quotes for a reason.

In 1978, 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 language development work that has resulted in the translation of the Bible into Naskapi.


The Naskapi Bible Translation Project became a core component of the Language and Culture sector of the NDC in 1993. That is the year when work began on a series books in Naskapi that were based on the life of Christ in the Gospels: the Walking With Jesus series. This project made almost 450 verses of the Bible available in the Naskapi language for the first time.

The six-volume “Walking With Jesus” books were the first books ever published in the Naskapi language, containing Scripture portions from the Gospels.

Since these humble beginnings, the translation team continued to make steady progress on this huge task. For several years in the 1990s and early 2000s, the focus was on (mainly) the Sunday Lectionary readings used in the Naskapi church. Selections from the Old Testament, the Psalms, the Epistles and the Gospels were translated each week, printed as “church bulletins” and used in church. In time, this process gave us almost 5000 verses of the Bible.

For many years the Sunday Lectionary readings in Naskapi were distributed each week and used in the church services.

The original Naskapi Translation Committee decided to begin translation in earnest with the Old Testament book of Genesis in the mid 1990s, so that work added even more verses.
Our focus shifted to a translation of the entire Gospel of Luke around the year 2000, and then to the entire New Testament, which was completed and published in 2007, bringing the total number of Bible verses in Naskapi to nearly 10,000

Lana Martens, a member of Wycliffe Bible Translators assigned to the Naskapi project in the 1970s, attended the dedication of the Naskapi New Testament on September 16, 2007 in Kawawachikamach.

When the book of Genesis was completed, published and dedicated in 2013, the amount of available Naskapi Scriptures went up to about 12,000 verses.

The late elder Joseph Guanish, one of the main visionaries who established the Naskapi Bible Translation as a core project of the Naskapi Development Corporation, seeing his vision being realized at the dedication of Naskapi Genesis on February 17, 2013 in Kawawachikamach.

In that same year, the NDC Board of Directors decided to increase the capacity of the translation department in order to address ongoing Naskapi language development needs. They recruited and hired four new young translators to be trained and mentored. After an apprenticeship period, these four new “Naskapi Language Specialists” began work on some of the major Old Testament historical books and Wisdom literature that had been requested by members of the Naskapi population and the elders. This included the beginnings of the books of Job, First & Second Samuel, First Kings, Joshua, Judges and Esther. During the next few years, considerable progress was made completing the first draft of much of these books.

four new “Naskapi Language Specialists” in April 2013, in their initial training stage.

The cohort of Naskapi Language Specialists has changed (and reduced) in the intervening years. In spite of this, with the help of visiting linguistics interns (2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019) and our facilitating support, more and more translated Scripture has been made accessible to the Naskapi language community each year.


The translation department also completed and dedicated the entire book of Psalms, the longest book in the Bible, on March 24th 2019. This year they are completing the important book of Exodus, which as of mid-2020 brings us to a grand total of 13,846 verses in Naskapi.

Psalms: The Book of Praises in Naskapi, dedicated and presented at the Naskapi church, in March 2019.

The published works so far (New Testament, Genesis, Psalms, Exodus and the Sunday Lectionary Readings) are all checked and approved. The published work represents about 44% of the whole Bible. But all together these translations are found in seven separate printed books. This makes it somewhat complicated to look up and study verses in the Bible where ever they may occur.


This present volume is an attempt to put all the translated Naskapi Scriptures all in one place, and to also include all the translation “work in progress” as well–that is, all of the books and chapters that exist in “first draft” at least, and still may have several checking stages to go before they are approved for publication. When we collected all of the Scripture available into this one printed book, we now have a total of 17,393 verses, or about 56% of the 31,102 verses of the Bible here in this book in Naskapi.

The Naskapi “Whole” Bible open to the book of Psalms.

This book is arranged like a standard Bible, with all the books and chapters included. When there are verses not yet translated into Naskapi, we have included them in this book anyway, with the chapter and verse numbers showing which parts of the Bible still are not yet available in Naskapi. We have also indicated all those passages that are still a “work in progress” by setting the text in gray. Here’s how that looks in a sample of the pages from the book of Isaiah:

Typical page layout showing checked and approved passages, portions still in “first draft”, and verses not yet translated.

Our Naskapi translation undergoes several stages that ensure naturalness, accuracy, clarity and acceptability. Our translators study the background, commentaries and several English translations first, in order to determine the meaning of the stories before their beginning their attempts at a Naskapi “first draft”.

Naskapi translators Amanda and Ruby work to determine the meaning of a passage.

After the first draft of several chapters of a book is complete, these chapters are read through, out loud by the entire translation team for the important “team checking” stage. As a group the translation team suggests changes to make the first draft clearer or more natural.
Then the draft is “back translated” into English again. This way, by comparing the original with the English back translation, the team can verify the accuracy of their translation. This back translation also provides a way for the international translation consultant to review the translation with the translator, to ensure exegetical correctness, and to assist with the ongoing professional development of our Naskapi translators.
Finally, after any revisions are made following the translation consultant’s suggestions, the text receives provisional approval for publication. Still it is also completely read through again out loud with community members and elders, who help our team refine Naskapi stylistic and contemporary use. This is the “community checking” stage, ensuring the acceptability of the translation by Naskapi community members.
After all of these stages are completed, then the book is approved for publication.

The “Whole” Bible in Naskapi–with gaps and “work-in-progress”.

This 2020 edition of the “Whole” Bible in Naskapi contains all the Naskapi translation available today in all stages of translation. It also provides us with a graphic and tangible representation of just how much of the translation task remains to be done.
This book can serve as a motivational and inspirational tool for the Naskapi language specialists, the translation team and the Naskapi community.

Also, this book provides Naskapi readers with a single place to look up any Bible verse that is available in their own language.

We so appreciate your prayers for us and the Naskapi team through the many years of work that has brought us to this place, with a significant amount of the message of God now accessible in the Naskapi language.


And we ask that you please continue to pray for the Naskapi translation team and the NDC and Naskapi church leadership as they consider what God would have them do going forward to bring this project to completion.

Serving with you–and with them, Bill & Norma Jean

This book is being distributed by the Naskapi Development Corporation in Kawawachikamach, and is also available to the general public for purchase online here: lulu.com

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