Northern Translation Brief: 15Aug2018

Our Dear Partners,

In just a few short days we will be journeying north again to the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach outside Schefferville, Quebec. We return to work with the Naskapi translation team there on their Old Testament translation, Scripture engagement and literacy projects.

As many of you know from our previous Translation Briefs, the Naskapi Bible Translation project has been not only the inspiration and motivation for other First Nations communities to begin their own translation projects, but the Naskapi project is also a place where Next Generation Bible translation facilitators can gain practical experience serving a project as Linguistics Interns. Two new young teams recently starting their service to other First Nations translation projects, the Reeds and the Windsors, have completed their internships at Kawawachikamach with the Naskapi.

This August we will be bringing still another young couple interested in serving in First Nations Bible translation with us to visit the Naskapi project. David & Avery Standley, and their son Azariah.

A “Skype” call with David & Avery last week

David & Avery are from Olympia, Washington, on the west coast of the United States. They both completed their undergraduate degrees in linguistics, and have also taken the field linguistics courses at CanIL (the Canadian Institute of Linguistics) at Trinity Western University in Langley, BC.

They will be traveling with us and their new little baby boy, Azariah, who is just 3 months old. They are flying here from the west coast to meet us for the first time this Saturday August 18, and we will be driving with them up to Sept-Iles, Quebec, to take the Thursday, August 23 train to Schefferville.

David & Avery are just visiting the Naskapi community with us this time, but if things work out, they are hoping to do an 8-month internship at Kawawa with the translation team eventually.

Besides Bible translation, we are also working with the Naskapi translation team on literacy projects, and are just in the checking and review stage of a new children’s book based on a traditional Naskapi story about Kachimayichasuw, mysterious mischievious beings that are said to throw rocks at Naskapi tents and steal supplies.

We will work with the Naskapi team until the first week of September, and return home around September 9, Lord willing.

Checking copy of “The Sneaks who Stole the Sugar” in Naskapi, illustrated by our daughter Elizabeth

Please remember us in prayer for safety and travel mercies during the long days on the road, for productive and instructive times with the Naskapi translation team, and for God’s continued leading and guidance in our lives, the lives of the Naskapi translators, and David & Avery.

Serving with you, Bill & Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief: 2018 Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop

Our Dear Partners

We are so grateful for your prayers for a successful First Nations Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop that was held in Guelph, Ontario in April. God has answered your prayers in wonderful and encouraging ways! This was our fourth such workshop in as many years.

Speakers from three language communities came to this year’s workshop

What is a Mother Tongue Translator?

Even though we serve with a “Bible Translation” organization, we ourselves do not really translate the Bible ourselves: it is the fluent, “mother tongue” speakers of these languages who actually perform the Bible translation day-by-day, verse-by-verse.

Oji-Cree mother tongue translators Zipporah and Jessie at work

These precious individuals speak their mother tongue, their heart language, and with some help from us translate the Word of God into the indigenous language of their community and family. Linguists, consultants, Bible Translation facilitators and others (like us) work along side mother tongue translators–we learn their language, we help them understand what the Bible means, and we equip them to make the best translation they can into their own language.

What is a Mother Tongue Translator Workshop?

While most of the work of Bible translation happens in the mother tongue translators’ home community, we conduct workshops to bring together many mother tongue translators from several communities. That’s what we did in Guelph this April.

SIL International Translation consultant Steve Kempf teaching about Old Testament sacrifice

At workshops like this, the mother tongue translators can benefit by learning from a wide range of facilitators who serve on staff and come to bring their experience and expertise, helping each translation team with their own unique challenges.

Bible Society translation consultant Ruth Heeg teaching translation basics

They can also learn about new tools, materials and media that can help them bring the message of God’s love in their own language to a wider range of people in their own communities.

Colin Suggett demonstrates a talking “Scripture App” with audio

Martin Reed helps participants plan the future of their language

We usually think of the Bible in a “book” when we talk about Bible translation, but the Word of God is living and active, and is a vast story of God’s love for and redemption of every people, language and nation. At this workshop, participants were also trained to craft the story of the Bible in their own language and tell these stories orally.

Meg Billingsley helps the participants learn the story of Adam & Eve

Matt Windsor helps the Oji-Cree team craft and record their oral Bible story

Even more importantly, mother tongue translators interact with other mother tongue translators from other languages, learning how their shared experiences can be an encouragement to each other, and realizing that they are not alone doing their task of Bible Translation for their home community.

Speakers of Naskapi, Oji-Cree and Swampy Cree learning together

Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, addresses, encourages and prays for the participants

Why translate the Bible into minority First Nations languages?

God is doing a work in the hearts of speakers of indigenous languages across Canada. Their grandparents and great-grandparents were taught God’s message of love and grace during the past century and a half. Many of these learned the Word of God from books that were translated into languages that were not in their own their “mother tongue”, but sometimes some other language, such as a neighbouring dialect of Cree.

1863 translation of the Bible in Western Cree

Many of the First Nations mother tongue translators that we work with love Jesus. They also love their communities and they love their traditional languages that they learned from their parents and grandparents. Now, God has given them the desire to pass on their faith to their own children and grandchildren, along with their precious language which is such a vital part of their culture.

The history of relations between the First Peoples of this land and non-indigenous people have been sometimes strained and difficult. Practices of the newcomers and policies of our governments often resulted in the tragic loss of their traditional languages. Besides providing access to God’s message of love in their own language, the First Nations Bible translation movement also gives speakers of these languages the resources they need to make their languages sustainable and even to flourish.

God has been using these MTT workshops to train, equip and encourage mother tongue translators with the skills and capacity they desire to see their vision and realized.

Thank you for your prayers for this one. They were answered in wonderful ways.

Serving with you, Bill & Norma Jean

Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald

“Mother tongue Bible translation is the most important thing you can be involved in for your community. It is really saving lives. It is hope that we give to our children and our grandchildren and great-grand children. The Holy Spirit assists you in your work of translation because it results in praise to God.

 

“The Word of God must become living and real in the languages of our communities. It is a part of our preparation of the coming of Christ: Bible translation in your local languages has a role in God’s plan for the universe. So, it is vital on a physical level but also on an spiritual and eternal level as well.”

–from the address by the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, National Indigenous Bishop, to the participants at the 2018 First Nations Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop, Tuesday, 17 April 2018, Guelph, Ontario.

More pictures from this year’s workshop:

 

 

Northern Translation Brief: 08Jan2018

Our Dear Partners,

 

 

Greetings to you all for the New Year. We would like to share some exciting news from the New Oji-Cree translation project that has been going on in Kingfisher Lake.

You will recall that the a new Oji-Cree Bible translation project was started by the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh a couple of years ago. Since then, they have been working on a project to prepare Sunday readings from the the “Prayer Book Lectionary” for their church in Oji-Cree.

On a week-by-week basis, the translation team has been translating, team-checking and community-checking the Epistle and Gospel readings in Oji-Cree for their Sunday morning vernacular language services.

Lectionary is a collection of Bible readings to be read to the faithful during the worship of God. Lectionaries have been used since the fourth century, where major churches arranged the Scripture readings according to a schedule which follows the calendar of the year. This practice of assigning particular readings to each Sunday and Holy day has continued through the history of the Christian Church.

Even though each Sunday these readings are printed and distributed in leaflet form for the congregation, they are still considered a “work in progress”, until they would be properly checked and approved by a translation consultant.


In November (just after Bill’s accident with the tree, ladder & chainsaw), translation consultant Meg Billingsley went to Kingfisher Lake again to work with the translation team in order to help them carefully check their translation and approve it for publication.

Connecting with the translation team by Skype in November

WIth Meg’s help, the team was able to complete the consultant checking for all the Epistle and Gospel readings for the season of Advent up through Christmas.

At the same time, they also reviewed and approved the layout for a published “book version” of the Lectionary readings. The checked and approved text was formatted and typeset in diglot (by Bill) in Oji-Cree and English and is their first publication of the New Oji-Cree translated Scripture in book form.

The team is making plans to continue the translation steps and consultant checking that need to be accomplished for each section so that soon an entire year of Sunday Lectionary Readings will be available and accessible to the community in book format.
As more of the new Oji-Cree translation is completed and approved, further editions of this book will be produced that contain more and more of God’s Word in the heart language of the Oji-Cree people.

Praise God with us and celebrate that these very first Scriptures to be published by the new Oji-Cree translation project have been completed, delivered and used in the church at Kingfisher Lake.

Pray with us for the Oji-Cree team as they continue to make progress toward their translation goals, for their plans for another checking session with a translation consultant, and as they await having Matthew & Caitlin Windsor come to their community to work with them full-time once the Windsor’s internship with Naskapi is completed. Lord willing, this will happen in the late spring of this year.

Matthew Windsor & Bill meeting with the translation team and the local committee members at Kingfisher Lake, July 2018

Thank you for your interest in First Nations Bible Translation, and for your prayers.

Serving with you,
Bill & Norma Jean Jancewicz

Northern Translation Brief: 05Nov2017

Our Dear Partners,

Last week, Alice & Martin Reed finished their 8 month internship with the Naskapi language project in Kawawachikamach. This weekend they were with us in our home and we just brought them to the airport for their first visit to Tataskwekak (Split Lake) in Northern Manitoba, where they will be serving in the new Mistah Wasaha Inenowuk translation project. The speakers of this language, which is referred to as “Western Swampy Cree” by linguists, will be sharing their vision with the Reeds, and what God has laid on their hearts for a Bible translation and language development project into their own mother tongue.

Please pray with us for the community and their leaders this week, and for Martin & Alice as they listen and learn how God can use them in this work. They plan to be there from Nov 6-14. We know you share our excitement and anticipation of seeing what God has planned for bringing His Word to this language community.
Thank you so much for your encouragement and your faithful prayers!

Serving with you,
Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief: 07Oct2017

Our Dear Partners,

So many of you have shared with us that you would be praying about my trip to Split Lake Manitoba. We are so excited to tell you about how your prayers have been answered in wonderful ways.

The church and community leaders have invited us to send Alice & Martin Reed, one of the new Next Generation language development teams that has been serving their internship with the Naskapi translation project, to help them begin their own Swampy Cree translation project at Split Lake.

Thank you so much for your faithful prayers!
Serving with you,
Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief: 07Oct2017

Our Dear Partners,

Thanks to all of you who prayed for me (Bill) as I have been preparing for the October 6-7 trip to Thompson Manitoba. I had been invited to meet with Anglican First Nations clergy there at their Northern Manitoba General Assembly. But over the past few days the organizers found it necessary to cancel their meeting until after the new year.

But they urged me to make alternate plans to travel there anyway to meet with some of the Swampy Cree speakers and church leaders about Bible translation as soon as possible, in particular, the Rev. Larry Beardy in Split Lake.

Last week I was able to speak with Larry, who suggested that I come to visit him in his Swampy Cree community at Split Lake Manitoba (Tataskweyak) at the school where he teaches Cree during the week of October 15th. He said that he would like me to make a presentation to his Cree class about First Nations Bible Translation, and it would also be an opportunity for me to speak with him about how we might be of assistance in helping him and his people take steps toward having a Bible translation program started for his language community.

So, I contacted the airlines and learned that I could make a change in my tickets for a fee, which I have done. Now I leave for northern Manitoba on Saturday October 14th.

Plans are slightly different now, but clearly God is at work refining the details, keeping us dependent upon Him.

Thanks for your continued prayers!
Serving with you,
Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief: 30Sep2017

Our Dear Partners,

On October 6 Bill leaves for a trip to Thompson Manitoba. He has been invited to meet with Anglican First Nations clergy there at their Northern Manitoba General Assembly.
Their leaders have asked Bill to come share about how God has used Bible Translation in other First Nations languages like Naskapi and Oji-Cree to communicate His message of hope and healing.

Speakers of the Swampy Cree language have been using an old translation of the scriptures in the Plains Cree language for generations, and are interested in learning how they may start a translation program of their own into contemporary Swampy Cree, just as several other language communities have done in recent years. Bill will be sharing about the opportunities and resources available to help them gain capacity to have God’s Word in their own mother tongue, including the First Nations Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop series.

We value your prayers for travel safety, good relationships and God’s leading and direction in our lives and theirs.

Serving with you,
Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 13Sep2017

Our Dear Partners,

Norma Jean and I returned from our fall trip to the Naskapi Translation Project at Schefferville and Kawawachikamach late in the day Monday 11 Sept 2017. This trip had multiple purposes—mainly to connect with Alice & Martin Reed, who have been serving their 8-month internship there with the Naskapi translation project since March, and to bring Matt & Caitlin Windsor with Hazel there to begin their own internship with the Naskapi.

Caitlin, Matthew & Hazel Windsor ready for their trip to Northern Quebec

Why are we all with the Naskapi?

You may recall reading about the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative on these pages. God is at work bringing his message of hope and love into First Nations communities across Canada. The Naskapi community continues to be an inspiration and example to other First Nations language communities to have the Word of God in their own mother tongue too. These language communities have asked for help doing this–and God has blessed us by growing our team with the Next Generation of Language Program Facilitators, like the Reeds and the Windsors. They have been invited to serve in the Naskapi language program as “Linguistics Interns”, as they learn to live in an isolated northern First Nations community and work along side the Naskapi translators in their language program.

The trip went well, and we feel that Alice & Martin have been doing very well serving the Naskapi project since their arrival there last March. They have been helping the Naskapi team and administration to focus and prioritize their Bible translation projects and to move them along with manageable and concrete goals. Several more chapters of Exodus have been team-checked for consistency and naturalness under Alice’s guidance, and a publication of the book of Psalms in Naskapi is underway. At the same time, they have made remarkable progress in language learning, integrating their lives into Naskapi community and culture, and building deep relationships. They will be ready to move on to their own assignment by the first week of November. More about that below.

Alice & Martin Reed taking part in local activities at Kawawachikamach

Matthew & Caitlin survived the long, long road trip with us starting on August 20, and then the train trip to Kawawa on August 24, arriving around midnight. They moved into Ruby Sandy-Robinson’s house which had been vacated (and cleaned and prepared) by Alice & Martin a couple days before. Alice & Martin were offered to house-sit at another Naskapi house in the community a few doors away from Ruby’s house where they were staying. This allowed the Windsors to have more space which they needed at Ruby’s house. Ruby remains very happy to host the interns in her home.

Cait & Hazel in the “soup” aisle (ᓱᐸᐳᔾ), Matt & Cait at the translation office

Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, a linguist from Memorial University in Newfoundland, also came to work at the Naskapi Development Corporation offices on the review and editing of more Naskapi stories and legends, as she has done for the past several years in the month of September. Recently Bill coordinated the production of the next Naskapi story book ᐃᔅᒂᒋᐛᑎᓂᓱᐅᒡCaught in a Blizzard, which, like many of the recent Naskapi books was illustrated by our daughter Elizabeth. The new print copies arrived at Kawawa during this trip.

We were very encouraged by the way that both new Wycliffe teams, the Reeds and the Windsors, worked together and with their Naskapi hosts. We ask that you remember to pray for them during the next few weeks of “overlap” between the two teams, as the Reeds complete their internship in November and the Windsors stay on with the Naskapi until April of next year.

Serge & Minna

Norma Jean and I stayed in our old house in town in Schefferville, and came to Kawawa to work with the Naskapi language staff and community each day. We were also working on the house getting it ready to rent or sell: we met with one couple who came up from Parole de DieuInstitute Biblique Bethel  (Word of Life–Bethel Bible Institute) in Sherbrooke. This couple is listening for God’s call in their own lives for ministry among the Naskapi and Innu people in Quebec: their names are Serge & Minna Lauzon. We are waiting and praying with them for direction concerning our house in Schefferville: they may be in a position to rent or eventually buy the house, depending on how God leads them in the weeks to come. They spent four days at our house there with us during the two weeks we were there ourselves. Won’t you pray for them with us?

Before Norma Jean cut the grass…

The Naskapi translation team continues to work on the team-checking and review of the book of Exodus. There are still some style and naturalness (and consistency and acceptability) issues that the team is working through. The linguistics intern teams will be guiding the translation team toward the completion and publication of this book in the weeks to come. They also are helping the Naskapi develop a long term translation and scripture engagement plan that provides the Naskapi community with an Old Testament panorama that can be achieved by focusing their efforts on chronological selections from the remaining Old Testament. And this with continued work on the Naskapi dictionary, grammar and literacy.

The Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree translation committee has invited Matthew & Caitlin to come live with them at their community in Northern Ontario very soon after their internship is completed in April of next year.

Matt & Bill with the Kingfisher Lake Translation Committee in July 2017

And there are several Swampy Cree communities to the northwest of the Oji-Cree in northern Manitoba that have indicated an interest in having Alice & Martin come to work with them there. Bill will be visiting Swampy Cree speakers and church leaders at a clergy conference at Thompson, Manitoba in October. Please pray that God will make His plan and His will clear to all concerned, so that this language and all the other First Nations language groups in Canada that have been waiting for the scriptures in their mother tongues won’t have to wait too much longer.

Thank you for your prayers for us over the many miles and days of this trip, and for your continued prayers for the Naskapi, Cree, Innu and Oji-Cree; and for the Windsors and the Reeds and others who are being called to join in what God is doing in the north.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

PS: as a reminder, please take the time to visit the websites of the Next Generation as they serve the Naskapi and continue to walk in obedience and faith, and as they prepare themselves to help other language groups experience the joy of hearing and knowing God’s Word in their own languages.

Alice & Martin

https://www.facebook.com/ReedsKaleidoscope/

Matthew & Caitlin

https://thewindsorsupnorth.com/

…and scroll down to see more pictures of our time with the Naskapi community!

11:00 pm and STILL not sleepy!

Jaiden at church

Community gathering at the ballfield

Alice in her “Pow-wow” dress

Martin with the drummers

Mr Bill & Mama Jean hanging out with Jaiden

Bill and David Swappie–he reads the Naskapi Bible every day.

Norma Jean with Suzan Swappie–…so does she.

Jaiden came for dinner

School cook-out

Norma Jean pitches in

Back home on the train

Northern Translation Brief 14Aug2015

Our Dear Partners,

We would like to ask your prayers for our upcoming trip to the Naskapi community in Kawawachikamach. We have plans to be traveling to northern Quebec starting from the Toronto, Ontario area beginning on Sunday, 23 August 2015. to Schefferville 2015We are traveling by car this time because we will be bringing our daughter Elizabeth with us: she is coming along to make a visit to the place where she grew up and to reconnect with her Naskapi friends. This past year, she has completed the illustrations for the third book in a series of traditional Naskapi legends that we have helped the Naskapi Development Corporation to publish. Achan promo card-horiz-aWe are very excited to have her come along with us again, and we are looking forward to seeing more of her work in Naskapi publications and literacy materials.

First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative

Ever since the Naskapi have started to read their New Testament (pubished in 2007) in their own language, many of them have expressed a new interest in reading the Bible in their own language, and they have taken on the translation of the Old Testament as a long-term project. First Nations Capacity Building Map1aThey have also been helping people in other First Nations communities to begin engaging with the Scriptures themselves. As we responded to this growing desire to have God’s Word in their own languages, we realized that it’s going to take a larger team of people to help facilitate several projects at once. We invite you to continue to pray that God will send more workers to help us.

Matt & Cait Windsor

Matt & Cait Windsor

We are very pleased to introduce you to the first new team to join us in this Initiative, Matthew and Caitlin Windsor.

Matthew and Caitlin

Matt & Cait are from the Comox Valley on Vancouver Island. They came to the Canada Institute of Linguistics (CanIL) in Langley, BC two years ago because they felt God’s call to help facilitate Bible translation into minority languages. During their time at CanIL, they were also led to seek to serve First Nations communities in Canada as part of Wycliffe Bible Translators. The Naskapi Bible translation team at Kawawachikamach has agreed to help them to learn about their language and culture, as Matt and Cait preprare themselves for service in one of the other First Nations language communities in Canada that is still waiting to have God Word in their own language.

So, on this trip to Kawawa, as usual will be mentoring and training the Naskapi Language Specialists who are working their way through the Naskapi Old Testament, and also conducting a workshop with the Naskapi language teachers at the school to help them Naskapi literacy, grammar, and bilingual education.

Naskapi Language Specialists at work

Naskapi Language Specialists at work

Naskapi Language educators' workshop

Naskapi Language educators’ workshop

But we will also be introducing Matt and Cait to our Naskapi friends who will be helping them to get accustomed their language and culture, and living in an isolated northern First Nations community. This time it is just a visit, and Lord willing after they have raised their financial support they will be able to move to the Naskapi community sometime in 2016 for their internship with them. While they are there, they will help facilitate some of the Naskapi language development projects and work alongside the Naskapi translators as they gain the skills and insight they will need to do this in one of the other language communities they may be invited to serve.

Hard News and Grief

This past week has been a difficult one for the Naskapi community, as we have heard that two of our dear friends have departed this life. Simon Einish, son of the late Tommy and Annie Einish and a loving husband and father, died suddenly and unexpectedly on the weekend (Tommy Einish is the Naskapi elder teaching Bill in the title picture at the top of this website). And Sylvester Tooma, a venerable Naskapi elder also passed away after an illness.

Norma Jean with Sylvester Tooma, 2014

Norma Jean with Sylvester Tooma, 2014

We appreciate your prayers for their families and their community, and that God would be the comforter to those who experience this loss the hardest.

Please also pray for our trip: the five of us, Matt & Cait, Bill & Norma Jean, and our daughter Elizabeth, will drive up along the Lower North Shore of the St. Lawrence River in Quebec to Sept-Îles starting on Sunday afternoon, August 23. We take the 13-hour train to Schefferville on Thursday, August 27 and spend the next eleven days working in the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach.

Bill & Norma Jean, Elizabeth, Cait & Matt

Bill & Norma Jean, Elizabeth, Cait & Matt

We’ll be on the train back south on September 8, and then drive back to southern Ontario where Matt & Cait will fly back home to Comox to continue their preparations and partnership development.

Pray for our time with the Naskapi Language Specialists and Teachers, that we would be a help and encouragement to them and that they will become even better equipped to continue their own translation and language development work.

Pray for safety and good health, for God’s protection and provision, and for kindness, gentleness and God’s leading in all our doings.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief: Mushuau Innu Language Project

Our Dear Partners,

In our previous Translation Briefs, we promised to spend some time going deeper into each of the “priorities” identified in the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative.

Naskapi & Mushuau MapThis time, we would like to tell you about the Mushuau Innu language project. The Mushuau Innu and the Naskapi people are both descended from the nomadic caribou hunters who lived in the barren ground of northern Quebec and Labrador. They call their language Mushuau Innu aimun: Mushuau means ‘barren ground’, Innu means ‘person’ and aimun means ‘word’ or ‘language’.

1886_FortChimoVisitors_JRHBefore the beginning of the 20th century, there was no distinction between a “Naskapi” group and a “Mushuau Innu” group. Some were associated by family ties to the northern East Cree on Hudson’s Bay, and others were associated with the Montagnais (Innu) of the Gulf of St. Lawrence and central Labrador. But their nomadic lifestyle and dependence upon caribou was what made them a distinct people. Their language was related to both of these other people-groups, but had a core of features that was different from their neighbours on the coasts.

1903_innu_tradersThen, around 1916, when the inland Hudson’s Bay Company post at Fort McKenzie was established, many of these hunters and their families began to center their activities around that post. About the same period, other hunters began to frequent other Hudson’s Bay Company posts, especially the Davis Inlet post on the coast of Labrador. Of course, many hunters and their families would visit either post, depending on the relative convenience of the location.

In the 1920s, during a period when caribou were not plentiful, many Innu people began spending their summers near the Davis Inlet Hudson’s Bay Company post, because of the accessibility to food and trade goods.

hauling freightBy the mid 1940s, many of the western group that later came to be known as “Naskapi”, were working for the Company hauling cargo between Fort Chimo and Fort McKenzie.

By the 1950s, the Fort Chimo group moved to the Schefferville area permanently. The Davis Inlet group, having been moved by the Newfoundland government to Nutak 170 kilometers up the Labrador coast, decided to return on their own to Iluikoyak Island near the Davis Inlet Hudson’s Bay post, and in the 1960s were settled permanently in the Davis Inlet community, known as Utshimassits by the Innu.

Contrasting Naskapi and Mushuau Innu

The Mushuau Innu community and the Naskapi community, having started out as virtually the same people-group, over the past half-century have diverged into two distinct communities:

St. John's Anglican Church, Kawawachikamach

St. John’s Anglican Church, Kawawachikamach

The Naskapi settled inland, in the province of Quebec, and maintained ties with the Cree near Hudson’s Bay. The Mushuau Innu settled on the coast, in the province of Newfoundland and Labrador, and maintained ties with the Montagnais (Innu) in central Labrador and the Lower North Shore.

The Naskapi received their Christian teaching from Anglican clergy and has a church that is part of the Anglican diocese of Quebec. The Mushuau Innu received their Christian teaching from Roman Catholic clergy and their St. Anne Tshukuminu church is part of the Catholic diocese of Cornerbrook and Labrador.

St. Anne Tshukuminu Catholic Church, Natuashish

St. Anne Tshukuminu Catholic Church, Natuashish

The Naskapi read and write their language in a distinctive local variety of Cree syllabics, (like this: ᓇᔅᑲᐱ ᐃᔪᐤ ᐃᔨᒧᐅᓐ) very similar to the writing system used by the Northern dialect of East Cree. The Mushuau Innu read and write their language in a local variety of the emerging standard Innu spelling system (formerly referred to as Montagnais, like this: Tshishe-Manitu e ui kueshkatishit).

The Naskapi signed the Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA) in the late 1970s, which enabled them to build their own new community of Kawawachikamach in 1983. The Mushuau Innu continued to struggled until the end of the century in difficult living conditions, and were finally provided with the new community of Natuashish in 2003.

Finally and significantly, the Naskapi have the New Testament in their own language, published in 2007, and a team of trained and experienced mother-tongue translators and Naskapi-speaking elementary school teachers, and ongoing work in language development and ongoing Old Testament translation. The Mushuau Innu do not (yet) have these things in their language.

Classroom Assistant Workshops

September 2011 visit to Natuashish

September 2011 visit to Natuashish

Over the past eight years, we have made several visits to the Mushuau Innu community, often bringing along some of the Naskapi language team to inspire and motivate Mushuau Innu speakers and community members. During these visits we and our Naskapi friends have met with educators, clergy, community leadership and resource persons, sharing our vision and encouragement for increased Mushuau Innu language development, and the central place that mother-tongue literacy and scripture translation can have for Natuashish as it has for Kawawachikamach.

September 2013 visit to Natuashish

September 2013 visit to Natuashish

Norma Jean and I have been invited back each year for the past four years by the Innu School Board to conduct workshops for the Innu-speaking classroom assistants. There are no Mushuau Innu speakers yet who have the training, certification or qualifications to be classroom teachers, so the role of teacher in all the grade levels is filled by English-speaking professional teachers engaged from outside the community. But because many of the younger Innu children begin their schooling with little knowledge of English, the school hires classroom assistants to act as interpreters in the primary and elementary grades. These persons are uniquely positioned to teach the basics of literacy skills in their mother tongue, if they are provided with some guidance and access to Innu-language materials. Many Innu classroom assistants do not have any post-secondary training–their primary asset is that they are speakers of the children’s first language. Showing them some basic teaching skills can begin to equip them to lead the children into learning.

IMG_9083This Feburary 2015 we were back in the Natuashish community on the invitation of the school board to conduct another workshop for the classroom assistants. Extreme cold and other setbacks rendered the Mushuau Innu school building unusable when the heating system failed. Nevertheless, we were able to make arrangements to secure a meeting space in the Health Services building across the street from the school, and we facilitated daily workshops with a group of nearly a dozen Innu classroom assistants.

IMG_9043IMG_9042Norma Jean covered strategies for teaching activities that could be conducted in Innu-aimun, following the model and curriculum of the English classroom teacher. The yearly cycle of Innu traditional cultural activities were proposed as a framework for teaching Innu language topics. She showed how using this topical format could cover many language competencies and generate learning activities for each grade level.

IMG_9044Bill prepared an abridged version of the Innu Dictionary adjusted to meet the needs of the Mushuau Innu speakers, and installed a digital version on the participants’ laptops. He also demonstrated simple techniques for accessing and using Innu language materials on their computers, and got them started on creating their own Mushuau Innu materials for classroom use.

We were both careful to be sensitive and listen to the participants each day and adjusted our workshop topics so that we would meet the particular needs that the Innu classroom assistants expressed to us.

IMG_9076When the workshop was over and in the evenings we were able to visit in some of the homes, meet with leaders and caregivers, visit elders and attend church services.

IMG_9027IMG_9064Once again, we are struck with the deep spiritual and social needs in this community, and while we are grateful for the welcome we received to conduct this workshop, we are still convinced that developing their capacity to have access to God’s word in their own language is essential so that they can continue to take the needed steps toward healing the hurts in their community. A simple Internet search on “Davis Inlet” will turn up a litany of many of the challenges this community has faced over the years, but this post is not the place for that. This post contains hope that the Mushuau Innu people themselves can begin to find their healing in a deeper knowledge of their Creator as expressed through the medium of their own language, which is their identity and legacy.

IMG_9084IMG_9086We are so grateful for the privilege of being invited to join in this process at Natuashish. Please remember to pray for the classroom assistants, the school and the Innu community leaders and elders in the coming weeks and months as they move forward. Thank you so much for your prayers for us as we traveled all those miles and days to spend this time with them.

Pray too that the Lord of the Harvest will send workers who can facilitate a Mushuau Innu language project full-time for the long-term, just as the Naskapi have had.

We are happy, but once again pretty tired! Pray for us for a refreshing week back in British Columbia.

This is the fourth of a series of messages describing each of the “priorities” identified in the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative that began with the story of the Mason Cree Bible, the (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation, and the Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree Translation project . If you missed those, you can still read about them here:

Mason Cree Bible

(Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation

Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree Translation

We encourage you to click on those links and review the stories, the Initiative and our vision and involvement in this work.

The (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation, the Mason Cree Bible, the Oji-Cree Translation and the Mushuau Innu projects are just four of the “priorities” identified by the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. Keep watching for other posts right here that will feature the other “priorities”, including the following components of our vision:

  • Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) workshops
  • Naskapi Old Testament Translation project

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Links to donate for our financial support:
in Canada: http://www.wycliffe.ca/m?Jancewicz
in USA: https://www.wycliffe.org/partner/Jancewicz

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