A Whale Hunt and other stories

The late elder Joseph Guanish reading the new edition of Naskapi Genesis in 2013

Naskapi Language Literacy

The Naskapi people have been literate in their own language for a little over a century or so, beginning when the Anglican clergy brought Cree Scriptures and other religious materials with them to the trading posts where the Naskapi traded. But they have been oral storytellers for generations. Interest in encouraging a broader base of Naskapi people to be literate in their own language blossomed in the community and in the school in the 1990s, when an initiative was established to make Naskapi the official “language of instruction” for the earliest years of education. By the year 2000, children were learning to read and write in Naskapi by grade 3, and after this they transition into the majority languages for instruction in later school years.

Naskapi children reading with Lana Martens at the Naskapi New Testament Dedication in 2007

But to develop and maintain literacy, it is imperative that there be a wide selection of material to read in the language. Many items are being translated: from the Bible, hymnals and prayer books at church, to curriculum and other teaching materials at the school. For years, it has also been the standard practice to translate all administrative documents, reports and minutes of meetings held in the community.

The Naskapi Legends and Stories Project

One of the most valuable projects begun by the Naskapi Development Corporation (NDC) was to produce high-quality Naskapi language reading materials in the Naskapi language from the minds and culture of the Naskapi people themselves. This article is about the Naskapi Legends and Stories Project.

In the fall of 2019, the NDC published their sixth volume in this project series, Wapimakuch ka-nuchahakinuch: A Whale Hunt and other stories.

The groundwork was laid for this series of books even before there was a Naskapi Development Corporation; indeed before there was a Naskapi community at Kawawachikamach.

Some Naskapi History

Until the early 20th century, the Naskapi people were a loosely affiliated indigenous people society living in small independent family groups: nomadic caribou hunters whose territory spanned the northern portion of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula. According to Henriksen (2010), the Naskapi probably came together infrequently, perhaps only annually at the peak caribou-hunting season. Until it was closed in 1868, the first principal trading location for the Naskapi was the Petitsikapau post, called Fort Nascopie by the Hudson’s Bay Company, situated on the southern extreme of the traditional Naskapi hunting territories (see the first story in A Whale Hunt, “Petitsikapau to Chimo”).

Fort Chimo visitors, c.1884 (photo by L.M. Turner)

Following the closure of Fort Nascopie, the Naskapi took their trading business either north to Fort Chimo, near Ungava Bay, or east to the Davis Inlet post, on the Atlantic Ocean; and thus began a process which would eventually lead them to become two separate and sedentary groups. Those who hunted in the northern and north eastern areas of the interior frequented Fort Chimo and Fort McKenzie, and those hunting farther south and east traded at Davis Inlet (Utshimassits). Subsequently, each group would adopt distinct Christian traditions, the Eastern Naskapi (Mushuau Innu) becoming Catholics and the Western Naskapi becoming Anglicans.

Canoe coming ashore at Fort McKenzie, c.1942 (photo by P. Provencher)

In 1956, the Fort Chimo (Western) Naskapi journeyed south to the mining town of Schefferville where educational and medical facilities, as well as employment opportunities in the recently opened iron ore mines were becoming available (Cooke 2012). A year later they were moved two miles away from the town, to John Lake, where they remained until 1972, along with some Montagnais who had moved to Schefferville from the Sept-Iles area.

It was during this period in John Lake that the stories in this book, along with dozens of other tipâchimûna and âtiyûhkinch were performed by John Peastitute and recorded.

John Lake community, c.1962 (photo by A. Cooke)

Naskapi Storytelling

Like other indigenous peoples, the Naskapi have a long tradition of storytelling, passing histories and legends from generation to generation. And, like other Algonquian-speaking groups, the Naskapi distinguish two main genres of storytelling: tipâchimûn is the word for true adventures or histories in which the storyteller himself or other eyewitnesses are characters in or eyewitnesses to the story, and âtiyûhkin is the word for stories which are from a distant “time before now”, generally referred to as “legends”, and often include animal characters.

It may be simple to say that the difference is merely that tipâchimûna (plural form of tipâchimûn) are “only” historical accounts while âtiyûhkinch (plural form of âtiyûhkin) are “only” myths or legends (Ellis 1988). But in truth the dichotomy goes much deeper than this. Tipâchimûna may and often do contain fantastic, amazing or unbelievable accounts—but âtiyûhkinch follow a strict and ancient narrative formula. Savard (1974) calls them “that which must be conveyed”. In his treatise on the Wolverine stories he says that the storyteller he worked with would never have considered the idea that someone could invent a new âtiyûhkin. These stories can only be transmitted from one storyteller to another.

John Peastitute

John Peastitute (1896-1981) was a Naskapi elder who was not only well respected as a story-keeper, but also an accomplished storyteller. His repertoire of both tipâchimûna and âtiyûhkinch was extensive, and his performances engaging. The tapes of his stories that have survived to be processed and studied are a precious legacy.

John Peastitute with his wife Susie Annie, near Fort McKenzie c.1942 (photo by P. Provencher)

While he knew best the area north and northwest of Fort McKenzie, where he hunted and lived most of his adult life, John traveled during his lifetime virtually everywhere in traditional Naskapi territory and then some, deferring to others who best knew the way and what was likely to be found. Before settling at Schefferville, John had trecked even beyond traditional Naskapi territory as far as Sept-Iles (Uashat), North West River (Sheshatshit), Davis Inlet (Utshimassits) and Great Whale River (Whapmagoostui) places where some of his relatives would take their trade and eventually settle. John himself settled with his family in the Schefferville area in the 1950s with the rest of the Naskapi community.

Recording the stories

In 1967 and 1968, when John was in his 70s, Serge Melançon visited the John Lake community near Schefferville to record traditional indigenous stories on audio tape. He was working with the Laboratoire d’anthropologie amérindienne under the supervision of Rémi Savard, on a project to collect oral traditions of several Quebec groups and to compare the content and style of the similar stories across linguistic and cultural boundaries. Savard’s book Carcajou et le sens du monde: récits Montagnais-Naskapi is one of the results of that project, and interested readers would do well to consult it for a thorough cultural analysis some of these and the other stories told by several First Nations in Quebec. (This book is written in French; the title in English is: Wolverine and the Sense of the World: Montagnais-Naskapi Stories, Savard 1971.)

Cover of Savard’s book

The collection of Innu and Naskapi tapes that were originally collected by Savard’s project remained the property of the Laboratoire, but copies on cassette tape were later released to linguists for eventual transcription. Many of the Sheshatshiu Innu (of Labrador) stories from this project are available on the innu-aimun.ca website, and as printed books (Lefebvre, Lanari and Mailhot 1999).

Following the completion of Savard’s project, copies of the Naskapi tapes, along with photocopies of some of the transcriptions, were placed at the NDC office, which was located in Schefferville at the time.

In the course of our compilation of the Naskapi Lexicon, the NDC Board decided to also take on the task of transcribing and translating the stories as a cultural development project.

From Tapes to Books

In the early 1990s, I (Bill) was invited to work alongside the Naskapi translators working at the NDC office in Schefferville on the Naskapi Lexicon, and to help facilitate their other language development projects. During August and September of 1994, I listened to all the tapes and compared the content with the pages and pages of documentation that came with them, and then produced an inventory of all the stories, their (presumed) titles, their position in the audio collection, and I catalogued all of the associated documentation.

With my help, NDC translators Phil Einish and Thomas Sandy read and annotated the photocopied material. Some of this material had been typed, some handwritten. Some were photocopies of Melançon’s or other’s field notes, and some were preliminary transcriptions of the tapes made by Elijah Einish in the early 1980s. Some of the photocopied pages had been keyboarded by Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie or one of her students at Memorial University in the late 1980s.

Alma & Phil at work (1999)

In the late 1990s, the Naskapi Legends and Stories Project goals were set down, and it was decided that it was necessary for each recording to be carefully reviewed phrase by phrase by the Naskapi translation team and the linguistics consulting team, and thoroughly transcribe the text in Naskapi. At that time, the team was made up Naskapi translators Silas Nabinicaboo, Philip Einish and Alma Chemaganish, and consultant linguists Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie, Dr. Julie Brittain, and myself serving as the project’s faciliator and coordinator.

Literary translation process

While our primary goal has always been to render the stories into the Naskapi writing system so that they would be accessible as literature for current Naskapi readers in Kawawachikamach, a secondary goal has been to reproduce in English the elegance and stylistic skill employed by the storyteller, while remaining as faithful as possible to the original text.

The translation process we eventually adopted involved several stages. In group sessions the digital audio file of each story was listened to line-by-line, while the Naskapi team followed along reading a transcribed version in syllabics, which was projected on a screen for the group to see. Each word of the transcription was verified for accuracy and faithfulness to the performance, and translated into a fairly literal rendering in English. Further, each verb was parsed for its inflectional morphology, and the Naskapi team provided information about accurate translation, natural expression, and cultural matters.

Story review and translation session with Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie and the Naskapi team (2014).

As each story is thus meticulously annotated, reviewed and corrected, careful notes are taken and maintained by Dr. Marguerite MacKenzie with the transcription and translation.

Dr. MacKenzie has served as professor and head of the Department of Linguistics at Memorial University, Newfoundland, and has spent her career working with speakers of Cree, Innu (Montagnais) and Naskapi on dictionaries, grammars, and language training materials. She is co-editor of the East Cree Lexicon: Eastern James Bay Dialects (2004, 2012), the Naskapi Lexicon (1994) and the English and French versions of the Innu Lexicon (2013).

These notes were then turned over to Dr. Julie Brittain at Memorial University in Newfoundland, a specialist in Algonquian syntax as well as a gifted English translator of the Naskapi text, with the ability to capture not only the meaning of the original story, but able to also communicate something of the style of the story based on her study of Naskapi language structures. If any questions arise during this stage, these questions are once again reviewed and answered by the Naskapi team at Kawawachikamach before the text is ready for the formatting and typesetting stage. This is followed by commissioning illustrations and designing the publication, after which a proof copy is provided to the editors and the translation team.

Typical working story analysis sheet used by the Naskapi team and linguists

The John Peastitute story series

The present goal is to produce topical collections of stories from John Peastitute’s 1967 recordings, during which he told 36 different stories. The team decided to begin with the traditional legends, the âtiyûhkinch, first. John told a series of several stories that had a wolverine as their main protaganist, which fall into the category of Algonquian “trickster” legends. So we decided to do all the wolverine stories as our first volume, which was published in 2013.

Each volume in the series is organized into four major sections. First, there is the original Naskapi story, written in the Naskapi language for Naskapi readers. This section is printed in a clear, large-size type, paragraphed and formatted with section headings and hand-drawn illustrations.

The Naskapi Development Corporation commissioned our daughter, Elizabeth Jancewicz, to produce the illustrations. This was a natural project for Elizabeth since she grew up in the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach and Schefferville, arriving with us there when she was only one year old.

After attending the Naskapi school, Elizabeth studied art at Norwich Free Academy in Connecticut and Houghton College in New York. She returned to the Naskapi community in 2010 to teach art to Naskapi children at the Naskapi school. Today she serves as the visual arts component of the creative team in the touring band Pocket Vinyl. She continues work full time as a professional artist and illustrator, providing beautiful and culturally appropriate work to accompany this series. She also has a growing portfolio of books, graphic novels and commissions. (www.pocketvinyl.com).

The Naskapi reading section of the Wolverine book

The second section in the books contains the literary English translation, based on the work of the Naskapi team and the consultant linguists, but crafted and rendered in a literary style designed to reflect the Naskapi storyteller’s craft. This translation is prepared by Dr. Julie Brittain.

Dr. Brittain currently works as an associate professor in the Department of Linguistics at Memorial University, Newfoundland. She began research on the dialect of Naskapi spoken at Kawawachikamach in 1996 and continues to work on this and related dialects. She is the author of The Morphosyntax of the Algonquian Conjunct Verb: A Minimalist Approach (2001) and has written numerous articles on the structure of Cree, Innu-aimun and Naskapi.

English translation section from the Giant Eagle book

The third section of the books contains background information about the culture and history of the Naskapi people, along with an in-depth discussion of some of the content of the stories that might be relevant to better understanding. This third section also contains academic bibliographic references to guide the interested reader to resources for further reading (see the links and bibliography at the bottom of this article to see for yourself).

The fourth section of the books provides a display of the Naskapi text rendered in a phonemic spelling (pronunciation) set parallel to the translation, line-by-line. This is provided so that students of indigenous languages have access to the stories for further study and analysis. Each line of the text is numbered in order to assist readers in finding their place in the stories presented in the other sections of the book.

Parallel Naskapi and English section for linguistic study from the Chahkapas book

Online Resources

We are also working on producing the audio recordings of the stories so that they are available for airplay on the local Naskapi radio station. These radio programs are also available to listen to online via live-stream or download at the following website: https://yourlisten.com/NDevCorp.

Online repository of the Naskapi stories in audio: https://yourlisten.com/NDevCorp

Most of the books that contain tipâchimûna (historical accounts) also feature printed maps, labeled in Naskapi and in English with the traditional Naskapi placenames in their territory. Like most indigenous cultures, the Naskapi people have a close affinity with the land, the physical resources and the animals that live there with them. Many of the stories have detailed accounts of travel and survival on the land, and references to real places where these events actually happened.

Printed and online GIS map from the Achan: Naskapi Giant Stories book

The books with maps also contain geographic information system (GIS) data with online content so that users can explore these sites using online services such as Google Maps or Google Earth. Here is an example link to the maps from our 2019 book, Wapimakuch ka-nuchahakinuch: A Whale Hunt and other stories.

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1S5EkbHzxhWLdMfkja5liEJ7zDVtzpvdZ&usp=sharing

Google Maps showing the Naskapi overland route from Fort McKenzie to Fort Chimo

Google Maps showing a closeup detail of Limestone Falls (ᒥᔅᑎ ᑭᔅᒐᒄ ‘big steep waterfall’ )

http://googleearthcommunity.proboards.com/thread/6410/whale-hunt-stories-wapimakuch-nuchahakinuch

Naskapi History by Naskapi People

Even though what usually comes to mind when this project is discussed are the legends of talking animals and amazing events, mainly covered in the genre of âtiyûhkinch featured in the first few volumes of this series. But in recent years the series has transitioned to books containing exclusively stories told in the tipâchimûna genre, that of true and eyewitness accounts. The present volume A Whale Hunt and the previous volume Caught in a Blizzard (2017) contain stories of caribou hunting, fox hunting and even whale hunting; stories about journeys across their broad and beautiful land in all of the extremes winter and summer weather; and accounts of danger and disaster, starvation and exposure, drownings and war. Through it all we can hear of the resilience of the Naskapi people, their dependence upon and knowledge about the resources of the land, and their relationships with each other and the early visitors to their territory, both European (mainly fur traders) and strangers from other indigenous groups. Some readers may find the stories raw or disturbing, but they reflect the hard realities of survival (and often, death) in a landscape that while vast and breathtaking can be unforgiving.

In these stories we gain a perspective of life on the land through the eyes of the people who lived it. While they remain stories that were originally meant to be heard in an oral context, told in certain seasons of the year, at night in family groups by the fire, they provide a real history of the Naskapi people that can help us and indeed their own younger generations to understand who they are and are where they are from.

How to get the books

The best place to purchase books in this collection is at the Naskapi Development Corporation Head Office, in Kawawachikamach, Quebec. There a modest inventory of all the books are kept on hand so that anyone in the Naskapi community can come and buy these books at a very reasonable cost. Costs are kept lower than retail by purchasing wholesale in bulk quantities. But not everyone is able to purchase the books in person.

We help the Naskapi Development Corporation maintain an online bookstore where these and all the other Naskapi books can be purchased. You can visit the Naskapi Development Corporation “Storefront”, hosted by Lulu.com, at this link:

http://www.lulu.com/spotlight/naskapi

Naskapi Development Corporation “Storefront” online bookstore

There you can find not only the books in the Naskapi Legend and Stories Project, but all the Naskapi language resources that the NDC makes available to the Naskapi community. The books in this series all come in three editions: economical paperbacks (sc), durable hardcover (hc), and deluxe, library-quality clothbound books with dust jackets.

Cloth-bound, library-quality with dust jacket; hard cover (hc); economical paperback (sc)

Cloth-bound, library-quality with dust jacket; hard cover (hc); economical paperback (sc)

You will find, in the online store, that each edition is listed separately. If you are interested in a particular edition such as the economical paperback (sc), be sure to select a book that has “(sc)” in the title, like this:

Three editions of the Whale Hunt volume

As we pointed out earlier, Wapimakuch ka-nuchahakinuch: A Whale Hunt and other stories, is our sixth volume in the Naskapi Legends and Stories project. You can find all the titles that have been published so far in this series available on our online store.

The first six titles in the Naskapi Legends and Stories Project

It is our privilege be a part of helping to make these traditional Naskapi stories available to Naskapi people today and for future generations. We are grateful for the opportunity.

–Bill Jancewicz, project facilitator,
for the entire Naskapi language team, the linguistic consultants, and the illustrator

References and recommended further reading:

Armitage, Peter. 1992. “Religious Ideology among the Innu.” In Religiologiques: Sciences humaines et religion 6 (automne 1992) edited by Guy Ménard. Montreal: UQAM http://www.religiologiques.uqam.ca/

Baldwin, Gordon C. 1970. Talking Drums to Written Word. New York: Norton.

Brittain, Julie, and Marguerite MacKenzie. 2014. “Umâyichîs.” In Sky Loom: Native American Myth, Story, Song, 379-398. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

———. 2005. “Two Wolverine Stories.” In Algonquian Spirit: Contemporary Translations of the Native Literatures of North America, 121–58. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

———. 2011. “Translating Algonquian Oral Texts.” In Born in the Blood: On Native American Translation, 242–74. Lincoln, NE: University of Nebraska Press.

Canada, Government of. 1975. James Bay and Northern Quebec Agreement (JBNQA). Ottawa, ON: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development.
http://www.naskapi.ca/documents/documents/JBNQA.pdf.

———. 1984. Northeastern Quebec Agreement (NEQA). Ottawa, ON: Department of Indian Affairs and Northern Development. http://caid.ca/AgrNorEasQueA1974.pdf.

Carlson, Hans M. 2009. Home is the Hunter: The James Bay Cree and their Land. Vancouver BC: UBC Press.

Ellis, C. Douglas. 1989. “Now Then, Still Another Story—”: Literature of the Western James Bay Cree: Content and Structure. Winnipeg, MB: Voices of Rupert’s Land.

Hammond, Marc. 2010. Monts-Pyramides and the Naskapis: A report to Nunavik Parks Department of Renewable Resources, Environmental and Land Use Planning Department. Kuujjuaq, Quebec: Kativik Regional Government.

Henriksen, Georg. 2010. Hunters in the Barrens: The Naskapi on the Edge of the White Man’s World. New York: Berghahn Books.

———. 2009. I Dreamed the Animals: Kaniuekutat: The Life of an Innu Hunter. New York: Berghahn Books.

Lefebvre, Madeleine, Robert Lanari, José Mailhot. 1999 & 2004. Sheshatshiu-atanukana mak tipatshimuna. St. John’s, NL: Labrador Innu Text Project. https://cura.innu-aimun.ca/english/stories/.

MacKenzie, Marguerite. 1980. “Towards a Dialectology of Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi.” PhD thesis, Toronto, ON: University of Toronto. https://cura.innu-aimun.ca/english/resources/papers/papers-mm/.

MacKenzie, Marguerite, and Bill Jancewicz. 1994. Naskapi Lexicon / Lexique Naskapi. First Edition. 3 vols. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation. https://dictionary.naskapi.atlas-ling.ca/#!/help

Peastitute, John. 2013. Kuihkwahchaw: Naskapi Wolverine Legends. Edited by Marguerite MacKenzie. Translated by Julie Brittain. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation.

———. 2014. Chahkapas: A Naskapi Legend. Edited by Marguerite MacKenzie. Translated by Julie Brittain. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation.

———. 2015. Achan: Naskapi Giant Stories. Edited by Marguerite MacKenzie. Translated by Julie Brittain. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation.

———. 2016. Misti-Michisuw: The Giant Eagle and other stories. Edited by Marguerite MacKenzie. Translated by Julie Brittain. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation.

———. 2017. Iskwachiwatinisuch: Caught in a Blizzard and other stories. Edited by Marguerite MacKenzie. Translated by Julie Brittain. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation.

———. 2019. Wapimakuch ka-nuchahakinuch: A Whale Hunt and other stories. Edited by Marguerite MacKenzie. Translated by Julie Brittain. Kawawachikamach, QC: Naskapi Development Corporation.

Preston, Richard. 2002. Cree Narrative: Expressing the Personal Meanings of Events. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Quebec, National Assembly of. 1979. “An Act Respecting the Naskapi Development Corporation.” Québec, QC: Publications du Québec. http://legisquebec.gouv.qc.ca/en/ShowDoc/cs/S-10.1.

Savard, Rémi. 1971. Carcajou et le sens du monde: récits Montagnais-Naskapi. Troisième édition revue et corrigée edition. Civilisation du Québec 3. Éditeur Officiel du Québec, Québec. http://classiques.uqac.ca/contemporains/savard_remi/carcajou/
carcajou.html.

———. 1985. La Voix des Autres. Positions anthropologiques. Montréal: L’Hexagone. http://classiques.uqac.ca/contemporains/savard_remi/
voix_des_autres/voix_des_autres.html.

Speck, Frank. 1977. Naskapi: The Savage Hunters of the Labrador Peninsula. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Tanner, Adrian. 2014. Bringing Home Animals: Mistissini Hunters of Northern Quebec. St. John’s, NL: ISER Books.

Waldram, James Burgess. 2004. Revenge of the Windigo: The Construction of the Mind and Mental Health of North American Aboriginal Peoples. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

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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

IMG_9075

 

 

Northern Translation Brief 14Nov2014

Our Dear Partners,

You remember over the past few months our “briefs” have focused on our broadened vision and expanding activities in First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building across Canada. Starting from what God is doing with the Naskapi community in northern Quebec, He is leading us to other related language groups that also have a deep need to hear God speak to them in their languages as well. The Naskapi people are very closely related to people at a community in Labrador called “Natuashish”, where the Mushuau Innu language is spoken. We expected to be there during these weeks of November, but God had other plans for now. We may be able to be back there in February.

Our gathering with First Nations speakers and church stakeholders in Prince Albert in June identified several other priorities beyond our starting point with the Naskapi in northeast Canada, including the following:

  • The continued work on bringing the legacy (Mason) Plains Cree Bible to publication
  • The continued work on the contemporary (Cuthand) Plains Cree text through consultant checking and preparation for publication
  • The establishment of a Bible Translation / Language development project for Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree (and the surrounding Oji-Cree communities)
  • The establishment of a “Pan-Cree” Bible Translation initiative that would result in a cluster of several dialects working on the translation of the same passage(s) at once. This Cree cluster would get its start with a series of Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) training workshops, targeted at training speakers identified from each participating community. The workshops would include training in Cree syllabics, use of computers, Cree language and literacy (reading and writing), and have as their goal the translation of some short but worthy and useful passage of Scripture for each community. These workshops would also include participation of translators from First Nations across Canada, including Naskapi, Innu and Oji-Cree.

Besides these four, our work still continues on other priorities that are connected to the Capacity-Building initiative:

  • The continued work on Naskapi Old Testament translation, scripture engagement, and translator training.
  • The continued connection and relationship-building with the Mushuau Innu language community in Labrador.

Cree Map July 2014a

Over our next few “Translation Briefs”, we would like to take you deeper into each one of these priorities; how God is at work in these areas and how you might continue to pray for these language groups. As we shared with our friends and supporters during our Partnership Development tour last month, that “multiplication” (not just “addition”) is one way these priorities will be met: So pray with us that the Lord of the Harvest will send additional team members to join us in this work. As Paul wrote to the Corinthians, “…There is a real opportunity here for great and worthwhile work…” (1 Corinthians 16:9).
So in the next few days, we’ll send out a Translation Brief about the Mason Plains Cree Bible.

Until then, thanks for your interest in our work and your prayers.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Please also remember our daughter Elizabeth who is going to Labrador this week and making a visit to the Natuashish Mushuau-Innu community with the “Labrador Creative Arts Festival” (LCAF)
https://www.facebook.com/131612796945171/photos/a.594239127349200.1073741827.131612796945171/594248440681602/?type=1&fref=nf&pnref=story

Northern Translation Brief 01Nov2014

Home from our Fall 2014 tour! (but not for long!)

Our Dear Partners,

We just rolled into the driveway at our Aldergrove Cottage in British Columbia after 10 weeks of being “on the road” for our Fall 2014 development trip. We praise God and thank you for your prayers for protection and provision covering 12,694 road miles. In the past six days alone, we covered 3291 miles–52+ hours in the drivers seat.

Other statistics? We visited three First Nations communities: 5 days in Kingfisher Lake, Ontario (Oji-Cree), 10 days in Kawawachikamach (Naskapi) and 3 days at the Mohegan Tribal Territory, in Connecticut (Algonquian Conference).

We visited 8 churches–several of these have prayed and supported us for many years–and we had the opportunity to share our work and vision at many of them, and Bill preached at two of them. We were welcomed into the homes of at least a dozen of our friends and supporters who graciously shared their hospitality with us. We also visited with many friends and relatives along the way, it was so good to see some who we had not seen in many years. We made some new friends, too. Some of you who receive this letter are among them.

We slept in some 29 different beds! (including sleeping-bags in our tent-camper, many guest rooms, and some hotel rooms, too.) Tonight, we sleep in our own bed after 69 nights away from home.

But not for long! One of our priority First Nations language communities is Natuashish, the Mushuau Innu language that is so closely related to Naskapi–the community on the north coast of Labrador. It is very difficult (and expensive) to get to this community. But God has made a way for us to get there this month: While we were in Kawawachikamach with the Naskapi, the leaders of the Innu School Board in Labrador contacted us and asked us if we would come to Labrador to conduct a professional development workshop for the Innu-speaking language teachers and teaching assistants. We will be doing follow up workshops in both Innu communities in Labrador, which means we will be in Natuashish from November 9-14. So we leave British Columbia (by plane, this time) late at night this Tuesday, November 4 and fly back on November 23. The Innu School board is paying for the entire cost of the trip for both of us, which is a real blessing and a great opportunity to serve again in our language development roles in these communities.Kawawa & Natuashish

We appreciate your prayers for us as we un-pack (and re-pack) and go back to the people in Natuashish who still do not have access to God’s word in their own language. Pray for open doors and open hearts.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 26Sep2011

Our Dear Partners,
We would like to thank you for your prayers for us as we traveled to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish on the Labrador coast. We are very happy to report a good trip, a warm welcome, and many good and positive contacts with regard to helping the Mushuau Innu language community to take some steps towards building capacity to start a local translation project into their dialect. The Naskapi Mother-Tongue Translators who work with us at Kawawachikamach, Phil, Silas and George, were very encouraging to their Mushuau Innu speaking counterparts at Natuashish. Indeed, speakers from the two communities, Naskapi and Mushuau Innu, have very little difficulty in understanding each other’s speech.

Naskapi MTTs and the Mushuau Innu chief and deputy

We met with the Mushuau Innu leadership at their council office, including the chief, Simeon Tshakapesh, and the councillor in charge of education, Simon Pokue. We also spent time at the Natuashish school, and made some important contacts there for Innu language literacy and helping to establish consistency in spelling.

We discussed the possibility of Bible translation work with Sister Sheila, who serves the parish church at Natuashish, and also with Cajetan Rich, who serves in the church as one of the Innu language lay-readers. Cajetan helped us with a draft publication of a church book, providing us with recommended spelling changes and revisions.

We are grateful for hospitality and assistance from workers with the Pentecostal Assemblies of Newfoundland and Labrador, who serve the community by hosting a Sunday School and the school breakfast program. We were provided with an excellent opportunity to meet with the Hon. Peter Penashue, the first Innu Member of Parliament, who was visiting in the community at the time.

Meeting with Hon. Peter Penashue MP

Finally, representatives from the Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development Canada (AANDC) were in Natuashish meeting with local leadership, and they took the time to also meet with us to learn about how language-based development work has benefited the Naskapi community, and how it could also be applied in the Natuashish community.

To top it all off, back at Kawawa three days after getting back ourselves, we were unexpectedly visited by an entourage from the Natuashish community: The Mushuau Innu band council chartered two aircraft and flew direct from Natuashish to Schefferville with 28 visitors, including their chief and deputy, some elders and youth, and various other leaders in their community. They toured the Naskapi community, got re-acquainted with relatives, and met with the Naskapi translation department where we work on Bible translation. They were very interested in learning from the Naskapi team how they might establish a similar initiative in their own community.

Monique Rich and Norma Jean

Now that we are back here in Kawawa working on Naskapi Old Testament and literacy, and the Mushuau Innu have gone home to Natuashish, we are looking forward to seeing what God is going to do in both communities.

Thank you for continuing to pray for both of these communities, their response–and ours.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 06Sep2011

Our Dear partners,

We are preparing for our second trip to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish on the Labrador coast. As most of you remember, this community is closely related to the Naskapi in the interior; in fact their recent ancestors were the nomadic caribou-hunting families of the barren grounds of what is now Quebec and Labrador. Some of these families centered their trading around Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo) near Ungava Bay and the rest were settled around Utshimassits (Davis Inlet) on the Labrador coast, since the early 1900s.

The Fort Chimo group moved to the Schefferville region in 1956, and they are now the Naskapi of Kawawachikamach.

The Davis Inlet group relocated to Natuashish, a new community built on the mainland in 2002.

The Mushuau Innu community is well known in Canada because of widely publicized social problems:

<Natuashish on CBC>

Because of their shared history, the Naskapi language spoken where we work in Kawawachikamach is very close to the speech variety spoken in Natuashish. But there are significant differences that developed over the past 100 years due to contact with outsiders:

  • The Naskapi live in Quebec, the Mushuau Innu live in Labrador
  • The Naskapi live inland, the Mushuau Innu live on the coast
  • The Naskapi write in Canadian Syllabics, the Mushuau Innu write in a Roman orthography
  • The Naskapi are Anglicans, the Mushuau Innu are Catholics
  • The Naskapi are in the Quebec school system, the Mushuau Innu are in the Newfoundland school system

In the spring of 2008 we tried to take a trip to Natuashish, but we were hindered by foggy weather on the coast.

Bill and two other Naskapi colleagues made it there in April of 2010 for a four-day visit.

Bill and Norma Jean will be leaving Friday, 9 September with his co-worker (and former Naskapi chief) Phil Einish, and mother tongue translators Silas Nabinicaboo and George Guanish.

For an interactive Google Map (zoom in and see the Natuashish village) try this link:

<Kawawa to Natuashish>

On Friday we are scheduled to fly south to Wabush, in western Labrador, and then east to Goose Bay in central Labrador. Sunday, 11 Sept we are scheduled to fly north to Natuashish on the coast, spending five days there before returning back the way we came starting Friday, 16 Sept.

The goals of this trip include presenting the possibilities of a community-based language development project that would include scripture translation into the Mushuau Innu language for Natuashish.

Thanks for your prayers for good contacts, travels, and outcomes.

Pray for us: “that our love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that we would be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ – to the glory and praise of God.” Phil. 1:9
(The apostle Paul expresses it better that I can.)

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 08 April 2010

Our Dear Partners,

Thank you for praying for Bill’s trip to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish last week. He went with two Naskapi co-workers and they all returned on Friday, April 2.

The remote communities of Kawawachikamach and Natuashish are the two communities where most of the nomadic caribou-hunting groups from the northern half of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula were settled. Their languages and culture are still very similar. But they have been separated from each other now for about 100 years.

So one of the purposes of this trip was to determine whether materials produced for Naskapi could be used for the Mushuau Innu. Since there is a degree of mutual intelligibility, we had hope that this would be the case.

The data we collected, however, leads us to a different conclusion. The Mushuau Innu may be able to decipher some of the Naskapi translation, but that is a long ways from being able to use it. There are differences in not only the sound system of the languages (that being the first thing one notices) but also differences in the grammatical structure as well as a different inventory of lexical items (sometimes, they use different words altogether). So our Naskapi work will at best be of indirect help to them.

On the other hand, many Mushuau Innu individuals expressed a strong desire to have a language project started in their community, and several of them indicated that they would like to be involved. They said that they would like to have a Bible translation project started in their own dialect, so that they would not have to “decipher” (translate from) the existing Bible translations in related dialects.

The Naskapi team then offered to help the Mushuau Innu to form the partnerships that can help them to get started with a translation project in their own language. We can help them find the training and assistance they will need to carry this out. Their local government, their church, and their school leadership all expressed their support for their own translation project.

Now, Bill has to prepare a report for the survey trip for several audiences: The Mushuau Innu community and the Naskapi community would like to use this trip as a catalyst for more cultural exchanges. Wycliffe Bible Translators and SIL International, along with other potential stakeholders, need to have the linguistic survey data that Bill collected analyzed in order to better assess the specific ways that the two dialects differ. And the groundwork needs to be laid for the Mushuau Innu team to begin on their own translation project.

During interviews with Mushuau Innu speakers, discussing the possibility of a translation project in their own language, they said:

“Our dialect is different; why should we have to learn a different language in order to read it?” –Innu teacher at the school

“We would like to be allowed to use Mushuau Innu spelling to write our language.” –Innu office worker

“A Mushuau Innu translation of the Bible is long overdue.” –clergyman ministering to the Innu for the past 30 years

“Forming a committee to work on a Mushuau Innu translation is something that is needed,” and “What do we have to do to get started?” –former chief of the Natuashish community

“I don’t want my children to be speaking only English in the future.” –former band manager

“We would be happy to have help (from Wycliffe) to start our own Bible translation project.” –Mushuau Innu church lay reader

Thank you again for your prayers for this trip.

Keep on praying for Bill as he spends the next few weeks writing the reports, for the vision for a Bible translation of their own to grow in the Mushuau Innu community, for the Naskapi to know what they can do to help them get started, and for God’s continued work among these people in the north.

Blessings, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 23Mar2010

Dear partners,

I am preparing for my first trip to the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish on the Labrador coast. As most of you remember, this community is closely related to the Naskapi in the interior; in fact they were once just one loosely-related collection of nomadic caribou-hunting families. Some of these families had been settled in around Kuujjuaq (Fort Chimo) near Ungava Bay and the rest were settled around Utshimassits (Davis Inlet) on the Labrador coast, since the early 1900s.

The Fort Chimo group moved to the Schefferville region in 1956, and they are now the Naskapi of Kawawachikamach.

The Davis Inlet group relocated to Natuashish, a new community built on the mainland in 2002.

In the spring of 2008 we tried to take a trip to Natuashish, but we were hindered by foggy weather on the coast.

Bill will be leaving Friday, 26 March with his co-worker (and former Naskapi chief) Phil Einish. They will take with them Tshiueten Vachon, the new Naskapi language worker trainee.

For an interactive Google Map (zoom in and see the Natuashish village) try this link: <Trip to Natuashish>

This Friday we are scheduled to fly south to Wabush, in western Labrador.
Saturday we fly east to Goose Bay in central Labrador, where we will meet with the Natuashish chief and council (who are also traveling this week).
Monday we are scheduled to fly north to Natuashish on the coast, spending four days there before returning back the way we came on Friday, April 2.

Thanks for your prayers for good contacts, travels, and outcomes, and for Norma Jean as she holds down the fort back in Schefferville.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Northern Translation Brief 09 March 2010

Our dear partners,

We have been blessed with a new young Naskapi co-worker who we have hired to work part time on translation projects. His name is Tshiueten Vachon (pronounced “Chee-wa-tin”, which is the Naskapi word for “north wind”.) He started working along side Bill on February 23 and has been learning to use the computer to type in Naskapi, and is just beginning to learn about translation into his Mother-tongue.

Our other co-worker, Silas, has been out of work on a medical leave for about a month, and may be out for another month, as he recovers from a back injury. Bill has been doing training with Tshiuetin and some of Silas’ work himself and with the help of others at the office.

We have another window of opportunity to visit the Naskapi’s closest neighboring dialect community again, the Mushuau Innu speakers at the Natuashish community in Labrador. You may remember that we attempted a language survey trip there in 2008 but were hindered by bad weather on the Labrador coast. We are planning to attempt a visit at the end of this month, so see what interest there is in that community for work on local language projects, including Bible translation. Bill and some Naskapi co-workers are planning to leave Schefferville on Friday, March 26 for a week-long visit.

We have known for a long time that the languages of the two communities are very close, but among the questions that need to be answered are “how close?” and to what degree that materials we have produced for Naskapi may be useful for the Mushuau Innu, what adjustments are necessary, and the feasibility of making those adjustments.

Norma Jean is about to begin a weekly sewing group with the Naskapi women in the community; they have also asked her if she could incorporate a Bible study at the same meeting.

So praise God with us for these opportunities and pray with us as we seek to follow God’s guidance in them all.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean