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
Pingback: Memorial University awards Sara Johansson funding to study Cree-Montagnais-Naskapi child language development