Northern Translation Brief 03Apr2017

Our Dear Partners,

We were counting the months and then counting the weeks and now we are counting the DAYS until the 2017 First Nations Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop that is being held in Guelph Ontario, the week between Palm Sunday and Easter, April 9-14, 2017.

This Translation Brief invites you to pray for this event, by focusing on the staff, the participants, and the guests; and also on the vision, the program and the effects.


The First Nations church leaders and speakers of these Algonquian languages identified capacity-building and training for their own translators as one of their priorities at the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Gathering in Prince Albert back in June of 2014. They were inspired by how God’s Word translated by and used by the Naskapi community was having a growing positive influence on their lives and creating a hunger to know God in their own language. They had a vision for workshops that bring together people from different related language communities, creating a safe environment for mutual encouragement, and equipping them to more adequately handle the complex task of Bible translation.

First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative


Again this year, the Naskapi community is sending both experienced and newer language workers involved in Bible translation and language development work. You are invited to pray for each of these participants by name:

Naskapi Bible translation project, Naskapi Development Corporation:

  • Silas Nabinicaboo
  • Ruby Sandy-Robinson
  • Tshiueten Vachon
  • Kabimbetas Mokoush
  • Amanda Swappie

Naskapi translation services, Naskapi Nation:

  • George Guanish, translator
  • Isaac Einish, editor of the Naskapi Newspaper

Naskapi language education, Jimmy Sandy Memorial School:

  • Seasi Swappie, Naskapi language teacher

Oji-Cree Bible translation project, Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh:

  • Jessie Atlookan
  • Ruth Kitchekesik
  • Dominick Beardy (going in place of Theresa Sainnawap this time)
  • Zipporah Mamakwa
  • Saloma Sainnawap

Council of the Cree Nation of Mistissini:

  • Mary-Jane Petawabono
  • Juliette Neeposh

Pray that these who come will experience God’s peace, protection and provision as they travel so far from their home communities.

First Nations Mother Tongue Translators at the 2015 workshop


The special sessions this year are on the topic of translating Proverbs by Steve Kempf. Catherine Aldred-Shull has offered to present a session on Orality, Literacy and The Bible. Also Norma Jean will be leading the language groups in an activity on Domains of Language Use applying Participatory Methods, and Terri Scruggs is preparing a module about Translation Project Management for mother tongue translators. Rod & Liesel Bartlett will talk about Chronological Bible Storying.

Staff teaching at the 2016 workshop


The rest of the staff on the roster are continuing to teach the participants from the textbook we began in previous years, Bible Translation Basics: Communicating Scripture in a Relevant Way, by Harriet Hill. The new Wycliffe teams assigned to First Nations projects–Matthew & Caitlin Windsor and Alice & Martin Reed–will be on hand for the entire workshop and presenting lessons from this book. Also, Ruth Heeg, Meg Billingsley and Bill will lead some sessions using this book and other materials as well. Further, Jeff Green, an Wycliffe member teaching linguistics and translation at Tyndale, and Myles Leitch from the Canadian Bible Society will also each be teaching lessons from the book.

I know that we will all be grateful if you remember to pray for the staff members by name:

  • Bill & Norma Jean–First Nations Bible translation workshop coordinators
  • Matthew & Caitlin Windsor–new Wycliffe Bible translation facilitators
  • Alice & Martin Reed–new Wycliffe Bible translation facilitators and interns serving the Naskapi language project
  • Terri Scruggs–Wycliffe Canada project administrator
  • Meg Billingsley–Translation consultant-in-training
  • Catherine Aldred-Shull–Canadian Bible Society translation officer-in-training
  • Myles Leitch–Canadian Bible Society director of scripture translations
  • Ruth Heeg–Translation consultant mentor
  • Steve Kempf–SIL International translation consultant
  • Jeff Green–CanIL instructor of linguistics
  • Rod & Liesel Bartlett–Wycliffe Bible translation facilitators

Pray that these who are giving their time and expertise will experience God’s empowering, protection and provision as they come to serve the First Nations Bible translators.


Like at previous workshops, a number of people who are interested in or supporters of the First Nations Bible Translation movement have asked to come to observe or visit the staff and participants during the workshop. We are happy to accommodate them, and found that their presence and encounter with the First Nations Bible translators has been a mutual encouragement and a blessing. Pray with us that this will also be so this year. The guests we are expecting are:

  • Elaine Bombay–Wycliffe Global Alliance  photojournalist
  • Colin & Dot Suggett–Wycliffe members interested in First Nations translation projects
  • Daniel Yoon–Wycliffe Canada Church Connections team
  • Gyoojun Lee–Wycliffe Canada Church Connections team
  • Ben Wukasch–Wycliffe Canada project facilitator candidate
  • Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald–National Indigenous Bishop, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Esther Wesley–coordinator of the Anglican Healing Fund, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Nancy Hurn–archivist, Anglican Church of Canada
  • Jack & Joanne Koetsier–partner/supporter of Bible translation projects
  • Jeff Westlake–Senior Development Officer, Indigenous and Northern Affairs Canada

Guests at the 2016 workshop

Tshiueten, Kabimbetas and Cheyenne at mealtime at the 2015 workshop

Pray that these who are investing their time and interest will sense God’s wisdom and direction in their lives as they come to interact with the First Nations Bible translators.


In previous years, the participants expresssed their appreciation for the opportunity to take part in this training, but also were grateful for:

“…Learning from patient facilitators who were patient with me.”
“…Learning new things about translating the Bible.”
“…Sharing of other teams’ experiences.”
“…I enjoyed the visitors and all they offered for us in their prayers, and the direction of the facilitators.”
“…The singing and devotions and great workshop presenters, and the explanations about the basics of translation.”

Please pray with us for the ongoing positive effects that the participants can bring back to their Bible Translation projects in their home communities.

Next Generation Bible Translation Team

This is the first workshop where all of the current Next Generation personnel are coming to interact with the participants. Please pray for God’s provision, deepening relationships and clear guidance and wisdom for these who have been called to serve First Nations Bible translation.

Staff: Meg Billingsley, Matt & Caitlin Windsor, and baby Hazel (ᐊᐱᑯᓯᔅ)

Staff: Martin and Alice Reed

Thank you for remembering this upcoming Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop in your prayers between now and Easter, and may God bless you as you celebrate His victory over death and the grave.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

Northern Translation Brief: Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop

Our Dear Partners,

IMG_9839-40When the First Nations representatives and church leaders met with us in Prince Albert last June (click here for the story), they identified several priorities for the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. One of these priorities was to conduct a series of Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshops to help the speakers of First Nations languages learn the skills that they need to be involved in Bible Translation and community language development.

With coordination and assistance from our friends at the Canadian Bible Society translation office in Kitchener, Ontario, we planned and facilitated the 2015 Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop held at the Guelph Bible Conference Centre from April 20th to the 24th. Speakers of First Nations languages from three communities were able to come to this first workshop, which was a “re-boot” of a series of annual workshops that were started in the early 1990s for North American translators, initially held at the “Christian Hope Indian Eskimo Fellowship” (CHIEF) in Phoenix, AZ, and later at the SIL Mexico Branch Center in Catalina, AZ.

MTT workshop in Catalina, 2002

Naskapi translators at an MTT workshop in Catalina AZ, 2002

Over the years, many First Nations, Native American and translators from other minority language groups have improved their translation skills by attending these workshops. The Naskapi language team in particular has benefited by attending these–but unfortunately the workshops were discontinued after the last one was held in 2011, in Sydney Nova Scotia.

Even though some of the Naskapi translators had been to the workshops several times through the years (George, Silas, Seasi) most of participants had never been to one, and needed to start at the beginning. A very good place to start.

First Nations Translators from across Canada

It’s expensive to travel in and out of the North, and plans were already being made last fall to secure funding for the participants to come together this spring in Guelph. The Anglican Healing Fund provided a significant portion of the money needed to pay the airfare and accommodations for most of the Naskapi and Oji-Cree translators to travel from their communities. Although our intention was to include translators from several different language communities, in the end only three translation projects were represented at the workshop: Naskapi, Oji-Cree, and Plains Cree.

WorkshopMap2015Besides the translation team from the Naskapi translation project (six persons: Silas Nabinicaboo, Tshiueten Vachon, Amanda Swappie, Medora Losier, Kissandra Sandy and Kabimbetas Mokoush), the Naskapi school also sent along a Naskapi language teacher Seasi Swappie and their curriculum development technician Jessica Nattawappio.

Oji-Cree translators from Kingfisher Lake

Oji-Cree translators from Kingfisher Lake

The Naskapi Nation sent their senior translator George Guanish, and Cheyenne Vachon, the project coordinator for Status of Women in Canada for the Naskapi Nation and church lay-reader.

The newly-formed Oji-Cree translation committee selected five persons from the Kingfisher Lake community to be trained as translators: Ruth Kitchekesik, Zipporah Mamakwa, Jessie Atlookan, Theresa Sainnawap, and Ruth Morris. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa accompanied them on their first day.

The Plains Cree translation project sent one of their translators, Gayle Weenie.

A Full and Varied Schedule

Each day of the workshop began with hymn singing in Cree, which is a language through which much of the sacred music tradition came into First Nations churches across Canada. We took into account language differences, learned to sing one anothers’ favourite songs, and also learned something about the linguistic relationships that connect the language varieties that were represented.

We also had daily devotions, reading the Bible (when the translation was available) in the languages that are represented, and having a short Bible study.Screen shot 2015-05-02 at 10.33.11 PM

The first session every morning covered Bible Translation skills. The learning alternated between using lessons from “Bible Translation Basics: Communicating Scripture in a Relevant Way” which focuses on communication theory, and modules from “Bible Translation Principles” which focuses on distinguishing the “form” from the “meaning” of the message. Each of these resources were useful to help learners understand the translation task and to help them gain the skills they need to do it.

Each day after the lunch break we had basic training in the use of the collaborative translation software program ParaTExt, which assists translators by providing source translations and resource documents as well as tools to assist them in translating into their own language and checking their work. Most of the participants had never used this software, so we were careful to start very gradually.

Plains Cree Translation in ParaTExt

Plains Cree Translation in ParaTExt

Also, the entire Oji-Cree team received a set of five new laptop computers to bring back to Kingfisher Lake with them, along with a new printer and data projector for their translation committee. This needed equipment was provided thanks to support from the Canadian Bible Society translation office. They received training in keyboarding in their own language, and some basic computer skills for beginners.

ParaTExt with the New Oji-Cree translation

The New Oji-Cree translation in ParaTExt

Other modules covered throughout the week included such topics as “From God to Us: Bible Translation and History”, “Planning the future of our language”, “The Algonquian Language Family” and the importance of personal Bible knowledge for translators.

Preparing for a “consultant-check”

During the whole workshop, the participants all learned something about the process of Bible translation–but simply getting the message into the words of your own language is just the beginning. Tuesday of the workshop we focused on some of the next steps that are necessary after a “first draft” is produced.

Steve Kempf teaches about translation checking

Steve Kempf teaches about translation checking

Steve Kempf, a certified translation consultant with SIL International (Wycliffe Bible Translators) who has had many years of experience and specializes in Old Testament source material came to be with us Tuesday, and presented two modules about the necessity and procedure for checking a translation. He covered working together as a translation team and the importance of thoroughly checking the naturalness and clarity of a translation with other speakers of the language throughout the community. He provided methods and examples of how to do this on a regular basis as sections of a translation are written.

Naskapi translator Tshiueten Vachon, checking Exodus with consultant Steve Kempf, and team-members Amanda Swappie, Jessica Nattawappio, and George Guanish

Naskapi translator Tshiueten Vachon, checking Exodus with consultant Steve Kempf, and team-members Amanda Swappie, Jessica Nattawappio, and George Guanish

He also provided a “live” demonstration of some of the ways that a translation consultant like himself works with the translation team to help them to ensure that the translation is both accurate (faithful to the original) and acceptable (how the readers perceive a translation as trustworthy). To do this, the Naskapi translation team provided him with their draft translation and a back-translation (a literal translation of the Naskapi back into English) of the book of Exodus, one of the current active Naskapi translation projects. After examining the translation during the weeks before the workshop, Steve conducted a consultant-checking session with the translator and other Naskapi participants as a demonstration to the rest of the workshop attendees of what to expect when a consultant comes to check their translations.

Encouraging Connections

The workshop participants were not only encouraged by each other, finding that their vocation of Bible Translation into their own language was shared by speakers from other First Nations language communities from across Canada,

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa

but also we were visited by church and organizational leaders who are counted as partners and friends of the First Nations Bible Translation movement. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, the first bishop of a new indigenous diocese in the Anglican Church of Canada, the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh, accompanied the new Oji-Cree translation team from the community of Kingfisher Lake in northern Ontario. We were pleased to have her encouragement and fellowship for the first full day of the workshop on Monday.

Dr. Myles Leitch

Dr. Myles Leitch

Dr. Myles Leitch, the newly appointed Director of Scripture Translation for the Canadian Bible Society, came to observe the workshop and greet the participants on Wednesday morning, staying for lunch and connecting with some of the workshop organizers and facilitators. The Canadian Bible Society played a significant role in seeing that this workshop was a success, by making arrangements for the venue and providing on site technical and administrative support. Sharon Peddle and Tom Ortiz from the translation office assisted during the week, and Bible Society translation consultant Ruth Heeg participated and provided her help and input for the entire workshop.

Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald

Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald

The Right Reverend Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Anglican Bishop, visited the workshop on Wednesday afternoon and encouraged the participants in their work. He reminded us all that the Bible is a “…sacred book, a miraculous book, (ᐁᒫᒪᐦᑳᑌᐣᑖᑿᐦᐠ  ᒪᓯᓇᐦᐃᑲᐣ e-maamahkaatentaakwahk masinahikan) that changes people’s hearts and minds. It is a living thing. When something is translated into another language, usually something is lost. But the Bible is the only thing that the more you translate it the more you get. So when we translate it into our languages you know more about God. When I tell you what Jesus has done in my life, you know more about Jesus.”

He also told the participants that it’s just not their own communities, but that people all across the land are really excited about this workshop, and are supporting and praying for them. He said that it is his hope that it will grow and grow until every First Nations community across the land is doing what they are doing–that the participants in this workshop are the ones “breaking trail”, and making the way for the others to follow.

Fellowship and fellow-SHOP

Most of the workshop participants come from home communities that are very remote in the far north of Canada. Indeed, even though they traveled by air, it took most of them two days to come to the workshop from where they live. So during their free time, arrangements were made for them to visit the local shopping mall and department stores–an opportunity that many readers of this report may take for granted but is impossible to do in the remote areas where the participants live. All the workshop participants gladly took advantage of this opportunity and were able to get many things that they have been saving up for or special gifts or treats to bring to family back home.

We also enjoyed a dinner “out” at a local Chinese buffet restaurant together, another treat that was very deeply appreciated by all the participants and the facilitators.

IMG_9959-royal cityOn Friday, the last day of the workshop, we took some time to reflect and evaluate the workshop program, and all the participants provided feedback for the organizers to consider for the next workshop. Here is a sampling of some of the participants’ comments:

IMG_9969“I feel more encouraged and refreshed in my job as translator.”

“I felt that I have helped other in starting their own translation projects.”

“I have learned some great ideas for how translation goes; for example, what materials and helps are available to use.”

“I felt blessed to involve myself in this workshop: meeting different Nations and learning about similar cultures and languages to my own. I liked the teamwork, involvement and singing together the best.”

“I felt that I learned that there was more that I could do for my community.”

All of the participants indicated that it was a privilege to come and would definitely want to come to future workshops to learn more.

At the end of the last session the participants were awarded certificates of completion, and the workshop was closed with hymn singing in Cree, prayers and good-byes.

Many thanks to all of you who faithfully prayed for us all during this workshop, to all who contributed their time, expertise, and money to make this workshop a success and inspiration for all who attended. We would like to especially thank the congregation at Harvest Church in Byron, Georgia, USA for their generous support to the Wycliffe Bible Translators’ “Western Cree Partnership” project, which supports this initiative to build Bible translation capacity in First Nations communities in Canada.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

PS: We include a collection of photographs below taken throughout the workshop.

Configuring the computers at the Bible Society office before the workshop

Norma Jean with the new computers being configured before the workshop

Gathering all the workshop materials at the Bible Society translation office

Gathering all the workshop materials at the Bible Society translation office

The Naskapi team arrives in Guelph from the airport

The Naskapi team arrives in Guelph from the airport

The Oji-Cree translation team

The Oji-Cree translation team: Ruth K, Theresa, Jessie, Zipporah and Ruth M.

We brought Lydia to the airport on Monday evening

We brought Lydia to the airport on Monday evening

Seasi and Jessica from the Naskapi School

Seasi and Jessica from the Naskapi School

Bill shows Kabimbetas and Tshiueten how to use ParaTExt

Bill shows Kabimbetas and Tshiueten how to use ParaTExt

Ruth Heeg helps Gayle with Plains Cree

Ruth Heeg helps Gayle with Plains Cree

Seasi and Jessica learning with Kissandra and Medora

Seasi and Jessica learning with Kissandra and Medora

Gayle and Lydia--Handcrafts after the workshop

Gayle and Lydia–Handcrafts after the workshop

Ruth K--Handcrafts after the workshop

Ruth K–Handcrafts after the workshop

Zipporah--Handcrafts after the workshop

Zipporah–Handcrafts after the workshop

Myles Leitch observes the workshop on Wednesday morning

Myles Leitch observes the workshop on Wednesday morning

Bishop Mark at Wednesday's supper

Bishop Mark at Wednesday’s supper

Tshiueten, Kabimbetas and Cheyenne at mealtime

Tshiueten, Kabimbetas and Cheyenne at mealtime

Learning to work together on the Internet (in the lounge)

Learning to work together on the Internet (in the lounge)

All the participants received certificates

All the participants received certificates

Waiting for the long trip home

Waiting for the long trip home

Northern Translation Brief 06Apr2015

Our Dear Partners,

When the speakers of the First Nations languages that are still waiting for adequate access to the Bible in their mother tongue met with us last year in Prince Albert <click here>, one of the things that they requested was training and learning opportunities for speakers of these languages to gain translation skills of their own. This training became a central component of the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. This month, we are conducting a Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshop at the Guelph Bible Conference Centre in Guelph, Ontario.

WorkshopMap2015We have invited First Nations language speakers from across Canada who are interested or already engaged in working in their own languages for translation and language development. An intentional component of this workshop is integrating experienced mother tongue translators with beginners, and bringing together those who are already engaging with the scriptures in their own language with those who still have no such access.

The response has been encouraging, and we have been working hard at preparing the program of study and learning modules for the week of the workshop. Our ministry and technical partner, the Canadian Bible Society, is sponsoring the workshop and we will share the facilitation of the workshop sessions with them. IMG_8869The Oji-Cree Bible Translation committee from Kingfisher Lake <link> has identified and recruited five Oji-Cree speakers from their community, Ruth K, Ruth M, Zipporah, Theresa, and Jessie, who will come and be trained at this workshop. The Bible Society has also helped to meet some of the practical needs of this group by providing five new laptop computers, a printer and a projector for the day-to-day use of their translation team. We will give them the initial training they need to get started, and they will bring their computers back to their community to continue their translation work in the months to come. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa, one of the catalysts for the Kingfisher Lake project, hopes to also come to address the group.gayle1

Gayle, one of the Plains Cree speakers who has worked for many years on the (Cuthand) Plains Cree <link> translation project will be with us for the workshop, and will be working on some of the consultant checking and review of these scriptures.

The “Fantastic Four“, (Amanda, Kissandra, Kabimbetas, and Medora) the new team of Naskapi Language Specialists, working on four different books of the Naskapi Old Testament <link> in Kawawachikamach are all coming to continue their language development and translation training, and also to be introduced to the new software programs that they need to master to become better at their translation work. IMG_5044They are joined by two more experienced members of the Naskapi translation team, Silas and Tshiueten who have worked most recently on the books of Genesis <link> and Exodus, respectively. Also from the Naskapi community we will welcome George who is not only a community leader but also an experienced translator who has been involved in bringing the Naskapi scriptures to his people for the past 20 years. He will be joined by Cheyenne, a church lay-reader and educator who leads a Naskapi Bible study, and Seasi and Jessica who work at the Naskapi school in Naskapi language literacy and teaching.

The schedule includes translation principles and basics, courses in the use of specialized translation software, commentaries and reference works, as well as times for discussion of “best practices” and resources for Bible translation teams that are managed and directed by their own local community and church members. There will also be devotional Bible studies and time to sing hymns (in Cree, Naskapi and Oji-Cree) and sharing and fellowship.

Bill and Norma Jean will be arriving in the Guelph, Ontario area from British Columbia on April 15, IMG_8762the Wednesday before the workshop to spend time with the rest of the workshop facilitation team at the Bible Society offices for the final preparations and configuring the new computers for the Oji-Cree translators. The participants will begin traveling to the workshop from their home communities on Friday, April 17–it will take most of them two or three days to travel to the workshop location. The workshop itself will be Monday to Friday, the week of April 20-24, all day long each day. On Friday afternoon, most of the participants will begin their long journeys back to their home language communities to apply the new things that they have learned and to continue working on their communities’ Bible translation and language development projects.

We have listed all the names of the participants so that you can pray for them by name–we would also request that you pray for the workshop and all the participants and the facilitators each day of the workshop, and for travel mercies and safety before and after. Some of the younger women participants are expectant mothers, and long travels and a busy workshop can be especially difficult for them–we know that they would appreciate your prayers as well.

Thank you once again for your interest and for sharing our vision for the First Nations Bible translation movement.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Partners in the USA can connect through Wycliffe USA:

Partners in Canada can connect through Wycliffe Canada’s website: