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 27Jul2015

Our Dear Partners,

Thank you for your prayers for us this week. We have been running a mini-workshop for the new Oji-Cree translation team in the “fly-in” community of Kingfisher Lake since last Tuesday.

Boarding Pass in Canadian Syllabics

Boarding Pass in Canadian Syllabics

On the plane to Kingfisher Lake

On the plane to Kingfisher Lake

Kingfisher Lake Bible Translation Team

Last year, Jessie, Ruth K, Ruth M, Theresa, and Zipporah were recruited and selected by their local Bible Translation committee, composed of community elders and church leaders.

Jessie

Jessie

Ruth K.

Ruth K.

Ruth M.

Ruth M.

Theresa

Theresa

Zipporah

Zipporah

We were invited here by the committee last January to begin their formation and training. Then they all attended the 2015 Mother Tongue Translator Workshop in Guelph in April, and we are back here now to help the team to build on the skills and momentum that they gained at the workshop in Guelph.

you can read about the workshop here: <click>

We also came to listen to the committee to help them with their planning to achieve their vision for their community. Bishop Lydia Mamakwa reminded us and the committee that her diocese was led to undertake this local Bible translation initiative into Oji-Cree as one of their first projects.

The committee decided that in order to have the most immediate local engagement with the newly-translation Scripture portions in Oji-Cree, that they would focus on the shorter, one-year “Prayer Book Lectionary” of Sunday Bible readings that are read each week at St. Matthew’s Church in Kingfisher Lake. So, besides practicing and developing their Bible translation and Oji-Cree word processing skills, the team has also begun to follow a program of translating specific Bible readings that will be read in their church each week, with a goal of completing over 1600 New Testament verses over the next year.

Translation workshop at Mission House

Translation workshop at Mission House

Translation Committee meeting at Mission House

Translation Committee meeting at Mission House

We continue our training and practice with the team into this coming week and after this we head back to southern Ontario and continue our search for a “home” base on July 30.

Our time here has been very encouraging: our friends at Mission House and the Kingfisher Lake community have shown us their usual kindness and hospitality.

Kingfisher Lake sewing group

Kingfisher Lake sewing group

This weekend we enjoyed fellowship and worship with them at their church and went to see the closing of their summer fishing derby, and even took home fresh fish for our supper. God is good.

Anglers returning from the fishing derby

Anglers returning from the fishing derby

Kingfisher Lake fishing derby

Kingfisher Lake fishing derby

Recording the weight of each fish

Recording the weight of each fish

...and the length

…and the length

"Would you like to take some fish? They're fresh!"

“Would you like to take some fish? They’re fresh!”

Walleye for supper tonight

Walleye for supper tonight

Thank you for your continued prayers.

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

IMG_9075

 

 

Northern Translation Brief: Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree

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.

Oji-Cree narrowThis time, we are telling about the (Kingfisher Lake) Oji-Cree Bible Translation project. Oji-Cree is a language spoken in northern Ontario, inland in the Severn and Winisk River basins. In Oji-Cree, the language is called ᐊᓂᐦᔑᓂᓃᒧᐏᐣ Anihshininiimowin.

We have just returned from a two-week visit to the Kingfisher Lake Oji-Cree community. We first visited the community for a few days in September 2014, when they decided to form their own Bible Translation committee. They asked us to return to help them with setting it up and doing initial training with the individuals that they would choose to work on their translation.

Oji-Cree Bible Translation Committee

Oji-Cree Bible Translation Committee

In the months between that visit and this one, their committee identified and recruited several persons willing to serve as their Oji-Cree translation team. Their team is guided and supervised by their Bible Translation committee, which consists of elders, local church leaders, and interested community members. We attended a committee meeting at the beginning of our two weeks there, when they expressed their commitment and desire to begin the work, which is sponsored by the Kingfisher Lake First Nation council, St. Matthew’s Anglican Church vestry, and the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh.

IMG_8869IMG_8811IMG_8816Each day of our time in the community, we conducted training workshops for the mother-tongue translators, which included securing (sometimes borrowing!) laptop computers, setting up the syllabics font and keyboarding program, and providing training and practice in using the Oji-Cree syllabic writing system on the computers. For most of the translator trainees, this was their first experience using their own language on computers.

IMG_8860Thanks to the timely generosity of the managing editor of the soon-to-be-released ᑭᑎᓯᑭᓯᐍᐏᓂᓇᐣ Anihshininiimowin Oji-Cree Dictionary, we received digital copies of this incredibly useful book, along with its introductory materials, and part of the training course was devoted to the use of the dictionary and looking up words. The team is so grateful to have this resource!

Cover Page-aFinally, we began to teach translation for beginners and the new trainees practiced by translating, reviewing and back-translating John chapter 2, “Jesus changes water to wine”.

Mission House, a facility of St. Matthew’s Church in Kingfisher Lake, is not only the headquarters of the Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh and Bishop Lydia Mamakwa’s office, but is also the repository of the collected writings of the venerable Dr. William Winter. William Winter

 

William Winter (1921-2011) was a visionary Oji-Cree church leader who devoted his life to pursuing the dream of a self-determining, self-sustaining Indigenous church within the Anglican Church of Canada, which has been carried by the elders for over six decades. Under his leadership First Nations Christians chose to move carefully and prayerfully along the journey to make that dream a reality. William Winter was also a prolific writer and a student of the Bible.

 

IMG_8892IMG_8894His writings include sermons and Bible study materials, as well as historic documents and journals, written in the Oji-Cree language over the course of several decades. Some of his writings are being used as teaching materials for the translation trainees.

IMG_8829IMG_8821IMG_8827We were invited to describe the project on their local radio broadcast, and we also began to learn some Oji-Cree words and phrases ourselves. We visited the school and met with the Oji-Cree language teachers there, and at the end of our time we enjoyed a feast of moose meat stew and bannock, and expressed our thanks to our hosts in the community.

IMG_8877IMG_8883Finally we attended another meeting of the Bible Translation committee, during which time they discussed the scope of the project and what the next steps should be. They would like to work on the Scripture readings used in Sunday services (the Lectionary) first, using these to build up their inventory of God’s Word in their own language for later Scripture publications. They are also interested in translating their prayer book services into their local dialect as well, along with other projects, including the transcription and translation of the writings of the late Dr. William Winter for the Oji-Cree community and beyond.

IMG_8762We are optimistic and enthusiastic about their strong desire to take action to bring God’s Word to their own people in their language. The committee is eager to send at least five of their translation trainees to the First Nations Mother Tongue Translator (MTT) workshop that is being planned for the middle of April in Guelph, Ontario. There will be more news about that coming event in a future Translation Brief.

IMG_8721We are so grateful for the privilege of being a part of this work God is beginning to do in Kingfisher Lake. Please remember to pray for their committee and their translation trainees during the coming days and weeks 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.

We are happy, but oh so tired! Pray for us for a refreshing week back in British Columbia.

This is the third 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 and the (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation. If you missed those, you can still read about them here:

Mason Cree Bible

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

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

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

IMG_8898

Northern Translation Brief: “The Bible in Plain Cree”

IMG_8541

Mason Cree Bible

In 1891, The Smithsonian Bureau of Ethnology Bulletin, (Vol 13, issue 1, U.S. Govt. Printing Office) listed only two “whole Bibles” in its “Bibliography of Algonquian Languages”. The Bible in Massachusetts by J. Eliot, and the Bible in Cree by W. Mason. The “Eliot Bible” was published in Cambridge, Massachusetts in 1663, and it is the first Bible of any language to be printed in North America, and the first Native American language Bible.

Almost 200 years later, the Mason Bible in Cree was published in London by the British and Foreign Bible Society in 1862, and thus was the second Native American (First Nations) language Bible.

IMG_8543The overleaf on the 1908 (J.A. Mackay) revision of the Mason Cree Bible says “The Old Testament in Plain Cree”, which is a reference to the variety of the Cree language that is spoken “on the plain“, which in modern times is referred to as “Plains Cree”. Although the names “W. (William) Mason” and “J.A. (John Alexander) Mackay” are the individuals generally associated with this book, how this Bible actually came to be is an engaging and remarkable story:

James Evans Teaching Syllabics

James Evans Teaching Syllabics

James Evans, a Wesleyan Methodist missionary, developed a syllabic orthography for translating religious works into Ojibwe in the mid 1830s. In 1840 he was assigned to Norway House at the northern end of Lake Winnipeg in present-day Manitoba. He lost no time in adapting his syllabic writing system to Cree, the language of the First Nations peoples there. Read more about this remarkable writing system here (click). You will recall that this is also the writing system used for Naskapi, and many other Canadian languages.

Rev William Mason

William Mason

Evans was succeeded at the Norway House mission in 1843 by William Mason, who also married Sophia Thomas that same year. Sophia was the daughter of a Cree woman who was married to Hudson’s Bay Company Chief Factor Thomas Thomas. Sylvia Van Kirk (1983) writes:

“Sophia, the youngest daughter of former governor Thomas Thomas, had been placed in the care of the Church of England missionaries at an early age. An apt pupil and “a good pious girl”, she grew up a devout Christian. In 1843, she married the Reverend William Mason and, with her knowledge of Cree and her sincere interest in the welfare of the Indians, was a great help to her husband’s ministry at Norway House. Although she had a delicate constitution, Sophia was reputed to have devoted herself unceasingly to the operation of the Indian day school, visiting the sick, and translating hymns and scripture. Her lasting work was the production of a Cree Bible.

norway houseAnne Lindsay and Jennifer Brown (2009) continue Sophia’s story in an article by the Manitoba Historical Society:

“In 1858 the Masons moved to England where they oversaw printing of the New and Old Testament in Cree syllabics. These printed Cree syllabic texts were credited only to William Mason, which set off complaints from Native co-workers John Sinclair and the Reverend Henry Bird Steinhauer that they had contributed substantially to the work. William Mason’s own remarks suggest that his wife’s role in the translations was considerable. Sophia Thomas Mason, whose health had always been delicate, began to suffer pleurisy soon after arriving in England, and her work on translations was often stopped when she was overwhelmed by pain. In July 1861 she gave birth to her ninth child, and in the fall of that year the last of the Old Testament books was printed in Cree syllabics. On 10 October 1861 she died of tuberculosis.”

Sophia’s husband’s journal entry on her death stated, She has been spared to accomplish a great work, the Cree Bible; and to bear such a testimony for Jesus amongst the heathen, by the patience with which she suffered, and her zeal and persevering labours to make known the glorious Gospel of salvation…”

Joseph Lofthouse (1922) wrote, “The translation of the Bible into Cree was to a very large extent the work of Mrs. Mason, who was a native of Red River, had grown up amongst the Indians, and understood their language perfectly. It is the most idiomatic and by far the best translation that has ever been made in Cree. … Mrs. Mason on her dying bed finished the last chapter of this marvelous book, which has been such a blessing to the Indians of the whole north country.”

IMG_7782

Mason Cree Bible at St. Matthew’s Church, Kingfisher Lake, Ontario

It is this book that even today sits on the pulpits of hundreds of churches in First Nations communities across Canada, from Hudson’s Bay to the Rocky Mountains.

As you can see from the map, Cree territory covers a vast area and indeed includes several distinct language varieties. Linguistic work over the past half century has documented these varieties, and their characteristics are described in the Ethnologue. (click the link for more information). In many cases, the contemporary language variety spoken in these communities is quite different from the dialect of Cree used in Mason’s Bible. In these situations, previous generations of speakers learned to read the “Plains Cree” syllabics, and this practice developed a hierarchy of bi-literate “experts” who served as catechists, deacons, lay-readers and clergy, and these persons were able to teach others in their own language variety by translating from Mason’s Bible.

Mason Cree LanguagesOver the years, some of the linguists who study these languages have quipped that “God Speaks Cree”, referring to the special position that the Mason Cree Bible holds in the hearts of many speakers of different varieties of Cree, Ojibwe and Oji-Cree. Indeed the situation is similar to the way the King James Bible is held in high esteem in many Protestant churches, or even, in communities where the local language is very different from the Cree in the Mason Bible, the situation may be compared to the way the Latin language was revered in Catholic churches before Vatican II allowed services in the local languages.

The copy that Bill is working from here pictured belonged to a member of the congregation at St. Matthew’s Church in Kingfisher Lake, Ontario. You can see how it is well-worn from use, and many pages have detailed annotations by the user.

IMG_8548

Mason Cree Bible annotated in Oji-Cree

But because of a fundamental shift in the way literacy skills are passed on in these First Nations communities, many younger speakers of these Aboriginal languages are growing up not being able to understand the language in the Mason Cree Bible, making it necessary to produce contemporary translations and other language materials in the mother-tongue of the local community.

Nevertheless, the Mason Cree Bible still holds a place of honour and stature across Cree territory, and for that reason one of the priorities of the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative is to produce a modern, digital publication of the legacy Mason Cree Bible. The Bible Society arranged to have the text keyboarded in the early 1990s, and in recent months is reviewing it for consistency and standardization.

To do this, reviewers compare the keyboarded digital version (either in a printout or on-screen) to a printed copy of the 1908 Mackay revision. Since Bill can read the syllabic script, he is participating in the efforts to complete the review along with other Plains Cree speakers and facilitators. Here pictured is an example of the review process from the book of Leviticus.

Leviticus Chapter 5 at verse 11

Leviticus Chapter 5 at verse 11

Mason Cree digital version @ Leviticus 5:11

Mason Cree digital version @ Leviticus 5:11

Print version compared with digital version

Print version compared with digital version

Once the review work is done, not only will we be able to once again provide new and improved printed copies of this much-loved volume, but the text will also serve as an interactive, searchable digital resource that may be accessed on computers and handheld devices and also used as a reference work for contemporary Cree and Oji-Cree Bible translation work by translators for years to come.

This post has been an extended feature on the topic of just one of the “priorities” identified by the First Nations Bible Translation Capacity-Building Initiative. Keep watching for other posts right that feature some of the other “priorities”, including the following components of the vision:

  • (Cuthand) Plains Cree Translation project
  • Oji-Cree Translation project
  • Mother-Tongue Translator (MTT) Workshops
  • Naskapi Old Testament Translation project
  • Mushuau Innu language project

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

Please also remember our daughter Elizabeth who is in Labrador this week with the “Labrador Creative Arts Festival” (LCAF)
https://www.facebook.com/131612796945171/photos/a.594239127349200.1073741827.131612796945171/594248440681602/?type=1&fref=nf&pnref=story

References:

Lindsay, Anne, and Jennifer Brown.  2009. “Sophia Thomas Mason, Cree Translator”, in Memorable Manitobans, The Manitoba Historical Society. Accessed November 20, 2014.
http://www.mhs.mb.ca/docs/people/mason_st.shtml.

Lofthouse, Joseph. 1922. A Thousand Miles From a Post Office, or, Twenty Years’ Life and Travel in the Hudson’s Bay Regions. Toronto: Macmillan Co. of Canada.

Peel, Bruce. 2003. “Thomas, Sophia”, in Dictionary of Canadian Biography, vol. 9, University of Toronto/Université Laval. Accessed November 20, 2014. http://www.biographi.ca/en/bio/thomas_sophia_9E.html.

Van Kirk, Sylvia. 1983. Many Tender Ties: Women in Fur-Trade Society, 1670-1870. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press.

Northern Translation Brief 23Sep2014

Our Dear Partners,

It’s snowing! Where? Here in Kawawachikamach where we have been for the past week for Scripture engagement and literacy workshops with our Naskapi translation partners. IMG_8008We have enjoyed beautiful fall days but on the last day we our flight was canceled and we were delayed by an early blizzard, so we simply stayed put and worked an extra day here.

IMG_8014Naskapi teachers literacy workshop

We team-taught several sessions for the Naskapi language teachers at the school, helping them with literacy, materials, and grammar-teaching skills.

 

 

Naskapi grammar and translation

IMG_8002Bill worked with the translation staff at the Naskapi Development Corporation and consultant linguist Marguerite MacKenzie on Naskapi stories and legends for publication, and a better understanding of Naskapi grammar.

 

 

Womens’ sewing circle

IMG_8073During several evenings, Norma Jean led a women’s sewing class, and several women completed quilt projects and enjoyed fellowship and tea. Norma Jean also had an opportunity to model leading a women’s Bible study session for some of the local women.

We thank God for another opportunity to enjoy the friendship and hospitality of our Naskapi friends at Kawawachikamach and to encourage them in their faith and ongoing language development and translation work.

IMG_8038Starting today, Lord willing, we begin a tour of the Eastern United States to visit several supporting churches, friends and family. Hope to see many of you in the coming days.

Thank you for your prayers.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

Translation Brief 11Nov2013 “FAQ”-2

Our dear partners,
This is the second follow-up to answer Frequently (F) Asked (A) Questions (Q). The response to “FAQ”-1 was so positive that we are thinking that this is the highlight of your week!

The question we get a LOT (especially once folks understand the answer to the first question) is:

(2) “So… what does Bill do […all day long…] ?”

The short answer is that he serves as Norma Jean’s “support staff” **.

But Bill also keeps pretty busy outside of those responsibilities as well. Trinity Western University (TWU), where Norma Jean is enrolled, is also the home of CanIL, a training partner of Wycliffe Bible Translators and the center for SIL training in Canada. Besides the opportunity to connect with and serve along side the staff at CanIL, Bill is also upgrading his skills by taking a class to use current computer software for applied linguistics–language documentation, dictionary-making, grammar writing and preparing literacy materials. So at least two days a week Bill goes to the campus with Norma Jean to attend his classes there.

at our desks4aBill is also involved in a Consultant Development program as part of Language Program Services for the Americas Area. He is completing assignments related to “Field Linguistics Specialist Certification”. In short, he is continuing to upgrade his linguistics skills to better serve the Bible translation needs of the minority language groups we serve, including Naskapi, Mushuau Innu, Cree and other related languages.
There are also the Old Testament Bible Translation projects that the Naskapi team is working on, which he facilitates from a distance by internet communication with the Naskapi language specialists in the Naskapi community in Quebec. Several projects are just beginning and some are about to come to completion: We’ll be sharing about these Naskapi publications in particular in the weeks to come.
Finally, and related to all of these, Bill is working on needed revisions to the Naskapi dictionary, moving the database to the current language documentation software, working on Naskapi literacy books, and training (via Skype) the Naskapi language specialists to use the translation tools.

As usual, if you have any further questions, feel free to send them to us. Maybe yours will be chosen for another “Frequently Asked Question” answered soon!
Thank you for sharing our vision for everyone to have access to God’s Word in the language of their hearts.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean Jancewicz

** “administrative assistant, driver, bodyguard, personal chef, APA guidelines resource, critic, editor, encourager”

at our desks7aat our desks1

Northern Translation Summer 2013 Newsletter

Our dear partners,
Thank you for your prayers for us during the past few hectic months of work on Naskapi language projects and our service to others as part of our Wycliffe assignment. During the first four months of 2013, we were working mainly in northeast  Canada at our home in Schefferville near the Naskapi community of Kawawachikamach (Kawawa). Norma Jean has served the past few years in the Naskapi school in the Naskapi language curriculum department, in support of teachers who teach in the Naskapi language in elementary school. The curriculum department is responsible for providing the Naskapi language materials that are used to help Naskapi children learn to read and write their own language.PastedGraphic-1
Over in Labrador on the coast about 240 miles east of Kawawa is the Mushuau Innu community of Natuashish, close relatives of the Naskapi. We were invited to conduct training workshops there and at the other Labrador Innu community of Sheshatshiu for Innu-speaking classroom assistants, and to help them to begin setting up their own curriculum department at their schools there in March. Norma Jean conducted education and material production classes, while Bill provided computer training and also began to explore adapting the Naskapi scriptures to the Mushuau Innu language by audio.
Naskapi Language Specialists
The first few months of the year had Bill also very busy with a remarkable opportunity to recruit and train four new Naskapi language specialists to work full-time in the Naskapi community on translation and other language development work. IMG_5040aThe four that were selected and hired by the Naskapi Development Corporation were Amanda, Kissandra, Kabimbetas and Jimmy. These four were trained in using computers to do Naskapi translation work, and in daily reading and writing practice, with a view to working more and more independently on translation projects of their own. Also, in April Bill taught another section of the McGill University teacher-training class, a dozen Naskapi adults who are  working towards their Bachelors of Education (B.Ed) in order to teach and/or prepare Naskapi materials at the Naskapi school. This four-year program started in 2010 includes undergraduate-level university courses provided for the most part right in the community. Bill has been teaching adult literacy principles (reading and writing in Naskapi) along with Naskapi grammar to enhance their reading success. The four Naskapi language specialists-in-training also joined the McGill students since what they needed to learn was pretty much the same thing that Bill was teaching there.
Professional Development and Academics
Since beginning to work with Wycliffe we have always been strongly encouraged to keep our education and linguistics skills current, but that was not always easy to do, with the full-time work on the language project and raising a family. But since the publication of the Naskapi New Testament in 2007, our Wycliffe administration has urged us to follow through by working towards advanced degrees in our fields of service. So, back in 2009, we enrolled in studies at the Summer Institute of Linguistics (SIL) at the University of North Dakota (UND).

English: Merrifield Hall on the campus of the ...

English: Merrifield Hall on the campus of the University of North Dakota in Grand Forks, North Dakota, USA. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Bill began his studies towards a Master of Arts (MA) in linguistics, and Norma Jean took the “Mega-Literacy” courses there that summer. This was also the summer that we moved back to the Naskapi community to focus on Naskapi literacy training and Old Testament translation. For the next five summers, we would return to the University of North Dakota SIL where Bill continued his graduate-level course-work in linguistics. We decided that it would be best for everyone if only one of us were enrolled in graduate school at a time, so Norma Jean served as director for childcare services at SIL for the past four summers, rather than course-work. Bill completed his MA course-work and successfully defended his thesis this summer in North Dakota, and graduated with his MA in linguistics from UND on August 2. The title of his thesis is “Grammar Enhanced Biliteracy: Naskapi Language Structures for Facilitating Reading in Naskapi”, which researches how teaching Naskapi grammar might assist those who are learning to read in Naskapi.map of 2013 travels color
As already mentioned above, Norma Jean’s expertise and service to the language communities focuses on the area of education and curriculum, and, like Bill, wants her academic studies to contribute to her service in a significant way. She found course-work that focuses on multi-lingual education theory and practice in the MA-TESOL program that is offered by Trinity Western University, in Langley, British Columbia. She applied for and was accepted into this program, which is a 12-month, full-time course beginning in September of 2013. Besides the course-work, she will also be doing practical projects and internships, which may include periods of service in the Naskapi or Innu communities to apply the principles she will be learning.
While TESOL generally refers to “Teaching English to Speakers of Other Languages”, Norma Jean’s focus will actually include methods of teaching literacy skills in the mother-tongue; such as teaching Naskapi speakers to read and write Naskapi better, or teaching Innu speakers to read and write Innu better, which will also result in their overall success in their language skills in other languages. The educational principles and strategies for these goals are similar, and can be applied to our ongoing language development work in these and other minority-languages.
…to be continued tomorrow (on page 2)

Final volume of the Naskapi 3-year Lectionary published

Advent 2012 begins “Year-C” of the Revised Common Lectionary, the collection of Sunday Bible readings that are used in the Naskapi church. You may remember that the “Year-A” book came out almost two years ago now (the blue book) and the church has been using the “Year-B” book (the red book) for the past fifty-one weeks. Over the past several months we have reviewed and revised the remaining Old Testament verses that are contained in the “Year-C” book, and we have just printed sixty copies for distribution. On November 23 another prayer was answered: All the boxes of Year-C books arrived in Kawawachikamach in time for the first Sunday of Advent, which is December 2 this year!

Each Sunday morning, a selection from the Old Testament is read (generally somewhere between 8 and 30 verses), followed by a Psalm; then the New Testament readings: a selection from the Epistles and a passage from the Gospels. The three-year lectionary cycle is used by many denominations of the church, in which Scripture readings are arranged according to a schedule that 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. During the course of three years, more than seven thousand verses are read aloud to the congregation, a total that represents almost one-quarter of the Bible.

Like the other volumes of the lectionary, these books are being published and distributed by the Naskapi Development Corporation. People can drop by the office in Kawawachikamach anytime to purchase their own copy for just $10. The books are printed in diglot; that is, with the Naskapi text along side the English on each page. Readers simply look up the current Sunday in the index and turn to the appropriate page.

Anyone outside of Kawawachikamach can order this book (and many other fine Naskapi books) from the Naskapi Resources page of the Lulu website, at this address: www.lulu.com/spotlight/naskapi. The Year C volume is a perfect companion to Year A and Year B.

Even though the Year C volume completes the series, the Naskapi Development Corporation translation and language services department continues to actively review and revise these readings each week as they are read at church, and plans to publish updated versions during the coming three-year cycle. The latest volume would make a perfect Christmas gift for any of your Naskapi family or friends.

There are several more Naskapi publication projects nearing completion in the coming months. We are currently working on the final check of a proof of the entire book of Genesis in Naskapi that should be completed in the coming weeks Lord willing, followed by the 2013 Naskapi Scripture calendar, a new Naskapi children’s book, the first book of Naskapi legends featuring Kuîhkwâhchâw (Wolverine), and the final book in the Walking With Jesus series of Bible stories on the life of Christ.

We want to thank you for your interest and support for all of these Naskapi language projects.

Serving with you, Bill and Norma Jean

 

Naskapi 2012 Scripture Calendar

As in previous years, we have prepared a Naskapi language Scripture calendar for distribution at Kawawachikamach, in partnership with the Naskapi Development Corporation. The pictures this year feature archive photographs of “Naskapi Places”.

If you have followed our translation work with the Naskapi over the years, you may have learned that the Naskapi people did not always live here near Schefferville, Quebec–the ancestors of the current Naskapi Nation of Kawawachikamach were nomadic caribou hunters who traveled over vast tracts of the interior of the Quebec-Labrador peninsula. Since their first contact with Europeans in the 1830s, the records of their travels became linked to the establishment of Hudson’s Bay posts in their territory.

The earliest photograph (for January) is of a Naskapi encampment near Fort Chimo in 1884, attributed to Lucien Turner, who wrote one of the earliest descriptions of Naskapi ancestors for the Smithsonian Institution (Turner, Lucien. 1894. “Ethnology of the Ungava District, Hudson Bay Territory”. in: Eleventh Report of the Bureau of Ethnology, Smithsonian Institution, 1889-1890. Washington, Government Printing Office.)

Each month of the calendar provides a chronological account in photographs of the various locations where the Naskapi were settled from 1884 to the present-day. Accompanying each picture, there is a scripture passage selected for the month, in the Naskapi language and in English.

Further, each month is presented in the Naskapi language, with Naskapi days of the week, and an indication of special days and the seasons of the church calendar that correspond to the Sunday Lectionary (see the posts here and here for more about the Lectionary).

The calendar also has a few bonus pages this year that contain a brief history of the Naskapi people’s migrations from the mid 1800s to the present.

This year, as in previous years, a beautiful printed version of the Naskapi calendar is available along with other Naskapi language materials from Lulu.com for just $8.

We are also running off locally-printed versions of the calendar (on the photocopier) on request distributed from the NDC office in Kawawachikamach. Local residents can purchase a copy at the office for $5.