Northern Translation Brief 06Aug2016

Our Dear Partners

We just got home from another working trip the Oji-Cree community of Kingfisher Lake in Northern Ontario. They started their own Bible translation project in Oji-Cree last year, and have asked for more training from us.

The Dr. William Winter School of Ministry

Dr. William Winter

Dr. William Winter

The Kingfisher Lake community was the home of the late Dr. William Winter, a respected Oji-Cree elder and church leader who had a dream many years ago of establishing a program for training indigenous people for ministry. The Dr. William Winter School of Ministry was established in 2003 and since then, many men and women have taken courses for ministry in northern Ontario and Manitoba.

We were invited to take part in the second week of this year’s School of Ministry. It is held at the Big Beaver Bible Camp, in the bush near one of the traditional settlements of the Oji-Cree people who now live on the Kingfisher Lake reserve. The day after arriving at Kingfisher Lake, we were brought by pick-up truck to the boat landing on Misamikwash Lake opposite Big Beaver Bible Camp.

map to Bible CampA small fleet of outboard motorboats serve as transportation to the camp, and after a 15 minute boat ride we were walking up the dock at the camp.

DSCN1237 DSCN1246 DSCN1247 DSCN1256 DSCN1259 DSCN1260The School of Ministry features courses in Bible history, theology, and other topics useful for indigenous clergy and lay-persons involved in ministry in their own First Nations communities. It is a great hardship for non-stipendary (unpaid) indigenous clergy to take ministry courses offered at seminaries and universities so far from their homes. The School of Ministry removes most of those hurdles by providing quality education right in their territory at an affordable cost, and presented in their own mother tongue. Most of the sessions are translated directly into Oji-Cree on the spot by interpreters as they are delivered by instructors in English. Some sessions are taught by experienced First Nations clergy and/or elders right in their own language.

DSCN1268 DSCN1287This summer’s two-week session included teaching sessions that were led by the Rt. Rev. Mark MacDonald, the National Indigenous Bishop of the Anglican Church of Canada, and also by a team of Maori clergy from New Zealand: Bishop Rahu and Rev. Robert Kereopa.

maorisThey also feature such practical classes as music and hymnody, planning worship services, and Oji-Cree language. Zipporah Mamakwa, one of the Oji-Cree translators, invited Bill to assist her in two of the language sessions. During those sessions they made a presentation to the students about the beginnings of the new local Bible translation project, and also shared hands-on teaching methods for Oji-Cree syllabics and an introduction to Algonquian grammar for literacy.

DSCN1359 DSCN1360 DSCN1361 DSCN1365The two-week session culminated in a beautiful outdoor Eucharist service conducted by Bishop Lydia Mamakwa and all the visiting indigenous clergy and lay persons, and the recognition of all the participants.

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Bishop Rahu from New Zealand preaching from a boat “Like Jesus Did”

DSCN1344Oji-Cree Translator Workshop

Over the weekend, the visiting participants for the Dr. William Winter School made their way back to their home communities and places of service, while the Oji-Cree translators prepared for have a Bible Translation training workshop with Bill and Norma Jean back at Mission House in Kingfisher Lake.

DSCN1404 DSCN1407 DSCN1410There, the they discussed and evaluated their progress toward the translation team’s goals on the various translation stages: First Draft, Team Checking and Review, Community Checking, and Back Translation.

DSCN1398Bill conducted classes in the use of a computer-based tool that is used to assist the translators to choose consistent spelling of key Biblical terms. The computer program that we use to help us translate the Bible can also access a database of key Biblical terms that includes all the names of persons and places in the Bible, along with encyclopedic information and the proper pronunciation and usage of those terms. The translators can then discuss and approve their own spelling of those terms in their own language. The database guides them to help them to ensure that every occurrence of each approved term is spelled consistently in their language.

Using the Biblical Terms Tool

Using the Biblical Terms Tool

The translation team practiced using the tool, working through their translation and making decisions on terms such as “Moses”, “Jerusalem” and “disciple”, and Bill provided them with a written guide to the Tool so that they could continue to do this on their own in the weeks to come.

DSCN1421 DSCN1425DSCN1422 Too soon, our time was up and we were brought to the airport for the (several) long flights home, and by late Thursday night August 4 we were back in our own bed at Windham Centre.

Please remember to pray for the new Oji-Cree translation team by name:

Theresa, Ruth M, Zipporah, Bill & Norma Jean, Jessie, Ruth K.

Theresa, Ruth M, Zipporah, Bill & Norma Jean, Jessie, Ruth K.

  • Theresa Sainnawap
  • Ruth Morris
  • Zipporah Mamakwa
  • Jessie Atlookan
  • Dominick Beardy (not pictured–could not attend)
  • Rev. Ruth Kitchekesik–Ruth also serves as a deacon in St. Matthew’s Church, Kingfisher Lake, and also as the coordinator of the Bible translation team, along with all of her other duties.
  • Rt. Rev. Lydia Mamakwa–Lydia provides much of the vision and leadership for the project, as well as serving as the diocesan Bishop over several First Nations parishes in northern Ontario and Manitoba in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh (ISMM).

Pray for their families, for their work and their lives, and for God’s continued guidance, provision and blessing on their work.

DSCN1476Norma Jean and I are preparing to go to work with the Naskapi translation team in just a couple weeks. Another Translation Brief will come out with prayer requests for that trip soon.

Serving with you,

Bill and Norma JeanDSCN1491

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DSCN1495 DSCN1482   DSCN1499Have you thought about becoming more involved and supporting this work by visiting these websites?

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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