Bible translated into Naskapi

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Naskapi child read the Naskapi New Testament Bible aloud with Lana Martens, who began the first translation work in the 1970s.

The Bible’s New Testament is now available in the Naskapi language, the fruit of 25 years of translation work by Silas Nabinicaboo, a lay reader of the aboriginal church in Kawawachikamach, diocese of Quebec, and Bill Jancewicz, an American translator associated with the Wycliffe Bible Translators.

Every household in the community, located near the mining town of Schefferville, Que., received a copy of the Naskapi New Testament at a public dedication ceremony held Sept. 16; elders received large print editions.

“It’s a wonderful achievement,” said Archbishop Bruce Stavert, who was among those who attended the ceremony, along with representatives of the Canadian Bible Society. The Naskapi Nation Development Corporation helped fund the project.

Archbishop Stavert said the project involved “an elaborate process where they (translators) consulted with elders” to ensure the accuracy of the translation.

In the works is a translation for the Old Testament. “For the last 15 years or so, they (translators) have produced translation of the Sunday readings on the three-year Sunday lectionary that we use, and produce them in Syllabics and English,” he said. “They’ve done that with Old Testament readings, so they have a considerable portion of that done.” The Naskapi language is similar to northern East-Cree and is almost always written in syllabics.

“Even though English is taught in school, and some Naskapi men learned basic English from trading post managers, English remains a distant second language” for the Naskapi people, said the Canadian Bible Society, explaining the importance of the translation work. 

“Since early contact with the Hudson Bay Company and the (Church of England) clergy that accompanied them, the Naskapi have embraced the Christian faith. But the only Scriptures available to them for over a century were translated into dialects of Cree from near James Bay,” the Naskapi Nation Development Corporation said on its Web site.

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