Many people in northern communities (north of 50th parallel) speak Ojibway as their first language. As many people who have learned a second language know, it gets progressively harder to speak in a second language the closer you get to heart issues. When I was in Poland as a student many years ago, I remember my frustration at being able to say “please pass the butter” but not “I’m feeling lonely today.” Having the Bible translated into the “heart language” of the people is a wonderful thing.
This Bible recently released by the Canadian Bible Society is unique in that it has syllabics on one page and our more familiar Roman script on the facing page. The reason for this is because many of the older people were taught to read Ojibway in syllabics but the younger kids are being taught to read their language using Roman script.
There are five dialects of the Ojibway language and this must have certainly made the translation more challenging. Also because First Nations languages have historically been oral rather than written, there are many variations when it comes to the spelling of words. For example, the word Ojibway itself is also written as Ojibwe, Ojibwa and Chippewa. The people themselves call their language: Anishinaabemowin since they are the Anishinabe people.
The work on this new Bible translation has proceeded under the guidance of Anglican priest Robert Bryce who served as a consultant to the Canadian Bible Society, working with Henry Hostetler and Ojibwe translator Jim Keesic.
There is no “them and us” – there is only “us.”