Hello, my name is Terry Wildman, the founder of the First Nations Version Project, and the project manager for the First Nations Version: New Testament. My wife and I have been actively involved in the lives of Native Americans since 1998. Together we are the music duo RainSong, you can learn more about us at RainsongMusic.com.
The idea for this project began in 2002 while Darlene and I lived on the Hopi Indian reservation in Northern Arizona. We were looking for ways to tell the story of the Bible to Native Americans, in a culturally relevant context.
After a season of research, we became convinced that no one had yet attempted this. Further research discovered that even though a few Bible printing organizations had put “Indian” covers and art on “easy to read” Bible versions, no one had made any English speaking translations specifically aimed at Native peoples. We found the very small print and formatting in these bibles made it difficult to read for many of the men in our drum circle gatherings.
The need for an English version was highlighted when we discovered that most Native Americans do not read the Bible that has been translated into their Native languages. They did not have written languages and most no longer speak, let alone read in their language.
With this in mind, I began to write a condensed version of the Bible story. This was done with feedback from Native American Christian leaders and others. The result was our CD The Great Story from the Sacred Book. The feedback we have received from this CD has been overwhelmingly positive from Natives and non-natives alike. This CD won the Native American Music Award for “Best Spoken Word” in 2009.
Additional feedback was asked from Native Americans young and old, traditional and modern, male and female, some of whom are followers of Jesus. Many have told me they are touched deeply and drawn into the “story” in ways that traditional translations fail to accomplish.
A New Translation of the Bible is Birthed
Often, I have been asked if I was planning a translation of the Bible. To be honest, I had been overwhelmed by the idea and did not even want to consider it. But, over the years, I have felt a consistent nudging from the Holy Spirit to say yes to this.
Further confirmation came when after working on this project for a couple of years we were contacted in April 2015 by OneBook, a Canadian Bible translation organization that works with indigenous cultures to translate the Bible. A partnership was formed between OneBook and Rain Ministries in June 2015 to translate the New Testament in the style that I had begun. A group translation method was agreed upon, which you can read more about on this website.
You might call this a contextual translation in English, in the tradition of the storytellers of oral culture. It is similar, in concept, to The Message by Eugene Peterson or The Living Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor. But, it is different in the sense that it attempts to convey the rhythm and feel of an oral storyteller from our Turtle Island (North American) cultures.
The FNV intends to present the scriptures with word textures and choices that relate in a general way to Native Americans and other First Nations English speaking people. It is not intended to be culturally or tribally specific.
For Native Americans stories were traditionally told in ways that are unique to the storyteller and meaningful to the listeners, drawing from history, tradition, and experience. A storyteller will ensure the essence of the story is preserved without the need to present a strict word for word recital.
All four of the Gospel authors present the story of Jesus this way. They were inspired to re-order some events and details and to emphasize aspects of Jesus’ teachings, all in different but complementary ways, to fit the purpose of their telling.
We would like to have the opportunity to dedicate a significant amount of time to this project. Most of our income comes from when we travel and share our music and storytelling at our “events”. This includes churches, powwows, conferences and more. This takes up most of our time and energy and leaves us with small-time periods to write and record our music.