The First Nations Version Project: New Testament Gospel of Luke and Ephesians
From the Introduction
This project was birthed out of a desire to provide an English Bible that connects, in a culturally sensitive way, the traditional heart languages of the over six million English-speaking First Nations people of North America.
Why English? It is estimated that about 90% of First Nations people do not speak their tribal language, and even less can read it. This is the result of several generations of governmental assimilation policies that attempted to eradicate our over-250 languages spoken in North America.
This translation is not intended to be tribally specific, but to present the Scriptures in a general way, attempting to represent some of the simple yet profoundly beautiful ways our languages can be expressed in English.
We are aiming for a style that is easy to read, with an attempt to present, in writing, the cadence and feel of an oral storyteller. A contextual approach will be adhered to, using English word choices and idiomatic phrases that are culturally relevant, with an effort to refrain from a stereotypical or culturally degrading simplicity.
Why the Name First Nations Version?
The term ‘First Nations,’ while mostly used in Canada for the original inhabitants of the land, is increasingly being accepted and used by many Native Americans in the U.S. and by indigenous peoples worldwide. Following this trend, the name First Nations Version was chosen for this translation.
Church Engagement and Ownership
The First Nations Version of the New Testament is being produced in response to the consistently positive feedback given to the initial translation efforts. As samples were shared in churches and other venues, those who heard these samples began asking for more. Pastors, evangelists, missionaries, Native elders, and others began to ask if a complete Bible would be translated using this contextual approach.
It was Rain Ministries, a ministry that has been sharing the Good Story of Jesus with First Nations people for more than a decade, that had initiated this project. When OneBook became aware of the interest in this translation from those in Native churches, they partnered with Rain Ministries to help create the First Nations Version: New Testament.
A small circle of interested Native American and First Nations pastors, church leaders and church members gathered together to begin the work of translation. They decided on the method of translation, created the first key-terms that would be used, and participated in the translation, checking, reviewing and editing of the Gospel of Luke.
A larger circle of pastors, church leaders and members, along with some bible scholars, participated in reviewing the draft version of Luke. Their input has been valuable in improving this edition.
We welcome and encourage any pastors, church leaders, Bible scholars and others to participate and provide feedback as we work toward the completion of the rest of the New Testament.
The First Nations Version: New Testament belongs to all the churches, and it is especially for those involved in contextual ministry with Native North Americans.
OneBook, a Canadian organization dedicated to helping indigenous peoples all over the world translate the Bible for themselves, is providing financial support, along with the tools and training needed for a high quality translation. They have partnered with Rain Ministries, located in the U.S., to facilitate this translation. Wycliffe Associates of Orlando, Florida, has also served this project by providing technical support and funding.
Our Translation Council
A translation council has been selected from a cross-section of Native North Americans—elders, pastors, young adults and men and women from differing tribes and diverse geographic locations. This council also represents a diversity of church and denominational traditions to minimize bias.
Our initial group, forming our translation council, consists of 12 First Nations individuals representing tribes from these diverse geographical regions. This council determined the style and method of translation to be used and continues to be involved in ongoing translation, review and cultural consultation. From this group a smaller council was chosen to determine the key terms to be used.
The members of our translation council are listed below with their North American tribal heritages:
Barry D. Belindo — Kiowa/Navajo/Pawnee/Choctaw
Garland Brunoe — Wascoe/Ojibwe
Gordon Campbell — Kalispel/Spokane/Nez Perce
Sháńdíín Church — Diné/Pokagon Band Potawatomi
Alvin Deer — Kiowa/Creek
John GrosVenor — Cherokee
Antonia Hudson — Kiowa/Navajo/Pawnee/Choctaw
Bryan Jon — Anishinabe/Ojibwe
Dale and Charlotte Tsosie — Diné (Navajo)
Terry M. Wildman — Ojibwe/Yaqui
The following ministries have also given of their time to participate in this project:
Mending Wings www.MendingWings.net
Rain Ministries www.RainMinistries.com
Other First Nations Involved
Besides the members of our council, many other First Nations people have had input into this translation as reviewers, cultural consultants, and community feedback participants.
All in all, the tribal heritages represented include, but are not limited to: Apache, Blackfeet, Cherokee, Creek, Desert Cahuilla, Cayuga, Hopi, Kalispell, Klickitat, Lakota, Mohawk, Métis, Miami, Navajo, Nez Perce, Odawa, Ojibwe, Pawnee, Plains Cree, Potawatomi, Northern Cree, Tlingit, Tohono O’odham, Western Cree, Yankton Sioux, Spokane, Wascoe and Yaqui.
Many others will also be included in the reviewing process when the opportunities are available.
Alongside our translation council are a number of support people who are consultants on this project. Our primary consultant brings over 45 years of Biblical translation experience with indigenous cultures.
State-of-the-art translation software and expertise is also provided by our support group. These partners are committed to having the First Nations people do the actual work of translation, while they provide experience, expertise, help and feedback.
Community Checking and Feedback
Our hope is that this translation will be used widely by the Native churches in North America. To facilitate this, about 1300 draft versions of Luke were printed and distributed to Native churches, leaders, and many others both in Canada and the US, asking for review and feedback. Our translation council was instrumental in ensuring widespread community testing in Native communities. The feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and many great suggestions have been incorporated into this current printing.
For more information and how you can support this project, please visit the following webpages:
Use of Italics
In an attempt to present the scriptures as a living and moving narrative, at times we have added reasonably implied statements within, above and below the text. For this we used our imagination as we tried to picture what may have been the reaction in the voices and faces of the participants. These added statements are not intended to change the meaning of the text, but rather to bring clarity. For further clarity these additions are in italics to distinguish them from the text of Scripture.
History, Culture and Geography
At times we also inserted comments about the history, culture and geography within the story to add depth and understanding. This is for those without a historical understanding of the Jewish culture that is found in the New and Old Testaments. All these additions are also in italics to distinguish them from the text of Scripture.
Names of Persons and Places
We decided to follow our Native naming traditions and use the meaning of names for persons and places in this Great Story. In our community feedback, this practice was affirmed and appreciated. Most reviewers liked the standard English versions of the names in parentheses, while a few did not. We experimented with many options and finally decided to reduce the size of the font for the standard English names. Leaving the names in the text this way, instead of in footnotes, keeps the eye on the text, and helps the reader’s eye to more easily skip over it, if so desired.
License and Legal Notices
First Nations Version: New Testament by First Nations Version Project is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.