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Inside Translation
The Inuktitut Translation Project: Update Report
by Hart Wiens, CBS Director of Scripture Translation - Dec/2001

After a very productive 4 week translation workshop at the Canadian Bible Society translation office in Kitchener, the Inuktitut Translation Team returned to their remote northern parishes on December 07, having completed the entire draft translation of the Bible in their language. Rev. Benjamin Arreak, project coordinator, Bishop Andrew Atagotaaluk, Rev. Jonas Allooloo, and Rev. Joshua Arreak left behind their parish and diocesan ministries to spend a concentrated period of time focused on their Bible translation ministry. This project is supported jointly by the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic, which releases the men for this ministry and the Canadian Bible Society which provides consultant, computer and financial support.

The completion of the draft translation of the Bible comes after 23 years of dedicated work by the translation team and a great deal of sacrifice by the men and their families and 11 years after the publication of the New Testament. It is anticipated that another two or three years will be required to review, check and polish the draft of the Old Testament in order to prepare it for publication along with an updated version of the New Testament in order to give the Inuit of the Eastern Arctic the entire Bible in their language.

Above (left to right): Andrew Atagotaa translating proverbs, Jonas Alloloo of Inukjuakj translating, and Benjamin Arreak of Kuujjuuak translating.

About 17,500 Inuit people speak Eastern Arctic Inuktitut. They live West of Hudson Bay, on Baffin Island and in Northern Quebec. Most of these people still prefer their language to English, even though they are taught English in school. The primary language of communication in the home and community is Inuktitut. The language is written using a syllabic script adapted for the unique features of this language. Most of the people are Anglican and use Inuktitut almost exclusively in their worship. Many communities also have Pentecostal and Roman Catholic churches, which also use the local language in worship.

Bible translation for the Inuit began in 1978 with a translation workshop conducted by Dr. Eugene Nida of the United Bible Societies. The work was sponsored jointly by the United Bible Societies and the Anglican Diocese of the Arctic and focused on training Inuit in the principles of Bible translation. The translation work was done by a team of Inuit Anglican ministers trained and supervised by consultants from the UBS and later the Canadian Bible Society under the leadership of the Director of Scripture Translation, Dr. Harold Fehderau. Dr. Fehderau continued the work of training the translators and consulting on the project to ensure the accuracy of the translation until his death in 1997.

A significant milestone was reached in 1992 when the entire New Testament was published and dedicated. The first printing of 4,000 copies was eagerly received by the Inuit people and is regularly used in public worship and private devotional reading of the scriptures. The first print run was sold out in two years. The Anglican, Roman Catholic and Pentecostal churches all use this translation.

Since the death of Dr. Harold Fehderau, Hart Wiens, the current Director of Scripture Translation for CBS, provides consultant help. Each year CBS budgets about $22,000 to cover expenses for translation workshops and to cover a portion of the monthly stipend for the project coordinator.

The Inuit people are eagerly awaiting the publication of the entire Bible in their language. Many are volunteering time to review the translation for accuracy and clarity. This strategic ministry would not be possible without the prayerful encouragement and support of many concerned Christians across Canada, who have contributed generously to help this project move forward.

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