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Inside Translation
Cultural Ecology and Bible Translation
by Hart Wiens, CBS Director of Scripture Translation

With mounting evidence of global warming comes a growing awareness of the threat to our physical environment. But few are aware of an impending ecological disaster in the cultural realm, which is just as imminent and perhaps even more tragic. Indigenous peoples are suffering from the realities of injustice and indifference, which have left many struggling for survival.

Racism and discrimination are harsh realities in Canada and around the world. Many of the First Nations of Canada face the imminent loss of their languages and cultures. With language loss comes cultural disintegration, and all of us are poorer because we lose the contribution of a unique people group.

Language is fundamental to cultural survival. Cree language expert Stan Cuthand says, "A lot of healing comes from knowing who you are, knowing your identity. And the Cree language, the culture, is how you get the concepts…. You can't separate language and culture."

Today many First Nations in Canada are striving to recapture their identity, trying to revitalize their cultures and ensure that their languages and traditions are not lost. An elder in one community identified his language as one of the most important gifts from God. He said, “We disobey God by not speaking our own language.” The Canadian Bible Society is partnering with these communities to support their quest by publishing fresh and meaningful translations of the Bible in native languages. For many nations, the Bible has been a powerful resource to support not only spiritual, but also cultural and moral reawakening.

Recognizing this important role of the Bible for their lives, the James Bay Cree communities of Québec have been working in partnership with Wycliffe Bible Translators and the Canadian Bible Society on a version in their own language. On June 30 they gathered in the community of Mistissini to celebrate the recently published New Testament. This day marked a new and exciting chapter in the lives of many Cree people. For Canada it marked another ecological achievement to ensure that the vibrant language and culture of this community is not lost.

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