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Alaska. A traditional Inupiat Eskimo igloo four miles south of Nome.

Indigenous Arctic people to receive first Bible translation in heart language

On Sunday, June 3, in bustling Iqaluit, the capital of Canadian territory, Nunavet, an event will take place that the Inuit people have been eagerly awaiting for thirty-three years. They will finally receive the entire Bible in their own language.

The Inuit people are the indigenous peoples inhabiting the arctic regions of Canada, Denmark, Russia and the Alaska in the United States.

Two Inuit people reading a copy of the new Inuktitut New Testament which was launched on October 18, 1992, at St Jude's Anglican Church in Iqaluit, Northwest Territories, Canada. Image: United Bible Societies

“Every time I visit the Arctic the people ask me, ‘When will we have the complete Bible?’ Now their question can finally be answered,” says Hart Wiens, Director of Scripture Translations, Canadian Bible Society (CBS). The Inuktitut language is the only indigenous language given

recognition and status as an official language of a Canadian territory.

The New Testament has been in print for 20 years and at least five editions have been printed in the indigenous lanugage. But the rich spiritual legacy found in the stories, poetry, laws and prophecies of the Old Testament had previously not been translated.

“Our people need the whole Word of God to be inspired and strengthened and as a guide for their lives,” says The Right Reverend Benjamin T. Arreak, retired suffragan Bishop of Nunavik and coordinator of the translation team.

“This is the first time our people will have the complete Bible in their language. This will open their hearts and minds to the Word of God.”

The Inuktitut Bible publication marks many firsts. For the first time in Canada, the entire translation was done by mother tongue (first language) speakers of the language rather than by missionaries.

The Cathedral Church of St. Simon and St. Jude, (Iqaluit, Diocese of The Arctic) was destroyed by a fire in November 2005. The original Cathedral was built like an igloo, fitting perfectly into the culture of the Inuit of Northern Canada, amongst whom it is sited. Image: Nigel Fearon Photography.

This is also the first full indigenous language Bible translation completed under the auspices of CBS, partnering from beginning to end with the Anglican Church as its only translation partner. And it’s the first Bible translation project in Canada out of which two Bishops were raised up for the Church. Bishop Andrew, one of the translators from the very beginning, made history as the first Inuk to be appointed as the Bishop of a Diocese in Canada.

The Bible will be dedicated at St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit, Nunavut along with a dedication prayer for the new cathedral, which is built to look like a giant igloo.

Supporting the translation of the Bible into the languages and dialects of the world is one of the mandates of the Canadian Bible Society, whose sole purpose is to reach every man, woman and child with the lifegiving Word of God, and to encourage its use. Since its inception, the Canadian Bible Society, working through the global fellowship of the United Bible Societies has placed thousands of Bibles, New Testaments and Portions of Scriptures into the hands of waiting people around the world in their chosen languages.

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