A new translation of the New Testament was released August 31. The text adopts Native American descriptors for God, such as the Creator and Great Spirit, and uses relevant cultural and linguistic thoughts patterns. The text, “First Nations Version: An Indigenous Translation of the New Testament,” is published by InterVarsity Press.
Terry Wildman (Ojibwe and Yaqui) is the lead translator and project manager of the First Nations Version. He says, “We believe it’s very important that the Gospel be kind of decolonized and told in a Native way, but being accurate to the meaning of the original language and understanding that it’s a different culture.”
Wildman, a United Methodist pastor, has been working on the translation for nearly 20 years since he found a Hopi translation of the New Testament in a storage room on a Hopi reservation in Arizona. He felt there was a need for an English translation that was sympathetic to Native American wording, rhythm and meaning.
Fr. Kurt Huber of the Cheyenne River Episcopal Mission said, “We are excited about this translation of the Bible. We have seen some of the earlier work of the translators and believe this is a very useful translation that will help people engage with the Bible. This will be a translation that the people of Cheyenne River can read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest what the Bible says to us today.”
According to a report in “Christianity Today” Wildman formed a translation council of men and women, young and old, from different Native cultures and church backgrounds to guide the process.
The translation of the “Our Father” evokes the feeling of an elder telling a story.
One morning, after Creator Sets Free (That’s Jesus.) had finished praying, one of His followers, the ones who walked the road with Him, came to Him and said, “Wisdom Keeper, teach us how to pray in the same way that He Shows Good Will (That’s John.) taught his followers.”
Creator Sets Free smiled, and said to them, “When you send your words to the Great Spirit, here’s how you should pray:”
Oh, Great Father, the One Who Lives Above Us All, Your name is sacred and holy. Bring Your good road to us, for the beauty of the world above is reflected in the earth below. Provide for us day by day, the elk, the buffalo, the salmon, the corn, the squash, the wild rice, all those good things we need every day to feed our families.
Release us from the things we have done wrong in the same way we release others for the things done wrong to us. Guide us away from selfish desires that tempt us to stray from Your Good Road. And rescue us from that Evil One, and his worthless ways. Your Good Road, with its great power and beauty, shines like the sun to the time beyond the end of all days.
Let your prayers rise like smoke to the Great Spirit. He will see you and He will answer you.
Every step is a prayer. As you dance upon the earth, the Way will open before you. Search for the ancient pathways, you will find them. Answers will come to the ones who ask, and good things will be found by the ones who search for them. And the Way will open before the ones who keep dancing their prayers.
The casebound volume is available for $31.50 on Amazon or from www.firstnationsversion.com. The softcover and ebook versions are around $16.