TORONTO – It has been more than 60 years in development, but the Yup’ik-speaking people of the Southwestern Arctic now have the complete Bible in their own language, thanks to the help of the Canadian Bible Society.
Yup’ik is the aboriginal Inuit language of people who reside in western and south central Alaska. Written with the Latin alphabet, translation work on the Yup’ik New Testament was completed in the mid-1950s; work on the Old Testament began in the early 1970s. Translators – when they weren’t out on the land hunting and fishing – worked alone in their homes or gathered in Bethel, Alaska to work as a team.
The Yup’ik Bible effort was a partnership involving dozens of individuals. The Moravian Church initiated the project with financial support from the American Bible Society (ABS), translation support from the United Bible Societies (UBS), SIL and Wycliffe Translators. The Canadian Bible Society (CBS) was the final link in the chain providing computer support, which dates back to the mid-1990s.
“We thank God for this important milestone,” says Dr. Myles Leitch, Director of Scripture Translations for CBS. “Our Kitchener team worked intensively from June 2012 to April 2014 on the typesetting, while the translators kept perfecting the translation.”
The Yup’ik language has long words and unique diacritics (marks placed over, under or through a letter guide pronunciation). The team wanted their text to look like a traditional Bible with two columns, but many of the words were longer than one column wide and would break at the wrong spot, or the diacritics would move over to the wrong letters or would spread letters apart so much a single word would look like two or three words instead of just one.
“We heartily congratulate all those who contributed to this important goal,” says Leitch. “At CBS we are celebrating the significant role we played in supporting this project through our skilled people. We praise God that the Yup’ik people can now read the Bible in their heart language.”
The Yup’ik Bible is written using a new orthography, a fact that will be of significant benefit to Yup’ik speaking youth, who are taught to read and write using the same system in school.
The Yup’ik Bible was dedicated during a three-day celebration, from Friday October 16 to Sunday October 18, 2015 in Bethel, Alaska. The event featured singing and sharing and reading from the Bible.