Gayle Weenie working on Plains Cree Bible translation

"I think about all those people who were punished when they went to residential school for speaking their First Nation languages."

Weenie and her translating partner have completed books of Psalms, James, Luke and Matthew

Saskatoon's Gayle Weenie and Dolores Sand are working on a Plains Cree translation of the Bible. (Josh Lynn)

Much of Gayle Weenie's time after hours is spent on a project she's passionate about: creating an authoritative Plains Cree translation of the Bible. 

"I think about all those people who were punished when they went to residential school for speaking their First Nation languages... and it's now kind of coming full circle and we're trying to revive them," explained Weenie during an interview on CBC's Saskatoon Morning. 

While portions of the Bible have been translated previously, Weenie said the text is sometimes incomplete or needs refinement. Also, many translations are exclusively in syllabics.

"Northern communities in Saskatchewan tend to have Bibles written in syllabics and we're trying to promote the use of the Cree language with our people by using Roman orthography," Weenie said.

Weenie said for people just learning Plains Cree, rendering words in English characters can make it easier to pick up because the two languages share many sounds in common.

Weenie, who is originally from Sweetgrass First Nation and her translating partner Dolores Sand (originally from Muskeg Lake), work with with a pair of linguists and the Canadian Bible Society on the effort.

Having a network of Cree speakers across Canada is something Weenie said is key to the project's success. 

"When I was in Guelph, Ontario at a [translation] workshop I met people from ... northern Ontario and northern Quebec and they're working on the Bible too, translating it into their languages and they ask me how I say some of the words they're having trouble with," said Weenie.

Many of words that the Cree translators have trouble with, according to Weenie, stem from the Bible's locale. 

"They don't have camels in the middle of Quebec." 

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