Update from Kawawachikamach
Lake Matemace at the edge of Kawawa
Thursday we arrived in the community of Kawawachikamach, home of the Naskapi Nation. During our two weeks here we are helping out at a linguistics workshop with the Naskapi translation team and daily workshops for Naskapi teachers at the local school. Our main reason for accompanying Bill and Norma Jean on this trip is to meet the community and make connections with the people we will be working with when we move here next year to work more closely with the translators.
Over the weekend we attended a number of events – a church service, a baptism celebration (Caitlin made a cute hat and booties for the baby), as well as a funeral. On Saturday we climbed the nearest hill to pick blueberries and look out over the landscape, which is made up of beautiful forest and lakes as far as the eye can see.
I’ve been spending every day this week at the linguistics workshop where the translators have been reviewing a collection of Naskapi legends for publication. We project parallel Naskapi and English texts of the story in front of a room of translators and elders while we play a recording of a respected Naskapi storyteller. As we go through each story we consult the elders and translators to make sure we understand what the storyteller meant, make revisions to the written text and translation, and keep notes on new words that need to be added to the Naskapi dictionary. Publishing these legends in storybooks provides things for people to read in Naskapi, and it makes more traditional Naskapi legends and history accessible to the community. Bill has posted some more details about the project here.
Caitlin and I have been encouraged by the positive responses we get whenever we say something (however small) to anyone in Naskapi. Since this is the only community where Naskapi is spoken, people are especially surprised when an outsider can say something in their language. In the evenings Caitlin has been learning new words as she sews with a group of ladies in the rectory basement. Yesterday they taught her the word nit-ahkusin “I am sick/hurt” while I happened to be upstairs learning the grammar of that same word (chit-ahkusin means “you are sick,” chit-ahkusin aa means “are you sick?” and so forth). There is a nasty cold going around the community, which is unfortunate, but does give me opportunity to chip in “are you sick?” sometimes after someone coughs.
The translation team’s work on the Naskapi Old Testament is slowly progressing, but they feel that having an outside linguist from Wycliffe living here and working with them is an important part of keeping the momentum going. As we get more comfortable here we are only becoming more excited about moving here for our internship, and a number of people have asked us how soon we can come back. Pray with us that God would direct our steps as we continue to move forward with this, and provide the means for us to keep moving forward. The next concrete step after this trip will be attending a two-week Wycliffe training course in Toronto in October.
P.S. While we are away we have limited access to phone service and social media – so email is the best way to get in touch.