Native American Languages of  Canada and the United States

The Ramseyer-Northern Bible Society Museum Collection contains examples of Scriptures in many of the languages spoken by the original inhabitants of the Americas.  Four major language families - Algonkian, Macro-Siouan, Na Dené and Eskimo-Aleut - represented by twenty-one specific languages may be seen in the adjacent cases. 

Missionary translators sometimes had to devise new syllabaries or alphabets to represent sounds or structures not easily handled by the Roman alphabet.  The Cherokee alphabet and the Evans syllabary are examples on display. 

It is interesting to note that because the right to print the Bible in English was a prerogative of the British Crown, the first printing of the Bible in the American Colonies was in Algonquian.  But missionaries subsequently went all over the North American continent learning the languages of Native Americans and committing Scripture to writing for them.  Father Baraga is a good example of such activities in this area.  The American Bible Society and the British and Foreign Bible Society were the main publishers of their efforts. 

The Ojibway dictionary compiled by Father Baraga in his missionary work in this area is still being published and used today.

Algonquian Languages

[click thumbnail for large view]

GENESIS, EXODUS, LEVITICUS in EASTERN KUTCHIN 
British and Foreign Bible Society, 1890,  #518

Book cover Book cover

GOSPELS in EASTERN KUTCHIN 
British and Foreign Bible Society, 1874,  #519

Book cover Hand written text Book cover

NEW TESTAMENT in NORTHERN OJIBWAY 
Canadian Bible Society, 1988, #1374

Book cover Page of text Page of text

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