Title card of the video in Oji-Cree documenting the 2015 Sacred Circle, with the theme of the gathering, Lifted on the Wings of Faith: Heeding the Indigenous Call, written in syllabics.

Sacred Circle 2015 video translated into Oji-Cree

A feature-length video documenting the eighth national Anglican Indigenous Sacred Circle is now available online in Oji-Cree.

The translation marks the first time that a Sacred Circle video has been translated in its entirety into an Indigenous language. Though translators have been onsite during previous Sacred Circles, the translation of the 2015 Sacred Circle—which took place in Port Elgin, Ont. and was built around the theme Lifted on the Wings of Faith: Heeding the Indigenous Call—represents a major stride forward in the official oral history of the gathering available in a traditional language.

Bishop Lydia Mamakwa and Ruth Kitchekesik, deacon of St. Matthew’s Anglican Church in Kingfisher Lake, translated the video into Oji-Cree, the predominant language spoken in the Indigenous Spiritual Ministry of Mishamikoweesh (ISMM).

“The discussions [at Sacred Circle] are very relevant to our people, and not all of [our people] speak English,” Bishop Mamakwa said.

“Typically, in Mishamikoweesh and northern Ontario, they speak only Oji-Cree and read and write Oji-Cree only, some of our priests and others. So we felt that it was very important for them to know what happened and what was discussed at Sacred Circle.”

Requests to translate Sacred Circle resources into Oji-Cree have been made for many years, but a lack of available resources had precluded any such translations being done.

In the wake of Sacred Circle 2015, an application for funding resulting in grants being provided by the General Synod of the Anglican Church of Canada and the Anglican Foundation, which allowed the long-awaited translation to take place. With the grants providing the necessary funds for travel costs, Bishop Mamakwa and Kitchekesik were able to travel to Toronto and complete the translations.

Various delays caused by health issues, crises in their home communities, and competing responsibilities— Kitchekesik is also working on other translation projects in the ISMM—meant that the overall process took three years, but the majority of the work was done on two separate trips to Toronto.

During each of these visits, the translators spent days at Church House, painstakingly going through the Sacred Circle video and translating the words into Oji-Cree. One of the challenges was translating certain words, such as “canon”, that do not have an equivalent in the Oji-Cree language, and required building in new sections to define them.

To make the process more manageable, Kitchekesik and Bishop Mamakwa divided the work into segments and took turns, alternating every few hours. In translating the feature, they worked closely with members of the General Synod communications team: senior producer Lisa Barry, production coordinator Becky Boucher, and freelancer Scott Brown, who helped match their spoken words to the video footage.

“Scott, our cameraman, took it on, and had to work very closely with Bishop Lydia,” Barry said. “It was a lot of back and forth because we don’t speak Oji-Cree, to understand that we’re actually putting the correct line over every line that’s being said. It took him a few hundred hours to do … Becky worked very closely with him as well.”

The labourious process paid off and the complete video of Sacred Circle 2015 in Oji-Cree is now available free at the Anglican Church of Canada website. Discussions are currently underway as to possible alternative methods of distributing the video, such as on flash drives and DVDs.

Though Indigenous Ministries is hopeful that such translations will continue for Sacred Circle 2018 and beyond, whether or not that occurs depends largely on the will of the Anglican Council of Indigenous Peoples, and whether enough money is available to cover the costs.

“We’re in discussions about it now as to how much and how much translation we can do, and when things need to be translated,” Indigenous Ministries coordinator Ginny Doctor said.

“As we gear up for this Sacred Circle [2018], it’s a concern, because what happens at Sacred Circle needs to be taken home to the Indigenous communities. But if it’s not translated properly to that community, then we lose the message, and there may be misunderstanding or people may not know. That’s the kind of thing we get all the time, ‘I don’t know anything about this’, and it’s really frustrating because it seems like we haven’t done our work. It’s just one of those things that we have to keep working at in order to make it better.”

While unclear whether video of Sacred Circle 2018 would be translated into Indigenous languages, Bishop Mamakwa welcomed more of such translations in the future.

“Personally, I’d like to see that happen again,” the bishop said.

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