Saturday, February 11, 2012

The Creator

During the late 1800s, Father Joseph Griva translated several Catholic prayers and catechisms into the Kalispel Language. As I have mentioned before, I appreciate these translations because they provide examples of complex sentence structure in Salish. These books have greatly deepened my understanding of the language.

In this example, Father Griva wrote:

Kuemt lu gol shei lu kolinzuten z-koltz lu skusees lu tel sch-chemaskat ks chinshitems lu skeligu ie l stoligu. Lu skusees kolinzuten shei lu Jesu kri. Jesus shei unegu kolinzuten. Jesus shei negu skeligu. Jesus potu it shei kolinzuten u skeligu.

The same text in the IPA format:

kʷen't łuʔ x̣ʷl šey' łuʔ k'ʷul'ncutn ckʷulsc łuʔ sqʷseʔs łuʔ tl' sččmasq't qs čnšitms łuʔ sqelixʷ y'e l' stulixʷ. łuʔ sqʷseʔs k'ʷul'ncutn šey' łuʔ yesukli. yesu šey' unexʷ k'ʷul'ncutn. yesu šey' nexʷ sqelixʷ. yesu puti t šey' k'ʷul'ncutn u sqelixʷ.

My translation back into English:

Then for that (reason), the Creator sent his son to us from the sky to help the Indians (people) here on the earth. The Creator's son is indeed Jesus Christ. Jesus is truly the Creator. Jesus is also Indian (human). Jesus is still (continually) Creator and Indian (human). 


Translation is never an exact science.

Without question, the priests intended to say that Jesus is human; however, in our language, the word for human (sqelixʷ) is also the word we reserve specifically for ourselves as Indian people. In fact, after white people began arriving in great numbers, a division in the language occurred. Our ancestors retained the original human designation for Indian people (sqelixʷ) and assigned a different term for white people (suyepi). Nowadays, sqelixʷ and Indian are nearly synonymous.

Perhaps ironically, the priests declared in their own catechism that Jesus is Indian. This makes me wonder how our elders would have perceived this teaching. In my imagination, I picture them smiling and nodding in agreement, but in the back of their minds, they may have said to themselves, "Of course the Creator is Indian. We knew that all along."

And if the Creator is Indian, then we will relate to him as we always have, with our own ceremonies, prayers, and songs.

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