The Choctaw Native Americans
The Choctaw Indians are from the southeastern part of the U.S., an area which is now known as Louisiana, Alabama, Florida and Mississippi. Those who are from Mississippi are descendants of the Native American tribes who opted to stay behind during the Removal in the 1830s.
Presently, the Mississippi Band of the Choctaw Indians is a tribe that is recognized by the federal government. The number of registered tribal members today is about 10,000. Their lives as well as their language have been affected by modernization, thus a unique challenge has been presented.
The translation of the Bible
The Choctaw Indians who are followers of Christ have been waiting for a version of the Bible in their native language for a long time. Wycliffe Bible Translator staff member Laura Christel Horlings explained the history of the translation. She said that in 1832, Cyrus Byington, a missionary, translated the New Testament into the Choctaw language, but the work has not been completed when he passed away. Sadly there was no one to continue the translation work. He was only able to finish two books of the New Testament, which are being used by the Choctaws to this day.
However, those translated books have to be updated as they still use the old Choctaw language, which had changed over time. People who are still using that translation had to understand the old Choctaw language and check the English version in order to fully understand what is being said.
The Bible Translation Committee for the Choctaw community was formed in 1992 in order to preserve and promote the language through the translation and publication of Christian literature and the Bible in the modern Choctaw language spoken in Mississippi. Ms. Horlings also said that several churches that were still using the old translation were losing the young people in their congregation. At the same time they have observed that in two churches where there is a translator/pastor, the church attendance is growing.
Ms. Horlings handles the checking of the critical interpretation (exegesis) of the text. She also manages the Bible translation project. They have drafted the entire content of the New Testament and have already published two of the books. They are now checking the other 15 books. The translator/pastor tests the drafts they have made by reading them aloud to the Choctaw Elderly Center residents. He also uses them for his sermons.
They are happy to be able to preserve both their culture and their language and Ms. Horlings says that they need to mobilize both praying and giving at the moment. She said that they need the services of one or two translators who could work full-time to finish the review. At the moment they are only able to work with two translators who render service part-time.