Canada inuit - Archive
An Inukshuk, a stacked rock in human form that provided direction for centuries across the horizons for the Inuit of Canada's Arctic, on Whistler mountain, British Columbia, February 25, 2008. Photo by Archive
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Reuters
Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper (R) rides a snowmobile with members of the Canadian Rangers on Frobisher Bay in Iqaluit, Nunavut February 23, 2012. Photo by Reuters

For the first time, the Bible and New Testament have been translated to an Inuit language. A group of Inuit Christians in the Canadian territory Nunavut have completed the 34-year translation project this week, translating the holy religious texts into the local Inuktitut.

The task wasn't easy necessitating creative linguistic gymnastics to bridge the 2,000-year temporal divide in addition to the vast distance separating the Arctic peoples and the Middle Easterners, who wrote the holy books.

One of the main difficulties the translators faced was the translation of objects that aren't found in the Arctic such as certain trees that don't grow in the treeless Arctic.

Another example is the translation of shepherd, which appears in the Bible often. In Inuktitut a shepherd tends to children of dogs, not goats and sheep, which aren't found in Nunavut. Plant and animal names were the biggest difficulty and in many cases general terms such as 'tree' were used. In other cases English lone words were used such as in the case of 'camel.'

“It’s just like you have one word for snow but we have many words for snow,” explained a clergyman who was a member of the translating team.

A surprising difficulty the translators faced was the complete absence of a term for 'peace' in Inuktitut. In order to circumvent this language gap, the translators had to use complete sentences to the get equivalent ideas across.

The translation is not simply an intellectual exercise for an elite few. Some 90 percent of the citizens of Nunavut are Christians and the territory boasts the highest church per capita rate in Canada.

The translation project was funded by the Canadian Bible Society and the Anglican Church costing $ 1.7 million. The translation will be launched in a ceremony at the igloo-shaped St. Jude’s Anglican Cathedral in Iqaluit, Nunavut's capital on June 3.