Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country: A Facsimile Edition & Translation of a Prayer Book in Cree Syllabics by Father ÉMile Grouard, O.M.I Prepared and Printed at Lac la Biche in 1883

Academic journal article The Catholic Historical Review

The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country: A Facsimile Edition & Translation of a Prayer Book in Cree Syllabics by Father ÉMile Grouard, O.M.I Prepared and Printed at Lac la Biche in 1883

Article excerpt

The Beginning of Print Culture in Athabasca Country: A Facsimile Edition & Translation of a Prayer Book in Cree Syllables by Father Émile Grouard, OM. L Prepared and Printed at Lac La Biche in 1883.

Translated by Patricia Demers, Naomi Mcllwraith, and Dorothy Thunder, with an introduction by Patricia Demers. (Edmonton, Canada: University of Alberta Press. 2010. Pp. xxviii, 457. $80.00. ISBN 978-0-888-64515-0.) This book is a unique contribution to sociocultural history and to Aboriginal language studies. It introduces the reader to a forgotten document and calls attention to an often neglected dimension of early missionary work - its attention to language. The original text brings to light the process of recontextualizing Christianity through the complex translation of beliefs into indigenous languages and its reflective dimension. It is relevant to note that the original text was prepared and printed in the Oblate Mission, Notre Dame des Victoires in Lac La Biche (a community with Cree, Métis, Saulteaux, and Montagnais residents), in Athabasca Country with a Parismade press by Father Emile Grouard, M. O. (1840- 1931). Thus, the book also opens a window to the dissemination of print culture in western Canada, as the authors have written in the preface, and to the exploration of "the fusions of Cree, French, and Latin linguistic patterns" (p. x).

The foreword, written by Arok Wolvengrey of the First Nations University of Canada, provides the most appropriate comments situating the work in the contemporary context and calling attention to the difficult tasks of the authors/translators, given the temporal distance from Grouard' s work and even possible misunderstandings on his part. In the preface the translators make clear that the transcription and transliteration, as well as the English translation of the phonemic system of the sound and word patterns of Cree Syllables (geometric characters representing syllables), represented a challenge. Given the changes of meaning, the representation of Cree sounds, and the differences in sentence patterns between the time of the original publication to today, the authors/translators have included both a direct transcription of Grouard' s Syllables in Roman font and a transliteration of Cree in italics, according to current linguistic practice. …

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