Quebec History Marianopolis College

Date Published:

L’Encyclopédie de l’histoire du Québec / The Quebec History Encyclopedia


Books in the Indian Languages



[This text was originally published in 1907 by the Bureau of American Ethnology as part of its Handbook of American Indians North of Mexico . It was later reproduced, in 1913, by the Geographic Board of Canada. The work done by the American Bureau was monumental, well informed and incorporated the most advanced scholarship available at the time. In many respects, the information is still useful today, although prudence should be exercised and the reader should consult some of the contemporary texts on the history and the anthropology of the North American Indians suggested in the bibliographic introduction to this section. The articles were not completely devoid of the paternalism and the prejudices prevalent at the time. While some of the terminology used would not pass the test of our "politically correct" era, most terms have been left unchanged by the editor. If a change in the original text has been effected it will be found between brackets [.] The original work contained long bibliographies that have not been reproduced for this web edition. For the full citation, see the end of the text.]


[For further information, consult the entry under Bible translations in the Encyclopedia of North American Indians.]



In addition to dictionaries, versions of the Bible and the Prayer Book, whole and in part, Bible stories complete and summarized, catechisms, and cognate works, the literature translated into Indian languages embraces some interesting volumes. In Greenlandic [Inuit] there is an abridged version of Stoud-Platon's Geography , by E. A. Wandall (1848); a translation of Thomas à Kempis Imitation of Christ , by Paul Egede (1787, revised 1824); a History of the World , by C. E. Janssen (1861), and another by S. P. Kleinschmidt (1859). Peter Kragh's translations of Ingemann's Voices in the Wilderness , and The High Game , Krummacher's Parables and Feast Book , the Life of Hans Egede , and other books circulated in manuscript. In the Labrador dialect a geography, by A. F. Elsner, was published in 1880. Under the title Mahpiya ekta oicimani ya , 'Sky to travelling he went,' Rev. S. R. Riggs published in 1857 a translation of Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress into the Dakota language of the Siouan stock. This same book was translated into Cree by Archbishop Vincent (1886), and into Cheyenne by Rev, R. Petter (1904). In 1879 Rev. D. W. Hemans published a Santee version of Rev. R. Newton's The King's Highway . Into the Massachuset dialect of the Algonquian stock Rev. John Eliot translated in 1664 Baxter's Call to the Unconverted , in 1665 Bayly's Practice of Piety , about 1687 the Rev. W. Perkins' Six Principles of Religion , and in 1689 Shepard's Sincere Convert . A Geography for Beginners was published in Chippewa in 1840, and in Santee Dakota in 1876. In 1839 the Rev. C. A. Goodrich's Child's Book of the Creation was translated into Choctaw by the Rev. L. S. Williams. The civilized tribes of Oklahoma , with the aid of the Cherokee and adapted alphabets, have published many laws, text-books, etc., in the native languages.


Exclusive of occasional texts, more or less brief, in native languages, to be found in the periodical literature of anthropology, in ethnological and linguistic monographs, books of travel and description, etc., there is accumulating a considerable literature of texts by accredited men of science and other competent observers. The Chimmesyan stock is represented by Boas' Tsimshian Texts (Bull. 27, B. A. E., 1902); the Chinookan by Boas' Chinook Texts (Bull. 20, B. A. E., 1904), and Kathlamet Texts (Bull. 26, 1901); the Salishan by Teit and Boas' Traditions of the Thompson River Indians (1898); the Wakashan (Kwakiutl-Nootka) by Boas and Hunt's Kwakiutl Texts ( Mem. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist ., 1902-05); the Skittagetan by Swanton's Haida Texts (Bull. 29, B. A. E., 1905); the Athapascan by Goddard's Hupa Texts ( Publ. Univ. Cal., Am. Archaeol. and Ethnol ., I, 1904), and his Morphology of the Hupa Language (1905) perhaps belongs here also, likewise Matthew's Navaho Legends (1897) and The Night Chant (1902); the Siouan by Riggs' Dakota Grammar, Texts, and Ethnography ( Cont. N. A. Ethnol ., IX, 1893), Dorsey's Cegiha Language ( Cont. N. A. Ethnol ., VI, 1890), Omaha and Ponka Letters (Bull. 11, B. A. E., 1891), and Osage Traditions (6th Rep. B. A. E., 1888); the Iroquoian by Mooney's Sacred Formulas of the Cherokee (7th Rep. B. A. E., 1891), Hewitt's Iroquoian Cosmology (21st Rep. B. A. E., 1903), and Hale's Iroquois Book of Rites (1883) - the second records cosmologic myths, the last the great national ritual of the northern Iroquois. The Algonquian is represented by scattered texts rather than by books, although there are to be mentioned Brinton's Lenape and Their Legends (1885), which contains the text of the Walum Olum and the Cree and Siksika Legends in Petitot's Traditions Indiennes du Canada Nord-ouest (1887), the scattered texts in the works of Schoolcraft, Hoffman, etc.; the [Inuit] best by the texts in Boas' Eskimo of Baffin Land and Hudson Bay ( Bull. Am. Mus. Nat. Hist., XV, 1901), and other writings on the [Inuit], Thalbitzer's Phonetical Study of the Eskimo Language (1904), and Barnum's Grammatical Fundamentals of the Innuit Language (1901), the last relating to the Tununa dialect of Alaska . The monographs of Miss Alice C. Fletcher on the ceremonies of the Pawnee (22d Rep. B. A. E., 1903), of James Mooney on the Ghost Dance Religion (14th Rep. B. A. E., 1896), the numerous monographs of Dr. Franz Boas on the Bellacoola, the Kwakiutl, etc., contain much textual material. The manuscript collection of the Bureau of American Ethnology is rich in texts of myths, legends, etc. As a whole, the body of linguistic material, here briefly noticed, is of increasing magnitude and value. The literature in the Chinook jargon also furnishes some titles, e. g., the stenographic periodical Kamloops Wawa, by Father Le Jeune, who is also the author of several pamphlets. Worthy of mention is Rev. Myron Eells' Hymns in the Chinook Jargon Language (1878-89), which is not merely a translation of English verse.                    


Source: James WHITE, ed., Handbook of Indians of Canada , Published as an Appendix to the Tenth Report of the Geographic Board of Canada , Ottawa , 1913, 632p., pp. 67-68.

© 2004 Claude Bélanger, Marianopolis College