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The Bible for whose culture exactly

The Religion section of last weekend's Durango Herald ran an article, rather uncritically, on the efforts of a Christian minister of mixed Ojibwa-Yaqui heritage, aiming to produce a new English translation of the Bible aimed at Native Americans.

The reporter, as well as Terry Wildman, manage to stomp blithely over an incredible complex linguistic, cultural and religious terrain.

To start with, there were hundreds of Amerindian languages spoken in North America in 1492. Grouped into about 55 families, they represented a great linguistic variety, which, in turn, suggests a great cultural variety.

Next, one of the major instruments used in the destruction of Indigenous cultures in the Americas were the plethora of soul-hunting Christian missionaries. While the U.S. Army concentrated on physical extermination, the missionaries labored in the vineyard of cultural and linguistic genocide, with the two missions occasionally combined in lethal Church schools.

With all due respect to Wildman, his agenda of making the English Bible more accessible to the Natives in fact combines two ugly features of the five centuries of White conquest of North America: the sad myth that all Native cultures are “the same,” and the continuous cultural-linguistic genocide of Native America by the missionaries. The fact that Wildman claims Native wisdom is but a flimsy cover for perpetuating the destructive agenda of the missions.

Tom Givón