Hello my name is Terry Wildman, the author of Birth of the Chosen One, the first book of the First Nations Version Project. My wife and I have been actively involved in the lives of Native Americans since 1998, together we are the music duo RainSong.
The idea for this project began in 2002 while Darlene and I lived on the Hopi Indian reservation in Northern Arizona. We were looking for ways to tell the story of the Bible to Native Americans, in a culturally relevant context.
After a season of research, we were convinced that no one had yet attempted this. Further research discovered that even though a few Bible printing organizations had put "Indian" covers and art on "easy to read" Bible versions, no one had made any English speaking translations specifically aimed at Native peoples. We found the very small print and formatting in these bibles made it difficult to read for many of the men in our drum circle gatherings.
The need for an English version was highlighted when we discovered that most Native Americans do not read the Bible that has been translated into their Native languages. They did not have written languages and most no longer speak, let alone read in their language.
With this in mind, I began to write a condensed version of the Bible story. This was done with feedback from Native American Christian leaders and others. The result was our CD The Great Story from the Sacred Book. The feedback we have received from this CD has been overwhelmingly positive from Natives and non-natives alike. This CD won the Native American Music award for "Best Spoken Word" in 2009.
Additional feedback was asked from Native Americans young and old, traditional and modern, male and female, some of whom are followers of Jesus. Many have told me they are touched deeply and drawn into the "story" in ways that traditional translations fail to accomplish.
Often, I have been asked if I was planning a translation of the Bible. The word "translation" doesn't really describe this project; it is more of retelling of the Scriptures in the tradition of the storytellers of oral cultures--some might call it a paraphrase. It is similar, in concept, to The Message by Eugene Peterson or The Living Bible by Kenneth N. Taylor. But, it is different in the sense that it attempts to convey the rhythm and feel of an oral storyteller.
The FNV is not intended to replace standard translations but to present the scriptures with word textures and choices that relate in a general way to Native Americans and other First Nations English speaking people. It is also not intended to be culturally or tribally specific.
My intent is to retell, in the tradition of the oral cultures, the story of the Bible. In doing so, I draw on the 15 years of experience I share in relationship with many Native Americans, and also from the 30 years of ministry experience which has included in depth bible study and theological reflection.
This retelling is personal, as it reflects my own experience and perspectives. Each story is told in ways that are unique to the storyteller and meaningful to the listeners, drawing from history, tradition and experience. A storyteller will insure the essence of the story is preserved without the need to present a strict word for word recital.
All four of the Gospel authors present the story of Jesus this way. They were inspired with the freedom to re-order some details and to emphasize aspects of Jesus' teachings, all in different but complimentary ways, to fit the purpose of their telling.
We consider this to be a sacred task. Several English versions of the Bible are consulted and when needed I also consult the original languages. From there I attempt to find ways of phrasing the narrative to relate to english speaking First Nations people.
We plan to create a written and oral (audio) version of this project. The written version will be formatted for easy reading, using comfortable paragraph and font styles that lend themselves to reading aloud.