Review: God Speaks Navajo

God Speaks Navajo
God Speaks Navajo by Ethel Emily Wallis
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was very insightful about linguistics and culture and the dedication required to accurately translate any important work, especially something as important as faith. Faye Edgerton  became dedicated to translating the bible to Navajo early in life and remained faithful to that until the time of her death. With the help of a blind Navajo Indian man, Geronimo Martin, some ground breaking work was done.

It became clear in a very short order that it wouldn’t be a simple translation, but would require interpretation. I recall one story about how it became critical to find out what kind of rod Moses’ brother Aaron was carrying when it budded, as the Navajo had no word for “bud”. To me, this was very revealing about the close relationship they had with the land. That may sound overly simplified or it may sound like it got unnecessarily complicated. However, if a person is a cattle rancher they don’t really just have a word for “cow”. Alaskan Indians had upwards of 200 words to describe weather. When life is deeply affected by the weather, there is no simple word for “snow” or “rain”.

As much as I liked the book and respect the dedication to the work, it still saddens me on some level to know that as well intentioned as Christians are, there is also an encroachment on indigenous and aboriginal peoples. I also find it interesting that their language was certainly lent to us in WWII with the Wind Talkers, but that is an entirely different subject.

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