Cherokee Nation Publishes Its First Red Letter New Testament in the Cherokee Language


Published December 12, 2015

TAHLEQUAH, OKLAHOMA — The Cherokee Nation has published the New Testament red letter edition of the Bible in the Cherokee syllabary for the first time, with books on sale to the public soon.

The tribe’s language program translated and published the Bible and sought to correct translation errors made by missionaries to the Cherokee Nation in the 1860s. That version of the New Testament has been reprinted by the American Bible Society. The new Cherokee Nation-published Bible also marks the first time a Cherokee syllabary Bible includes red lettering of the words of Jesus Christ.

The project took Cherokee Nation translators about two and a half years to complete. It is the first time the entire New Testament red letter edition has been translated into Cherokee by the tribe since before the Civil War.

Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker and Deputy Chief S. Joe Crittenden presented some of the first copies of the Bible to local Cherokee ministers at a pastors meeting in Tahlequah earlier this month.

“Although copies of the New Testament in Cherokee syllabary have been in circulation for years, this is the first time our Cherokee Nation translation department has completed an official and proper translation of the Bible, and in a red letter edition,” said Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Bill John Baker. “This represents a big step forward in our Cherokee cultural revitalization, because the New Testament is the most read and sought after publication in the world, and now more Cherokee Nation citizens can share it in our own tribal language.”

This is one of many projects completed by the tribe’s language department, which consists of 13 Cherokee speakers. The department has worked with Microsoft, Apple and Google on translation projects in the past.

“The New Testament is one of the most popular and most enduring pieces of published text in syllabary,” said Roy Boney, manager of the Cherokee Language Program. “While others have published versions of the 1860 American Bible Society translation, the Cherokee Language Program believed it was important for our translators to review and revise the Bible so it read as accurately as possible in Cherokee, compared to the English version.”

Copies of the Cherokee Nation-published New Testament red letter edition will be available for purchase in the tribe’s gift shops in the coming weeks. Check to purchase a copy soon.

Plans for an official Cherokee Nation published Old Testament are also in the works. The complete Old Testament has never been fully translated into Cherokee.

The Language Program also plans to produce an audio recording of the New Testament in Cherokee soon.

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