The Pope’s words will be translated into forbidden languages ​​in boarding schools

Now that Pope Francis has arrived in Canada and is expected to apologize for Catholic-run residential schools, a team of translators is dedicated to making sure no words are lost for those receiving the apology.

Henry Pitawanakwat, who hails from the Three Fires Confederation of Manitoulin Island in Ontario, is on that team and will translate the Pope’s words into the Ojibwa language.

From the late 1800s until 1996, Canada removed indigenous children from their homes and forced them into institutions run by church personnel where they were prohibited from speaking their language.

Pitawanakwat’s mother was a residential school survivor, which he says affected him too. And she says that he suffered abuse and trauma from members of the Jesuits when he was young.

Still, he says it’s important to him not to let his own feelings get in the way as he translates the pope’s words into a language once punished for children.

“I have to put those feelings aside because I am a professional translator and I will do my due diligence to do a proper translation regardless of what is being talked about,” Pitawanakwat said in an interview on Saturday, a day before the pope began his mission in Canada. visit in Edmonton.

With experience as an archaeologist at the Wikwemikong Unceded Territory in Ontario and a curator at the Canadian Museum of History in Gatineau, Que., Pitawanakwat is a member of the Government of Canada Translation Office and has translated federal election debates in 2019 and 2021. and also recently for a series of APTN.

Francis, who is from Argentina, speaks Spanish, so Pitawanakwat says another interpreter will translate what the pope says into English before he and other interpreters translate those words into a dozen indigenous languages.

Web links for each language will be available for people to listen to the translations in real time.

“Language has always been my passion. It has always interested me,” Pitawanakwat said. “When I was a young student at school I realized that we had a different concept and a different perspective on the language.”

#Translators to deliver words from @Pontifex in languages ​​banned in #ResidentialSchools. #PapalVisit #IndigenousLanguages

Translating a religious event will have challenges, he said. Many words in the Bible do not have corresponding words in Ojibwa. But he says the general context is the same: prayers in both cultures are for the same reason: to forgive and to let go.

Although Pitawanakwat remains impartial in the translation process, he hopes to hear more than an apology from Francis. He wants a commitment to support the indigenous language and culture.

Preserving indigenous languages ​​is important, he said, not only to remember the past but also to save the future. Languages, she said, contain knowledge for solutions to current problems like climate change and pollution.

“I would like to see some funding for the language. Help us create immersion schools where we can get our own language back,” Pitawanakwat said. “Because it was directly from boarding school that we lost our language and our culture.

“An apology to him, it’s over. For us, the trauma and pain continues for life.”

This report from The Canadian Press was first published on July 24, 2022.

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