“Anishinaabemowin bibles can be read as archives of colonial relations between and amongst missionaries, Christians, colonial agents, and Indigenous peoples. ”
My dissertation examines how nineteenth-century bible translation into North American Indigenous languages shaped relations between and among Indigenous peoples, missionaries, and colonizers. The project focuses on Anishinaabemowin (Ojibwe) bibles translated in Canada between the 1828 and 1831 by Peter Jones (Kakhewaquonaby), and relies on archival research in the collections and papers of relevant bible publishing houses, missionary societies, and individual missionary translators. The analysis of these bibles focuses on how the materiality of print mediated bible translation; how bible translation was facilitated by local and transatlantic colonial, missionary, and trade infrastructures and networks; how bible translation both relied on Anishinaabe expertise and labour and how editorial practices sometimes undermined Indigenous authority; how bible translations reflect specific Indigenous contexts and how biblical discourses were used to critique colonization; and how imperial orientations of bible translation underlay uses of bibles to spread Christianity across the British Empire while Anishinaabe translators used connections between bible publishing and the Crown to advocate for Indigenous self-governance. Throughout my dissertation, I resist singular narratives of what Indigenous-language bibles meant in colonial contexts, asking both how bibles were conceived of and used by missionaries as Christianizing and civilizing tools and how these same books hold vibrant stories of Anishinaabe culture, language, creativity, relations, and resistance to colonial dispossession. By critically analyzing the colonial church histories reified in Anishinaabemowin bibles in ways that also amplify Indigenous voices and experiences, I participate in critically examining the church’s role in colonial processes of dispossession—of lands, cultures, languages, and lifeways—and forging paths toward reconciling relationships between Indigenous nations, the church, and the state.