TYPE: Book
COMPONENTS: On the 4th page is the embossed seal of the James B. Ford Library in the bottom right corner.
CONDITION: Good condition
NOTES: Very rare.
ITEM ID: 4337

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Navajo Bible

Year: 1917
Decade: 1910s
Century: 20th (1901-2000)

Navajo Bible with translations from eleven Old and New Testament Books

Bible from collection in James B. Ford Library of the Museum of the American Indian in NYC. In 1916 George Gustave Heye, an avid collector of Native American artifacts founded the Museum of the American Indian in New York City, which is now part of the Smithsonian Museum and contains over a million Native American artifacts. The James B. Ford Library opened at the museum in 1928. With portions or all of 11 books: portions of Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Jonah, Isaiah, Mark, Luke, John, Romans, First Corinthians and Revelation. Leonard P. Brink, a Christian reformed missionary working at Rehoboth New Mexico, translated the first portions of Bible into Navajo. His translations of Genesis and Mark later helped in the publishing of God Bizad by a collaborative effort between Presbyterian missionaries, John Butler, Alexander Black, F.G. Mitchell, and the American Bible Society of New York in 1917. This is the item above.

Interest in the Navajo language, and with it a compelling motivation to develop grammars, dictionaries, and the Holy Bible, had to await Catholic and Protestant missionaries, and the establishment of missions on the Navajo Indian Reservation in the closing years of the 19th century, especially the Franciscan mission at Saint Michaels, Arizona.

The Franciscans entered the Navajo Indian Reservation in 1898 and in 1910, they published their monumental work on traditional Navajo culture of the period, entitled “An Ethnological Dictionary of the Navajo Language”, and in 1912, “Vocabulary of the Navajo Lanaguage”. The latter was a two volume Navajo-English, English-Navajo dictionary.

Leonard P. Brink, a Christian Reformed missionary working at Rehoboth, New Mexico, translated the first portions of the Bible into the Navajo language. His translations of Genesis and Mark were published by the American Bible Society in 1910. Presbyterian missionaries John Butler, Alexander Black and F.G. Mitchell translated short portions, and in 1917 after collaborative work, the American Bible Society published in one volume portions from Genesis, Exodus, Psalms, Isaiah, Jonah, Mark, Luke, John, Romans, First Corinthians, and Revelation, as God Bîzad (God’s Word). In 1937, Acts was added, and it was republished as God Bizaad (God’s Word).

Franciscan Berard Haile, who spent most of his long career in Navajo Country, was a serious student and a prolific writer on the language, ceremonialism, and culture, in general, of the Navajo Tribe, and he is known, not only for his contributions to the earlier linguistic studies, but also for his “Manual of Navajo Grammer” (1929), his four volume series “Learning Navajo” (1942-1949), and his “Stem Vocabulary of the Navajo Language” (1950).

Starting in 1937, Robert W. Young and William Morgan (Sr.) began a culmination of a collaborative study of the Navajo language, at Fort Wingate, New Mexico, where they became involved in the early effort at bilingual education launched by Willard W. Beatty, then Director of Indian Education in the Bureau of Indian Affairs. Young and Morgan developed bilingual texts for use in the Navajo Indian Reservation schools, and began the assembly of a bilingual dictionary for use by non-Navajos involved in reservation programs, and by Navajos learning English.

A few of the original Navajo characters of the alphabet of the early missionaries were revised to form an official Navajo alphabet created or updated by Robert W. Young and William Morgan (Sr.).

By the time World War II broke out, a good beginning had been made in the compilation of the bilingual dictionary by Robert W. Young and William Morgan (Sr.), including a sketch of Navajo grammar and, for the first time, a detailed guide to the inflection of Navajo verbs. Previous vocabularies had listed verbs, usually in the form of the first person singular, for one or more modes, but little or no information was provided regarding the complex inflectional system.