Harvey Gabriel Satewas, who worked on the Bible translation project for decades. (Photograph by Marcus Bankuti, The Eastern Door)

Topics: September 2023, UCC in Focus | Indigenous

The first complete Mohawk Bible translation will be available this fall

Harvey Gabriel (Satewas) of the Kanesatake community has been working on the project for more than 40 years


The first complete translation of the Bible in Mohawk will be available this September.

At more than 2,000 pages long, it is the culmination of decades of work by Harvey Gabriel (Satewas), who is Mohawk from the community of Kanesatake in southwestern Quebec. Satewas became a fluent Mohawk speaker after teaching himself how to read the language. The finished project includes and builds on the work of Satewas’s great-grandfather Joseph Swan.

“We never had a complete Bible,” Satewas told Broadview in an email. “All we had for over 100 years was the [four Gospels] my great-grandfather translated in 1868.”

The idea to translate the Bible first struck Satewas in 1957 when Rev. John Angus, the minister at Kanesatake United, strode to the church’s pulpit. “When he came in, I was expecting him to start speaking English,” Satewas said in a video produced by The United Church of Canada, explaining how pleasing it was to him when Angus spoke in Mohawk.

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Satewas’s translations of the books of Genesis through Revelation sat on the shelf for many years until he and his wife, Susan Gabriel, wrote a proposal to the United Church of Canada Foundation, which provided a grant from the Dorothy Jenkins Fund to help complete the project.

“What has been really important is to be clear that the Gabriels and the community at Kanesatake are leading how this goes and being sure that any input or suggestions we have are offered in that spirit,” says Sarah Charters, the foundation’s president. “They are the leaders, the keepers of the language.”

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In late May, the foundation’s board approved a further grant to help pay for publishing. A dedication of the new Bible will occur on Sept. 9 in Kanesatake.


Leslie Sinclair is a freelance journalist in Toronto.

This article first appeared in Broadview’s September 2023 issue with the title “First Mohawk Bible Translation Coming This Fall.”

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