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The Book of Daniel comes to Central Australia: “This is Daniel’s story in Pitjantjatjara”

NEWS  |  Kaley Payne

Thursday 7 April 2016

A celebration rang out across Pukatja (Ernabella) in the Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunyjatjara (APY) Lands as the people heralded the coming of the Book of Daniel in their own language for the first time.

“This book of Daniel we completed as a team and we are so grateful. Thank you Lord! Thank you, Jesus!” said Nyunmiti Burton, one of the Pitjantjatjara translators who helped launch the new book during Easter celebrations in Pukatja, about 150km south of Uluru.

The Pitjantjatjara people, whose traditional lands are close to the centre of Australia and include Uluru (Ayers Rock) and Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), have been involved in a painstaking translation process for almost thirty years, on their way to what could be the first complete Bible in a traditional Aboriginal language.

Nyunmiti Burton launches the Book of Daniel in Pitjantjatjara.

Nyunmiti Burton launches the Book of Daniel in Pitjantjatjara.

In 2002 the Pitjantjatjara New Testament – Tjukurpa Palya, or ‘The Good Message’ – was dedicated at Easter time. It also included about 15 per cent of the Old Testament. In 2010, a new group of Pitjantjatjara translators approached Bible Society’s Paul Eckert and said they wanted the rest of the Bible in their language.

The Book of Daniel is the first-fruits of the most recent translation project and took almost five years to complete.

“We were really blessed by God revealing to us good ways of translating when we faced difficult passages and the translation formed well from what he showed us,” Nyunmiti told the crowd who gathered to see the book’s dedication.

“When I remember those times, I rejoice at the wonderful things God taught us.”

Much of the translation work was done by a group of Pitjantjatjara translators in the Amata community, also in the APY Lands of South Australia, just south of the Northern Territory border. The Pitjantjatjara translators are all volunteers. Many are children and grandchildren of other Pitjantjatjara Bible translators who worked on the New Testament project.

The work was assisted by Bible Society translation consultant Paul Eckert, who is fluent in Pitjantjatjara and lived in Pukatja for many years working on the New Testament project in the 1970s and 80s.

Reading the new book.

Reading the new book.

The Pitjantjatjara translation team is working on various other Old Testament books as part of the translation process. Nyunmiti is working on the Book of Joel. Others are working in groups on Leviticus and Job.

“We want people to be aware that there is opportunity for other new people to start working on translation,” Nyunmiti said to her community.

“I launch this book for you all to see, now you can see this story of Daniel and pick up a copy. It will be a spiritual experience as you read it, as you see what God is saying, as the Holy Spirit informs your inner being, your spirit,” said Nyunmiti.

“If you read it the Holy Spirit will teach you, and you will learn from him today about tomorrow.

“This is Daniel’s Story in Pitjantjatjara.”

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