Canadian Baha'is offer sacred words as gift to Native peoples

15 September 2000

HAY RIVER, Canada — On September 9 the Baha'is of Hay River hosted a feast to mark the release of a compact disk with selections of Baha'i sacred writings, set to music and translated into six languages spoken by the Dene peoples in Canada's Northwest Territories.

The release of the CD was the latest phase of a project launched four years ago by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada to enable Native Canadians to listen to the Baha'i scriptures in their own languages. A CD in the languages of the Canadian Inuit was produced two years ago.

The feast was held at K'atl'odeeche, the Hay River Dene Band Reserve, and opened with a drum prayer offered by the K'atl'odeeche drummers and a traditional feeding of the fire ceremony. Ms. Susan Lyons, a member of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Baha'is of Canada, present a copy of the CD on behalf of the Baha'is of Canada to Chief Pat Martel of the Hay River Dene Band.

Chief Martel received the gift and addressed the gathering at length, and with obvious emotion, in his own language. He spoke from the heart about the universal power of prayer, regardless of what source it comes from.

"When people are in pain you can help them by being kind," he said. "You can pray for people. It doesn't matter who says the prayer."

One of the selections on the CD was a Baha'i prayer for the departed. As it softly played in the background, one of the readers and translators who worked on the CD recited the names of friends who had passed from the community over the years.

The Hay River Baha'is then served a meal of moose and caribou stew, bannock, whitefish, salads and desserts. During the meal other guests received a copy of the CD. Then tables and chairs were folded and put away for a drum dance by the K'atl'odeeche drummers. About 100 people from the reserve came to the feast over the course of the evening.

"It was a spiritually charged evening with many questions asked and answered and hearts touched," a participant reported. "Listening to prayers in any language stirs one's soul, but when we hear them in our own language it increases our knowledge and comprehension of God."