The most translated website in the world — jw.org, the official website of Jehovah’s Witnesses — includes content in more than 1,030 languages, including many Indigenous languages considered at risk of dying out.
Among them in Arizona is Navajo, spoken by an estimated 170,000. Additional Indigenous languages can be found in Blackfoot, Cherokee, Choctaw, Hopi and Central Alaskan Yupik.
Curtis and Mable Yellowhorse, who live on the reservation, were raised during a time when everyone spoke Navajo in the home. Mable states: “The older people, maybe that’s all they know is the (Navajo) language. They don’t know English so that’s what they speak.” Reflecting on changing times and the influence of technology, Mable continues: “It’s the younger generation; they don’t speak the language. They speak English mostly.”
For Curtis and Mable, the Navajo publications on jw.org have helped them to embrace their culture while also deepening their faith. Mable adds: “Some people think that (the Bible is) just for the white people or other people; it’s not for Navajo, but we know that’s not true. So, getting to know Jehovah in the Navajo way — it’s got a lot of feeling. It touches your heart a lot.”
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Curtis, a volunteer who assisted with the Navajo translation work, states, “When you read it in English, it doesn’t really go that far into your heart, but when you’re reading Navajo, it really goes (deep) and touches your heart.” Mable, who was in her late 60s when she first learned to read and write Navajo with the help of Jehovah’s Witnesses, states: “I really educated myself with the Navajo language. … Before I learned Navajo, I would look at the Navajo Bible, and I would think, ‘What is all this gibberish?’ But now that I learned how to read it, it’s exciting!”
“Translating Indigenous languages is a labor of love for all those involved and for our organization,” said Robert Hendriks, the U.S. Spokesman for Jehovah’s Witnesses. “The work is challenging and time-consuming. But our goal isn’t to make a profit, it’s to provide the Bible’s comforting message clearly and accurately to as many people as possible.”
Sharing the Bible’s message of hope and comfort in the local Navajo community has been a powerful experience for the Yellowhorses.
Curtis concludes: “I feel that Jehovah is really interested in the Navajo people or people with languages that (are) not used worldwide. So, he’s taking a special interest in us. And I’m really grateful, the Navajo People are grateful, the (ones) that we talked to and show them our literature and our videos … they appreciated that this group of people (Jehovah’s Witnesses) are interested in us. They’re interested in me … in my language. So, they have a great appreciation for it, and we thank Jehovah for all this.”
To learn more, visit jw.org.