A new Baha’i prayer book includes several prayers in Hul'q'umi'num', a Coast Salish language spoken in several dialects along the West Coast.
The prayer book began as an initiative to compile a number of Baha’i prayers to commemorate the bicentenary of the birth of Baha’u’llah. The first edition was published in the Cowichan reserve, but it did not yet include the translated prayers.
The cover of the first “Wings of Grace” prayer book has the image of a beaded necklace with an eagle on it. It includes prayers on courage, generosity, honour, humility, respect, thankfulness, and trust.
“It is very common amongst many of the Indigenous peoples across Canada to think of their major teachings in terms of seven virtues as seven is considered to be one of the sacred numbers often used,” said Deloria Bighorn, who helped to create the prayer book.
“It was fairly easy to identify five or six of those virtues that would be in common with many of the tribes, and we added trustworthiness or trust as one of the virtues as it occupies such an important place in the teachings of Baha’u’llah,” she added.
The new edition of the prayer book “Wings of Grace” also includes Baha’i prayers in Hul’q’umi’num’, a language that the First People’s Cultural Council has called “critically endangered.”
There are efforts underway to revitalize the language, including teaching it in more than 20 schools across Vancouver Island.
To help readers of the prayers to pronounce the Hul’q’umi’num’ words, videos were created of a number of elders reciting the prayers. The prayer book includes QR codes that link to YouTube videos of each prayer being recited.
The prayers were originally translated by a team of the family of Robert George, a Cowichan Baha’i who comes from a family of Hul’q’umi’num’ speakers.
The book cover is designed to reflect the culture of Coast Salish people. It includes a basket, a bailer that is used to remove water from a canoe, cedar, and an eagle feather.
“Everything about it is very much thought out, specifically for this population,” commented Bighorn. “I know that Native people see the prayer book and think “oh, this is for me”, I can give this to my friend, to my relative.”