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The Mohawk language

Kanien’kéha or Mohawk is an Iroquoian language, spoken by the Kanien’kehaka or Mohawk nation who live partly in New York State, and mainly in Quebec and Ontario in Canada.


John Norton was born about 1760 to a Scottish mother and a Cherokee father. Norton joined the British Army, serving in Ireland before being assigned to Lower Canada (now called Quebec) after the American Revolutionary War.

Whilst in Canada Norton served as an interpreter for the British Indian department. He became interested in the Six Nations of Grand River, and learnt the Mohawk language and culture, and was adopted into the tribe as a chief under the name Teyoninhokarawen. He was adopted by Thayendanegea also known as Joseph Brant, who had previously translated the Book of Common Prayer and the Gospel of Mark into Mohawk in 1787, which was printed a diglot by the Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge (SPCK).

Mohawk Gospel of John 1804

In the spring of 1804, Teyoninhokarawen (John Norton), went to England on a diplomatic trip to negotiate a treaty for land n the Grand River valley near Brantford, Ontario on behalf of the Iroquois. Whilst in England he met members of the British and Foreign Bible Society, and this contact led to him being commissioned to translate a Gospel into Mohawk. He translated the Gospel According to Saint of John into Mohawk, and called it Nene Karighwiyoston Tsinihorighhoten Ne Saint John

It was produced as a diglot (bilingual edition), with the Mohawk on the left and the Gospel of John from the King James Version on the right. Two thousand copies were printed in London for BFBS by Phillips and Fardon. It was meant for distrubution to Indians displaced by the American Revolution who were given lands in Canada. The Gospel was distributed in Upper Canada (Ontario) beginning in 1806.

This translation is important because it was the British and Foreign Bible Society’s first Bible translation, first publication, and first distribution in a foreign land when it was sent to Canada. A second edition was printed in 1818 by the American Bible Society.

Digital Edition

This 1804 Gospel was digitised from an original copy in the Bible Society archives with the help of MissionAssist, for the Canadian Bible Society, because of its historical interest and importance.

British & Foreign Bible Society


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Other Versions by British & Foreign Bible Society

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