All Saints of North America Orthodox Church (Hamilton, ON, Canada)

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May - June 2015

THE ALASKAN ORTHODOX TEXTS PROJECT
CELEBRATES ITS 10TH ANNIVERSARY

"I shall not die but live and declare the works of the Lord" (Psalm 117:17 - Septuagint numbering)

It is with great joy that the parish of All Saints of North America Orthodox Church in Hamilton, ON, Canada, announces the 10th anniversary of its Alaskan Orthodox texts project: http://www.asna.ca/alaska

This project is the world's largest online library of Orthodox Church materials chronicling the Orthodox missions to the linguistically diverse nations of Alaska.

Fr. Geoffrey Korz, rector of the parish, commented, "Glory to God, on May 1, 2015, we plan to celebrate the 10th anniversary of our parish's efforts to research and re-transcribe historic Orthodox Christian texts in the Native languages of Alaska. These are the written relics of St Innocent Veniaminov, St Jacob Netsvetov and many others."

The idea for this project came about after reading the Akathists of St. Innocent Veniaminov and St. Jacob Netsvetov (the first Aleut priest). Fr. Geoffrey continued, "The translation work of these two saints is well-known and parallels the work of Sts. Cyrill and Methodios, but where were the actual translated materials? They were not on-line at the time (2005), and very few libraries held copies of these Alaskan-language texts."

Photocopies of the first texts in the Aleut (Unangan) language were procured in April 2005, and typing/re-typesetting began on May 1, 2005, with the blessing of the Archdiocese of Canada (OCA) and the Diocese of Alaska (OCA). Fittingly, the first text to be completed was St. Innocent's "Indication of the Pathway into the Kingdom of Heaven" - the first full-length book written in the Aleut (Unangan) language in 1833 and published in 1840.

Since then, the parish has worked with "a great cloud of witnesses" of the Alaskan Orthodox literary tradition without whose help the project would not have been possible. Deepest gratitude is due to Archpriest Paul Merculief (memory eternal), Reader Richard/John Dauenhauer (memory eternal), Archpriest Martin Nicolai, Archpriest Michael Oleksa, and Reader Jeff/Trofim Leer.

Over the course of the last 10 years, the Alaskan Orthodox texts project has completed 75 electronic publications for download in the Aleut (Unangan), Alutiiq, Tlingit, Yup'ik, Russian, and English languages, and contributed to the electronic development of the Alaskan Cyrillic alphabet.

The parish's Web developer explained, "The Alaskan Cyrillic alphabet contains various additional letters which were invented by St. Innocent. The question was: How to typeset these? By working together with the Unicode consortium, we established a new letter "Aleut Ka" (Unicode: U+051E, U+051F) for use with computer systems, and re-used existing Yakut-Sakha (North Asian) letters to complete the collection of required Alaskan letters. Together with the Ponomar Project, it was then possible to develop a font that supports typesetting Alaskan Cyrillic texts in Unicode."

There are currently 8 known Alaskan-language manuscripts left to complete, including the Tlingit-language Gospel of St. Matthew (1850s), Yup'ik-language "Teachings from the Old and New Testaments" (1887), and a trilingual (Aleut/Russian/English) Church magazine from Unalaska (1904), among others. "The remaining texts are a bit difficult to decipher due to fading of the manuscripts and complex handwriting styles, but with the Lord's help and help from our Alaskan fathers and brethren in faith, we will do what we can to hand these over faithfully to future generations", Fr. Geoffrey offered.

Currently, the parish Web team and Archpriest Martin Nicolai are working together to revise the historic Yup'ik-language collection of texts to conform to a standardized Yup'ik Cyrillic orthography.

Fr. Geoffrey concluded, "Please visit the Alaskan Orthodox texts website but above all please pray for us and this work, that this sacred inheritance 'does not die, but live, and declare the works of the Lord.'"

Websites to visit:

• Alaskan Orthodox texts: http://www.asna.ca/alaska
• Ponomar project: http://www.ponomar.net
• Unicode consortium: http://www.unicode.org

- FrG+

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