Canadian Native languages, the last to adopt the Devanagari script

For decades missionaries have held a love-hate relationship with the native knowledge system of the Indian sub continent. An 19th century example of this is found in the creation of the new alphabets for the languages of the Canadian Natives. The languages used by Canadian natives phonetically resemble the Indian languages. In 1927 James Evans was assigned to do missionary work in Ontario. He attempted to teach the Ojibwe Indians the gospel in their tongue.



He found it a challenge to use the European alphabets to produce the sounds of the Ojibwe language. It occurred to him that Devanagari represents Ojibwe sounds. Ojibwe language sounds are easily constructed by appending a vowel sound to a constant sound just as in Indian languages. He proceeded to create a new script, deriving directly from the Devanagari alphabet and innovating it with ideas from short hand writing. The Ojibwe tribe quickly mastered it. In 1940 he was transferred to bring to the Swampy Cree Indians who also quickly adopted the new script for their language.

Devanagari source of initial and independent Cree consonants
Devanagari full
half forms
Cree
Syllables
paप्‍pa/ba
ṭaट‍ta/da
jaज्‍cha/ja
gaग्‍ko/go
maम्‍ma
naन्‍ne
saस्‍sa*
yaय्‍yo
Incidental consonants
laल्‍-l
raर्‍-r
va/waव्‍-w
-h-h

Before his death in 1846 he attempted to secure a printing process using the new writing system. The colonial and European authorities refused to export printing press technology. They held strong to their opinion that native literacy had to be discouraged to civilize the natives. Evans with difficulty assembled a printing press. Ironically, a few years after his death the literacy rate of the native Canadian population surpassed that of the English and French speaking population. The British and Foreign Bible society printed the first Bible in the Cree language script in 1861. The script for most of the native Canadians is derived from the Swampy Cree script.