Endangered Language Fund

Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages

Washington, DC, June 1-12, 2015


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Breath of Life History

The National Breath of Life Institute for Indigenous Languages in Washington, D.C. is based on the model developed for California languages in the early 1990’s by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS) in partnership with the University of California at Berkeley. The California workshop is held biennially for one week at the University of California at Berkeley.

The design of the California workshop and the national institute is approximately the same:  the primary focus  is to help indigenous people find and learn how to utilize the rich archival linguistic field notes and recordings that are available on their languages.  Lectures and workshops are held on linguistics, language teaching and learning, and language revitalization, and at least half of every day is spent in the archives. Participants are also able to research historical, genealogical and photograph collections, as well as artifact collections in the museums.  Each language group has one or more linguistic mentors assisting them in their work.
Dr. Lisa Conathan was one of the linguists at the California workshop when she was a graduate student at Berkeley.  She and Dr. Leanne Hinton (who organizes the California Breath of Life) co-founded the National Breath of Life Institute in 2011, with funding from the Documenting Endangered Languages Program of the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities, and the sponsorship of the Endangered Language Fund.  The National Institute is two weeks long; participants research at the Library of Congress, the National Anthropological Archives, the National Museum of the American Indian Collections, and the National Museum of Natural History Collections.  At the 2011 institute, there were 31 native researchers representing 20 different languages from all over North America, assisted by 20 linguists. The group stayed together in the dormitories at George Washington University. To watch some footage taken during the 2011 Breath of Life please click here.

The “Breath of Life – Silent No More” concept and name has also spread to Oklahoma; since 2010, there has been a biennial workshop at the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma.

The Application for the 2015 Breath of Life is available at http://nationalbreathoflife.org/apply/.

1 The name and Institute design is based on the Breath of Life Language Workshop for California Indians, a biennial event designed and organized by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival and hosted at the University of California at Berkeley.