Endangered Language Fund

Frequently Asked Questions

Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages

General Information





What are the dates of the Institute?

June 13-24, 2011.

Must I attend the entire two-week Institute or can I come for just one week?

You must attend the entire time. Classes, research and homework will fill the two weeks of the Institute. During the weekend (June 18th-19th) you will have some free time to explore Washington, DC or to work with your team on your project.

What are mentors?

Mentors are experts in Linguistics who help the participants research their language, help with daily homework assignments, and assist with the final project.

What are participants?

Participants are Native American language learners who will learn the basics of Linguistics and how to use archival sources for language learning and revitalization.

Must participants be enrolled members of a Federally Recognized Tribe?

No. We favor applications from those who are actively involved in their Native communities but we do not require that participants be enrolled members.

Must participants and mentors be US citizens?


How many people from a given community can come?

This will depend partly on how many applications we get all together. But probably we would limit the number of participants to about 4 from any given community.

Can we bring our families?

Sadly, no; we cannot accommodate families.

Does each member of our group need to apply individually?

Yes. Each member of a language team should submit an application by March 1.

How much free time will we have?

You will have the weekend of June 18-19 free to explore the city on your own. But for M-F for two weeks, the days have a full schedule, and there will be homework in the evenings.

What will we be doing?

You will be attending morning lectures and workshops on linguistics, language documentation, archiving, and language revitalization, and spending the afternoons doing research in the archives (The Smithsonian's National Anthropological Archives and the American Folklife Center in the Library of Congress.) We will also be assigning homework exercises for you and your mentors to work on together in the evening. Every group will also focus on a particular project of your own choice during the second week to present on the last day.

Is Breath of Life right for me?

There are many programs for Native American language revitalization, and while all have in common that they challenge the dominant assumptions that Native languages cannot be revitalized or don't have contemporary value, these programs vary significantly in their goals, approaches, and target language communities. Many language programs involve learning from living speakers of the target language and/or documenting their speech for future generations, while others focus on sharing methods of language revitalization. The Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages is specifically geared toward the task of finding, interpreting, and newly using the information from archival sources, such as written materials and audio recordings. For this reason, the Institute will be of particular interest for members of communities whose languages are not currently spoken, though communities with speakers can also benefit by discovering new vocabulary, uncovering old speech styles, and otherwise finding and learning language information held in archival form.

Participants will benefit most when there is a significant quantity of archival material in the collections of the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress, or the National Anthropological Archives. These two archives house thousands of resources (field notebooks, other manuscripts, audio recordings, photographs) related to Native American Language and culture. Collections at the National Anthropological Archives are cataloged in SIRIS. Audio recordings at the American Folklife Center are listed in a document that is available upon request. If you are unsure whether these archives contain collections relevant for your language, contact Breath of Life staff to ask.

Beyond a general commitment to language learning from archival sources, one crucial detail is that participants must be willing and able to commit to attending and actively participating in the entire Institute. Aside from truly unforeseen circumstances such as illness, it will not be possible to arrive late, leave early, or to skip the required workshops and events.

How will applications be judged?

Applications will be judged based on the following criteria:

  • Commitment to language learning and revitalization using archival sources.
  • Commitment to sharing results of the workshop with other language learners through community programs or by creating projects that are widely accessible.
  • Achieving a balance of language communities.
  • Availability of archival resources at the American Folklife Center and the National Anthropological Archives.

When will we hear whether our application has been accepted?

We expect to notify applicants by March 14, 2011.

What does it cost to attend the Institute?

  • The cost for participants is $500. This fee includes lodging in a shared dorm room, some meals, and partial transportation subsidy.
  • Scholarships are available. If you cannot afford the fee, apply anyway!
  • The fee is waived for mentors.
  • The bulk of the funding for this Institute is from the Documenting Endangered Languages Program of the National Science Foundation.

Are scholarships available if I can't afford the $500 fee?


Does each member of the group need to pay the $500 fee?

Yes, the fee is per individual.

When is the registration fee due?

The fee is due upon registration, by March 31, 2011.

What other expenses might we expect to have?

You will be paying for your own suppers, and for all meals over the weekend. While we will be covering some of the local transportation costs, you will probably have incidental transportation costs of your own. Bring money for office supplies and other incidental expenses. Any copying of materials you would like to have will need to be arranged with the archives themselves, and there will be charges for that.

How will we get around?

The Metro or bus will bring you from the dorms at GWU to National Mall, where the National Museum of the American Indian and the Library of Congress are located. Shuttles from the Mall to the National Anthropological Archives will be provided. Before you come, we will provide you directions about transportation, including how to get to the GWU dorms from the airport.

Are you paying for our transportation?

We have the funds to partially subsidize transportation costs. We will be in touch about how to make your transportation arrangements.

Where will we stay?

All participants, mentors and staff who are from out of town will stay in shared rooms a dormitory at George Washington University (GWU). A single room may be available for an additional fee.

More questions?

Email breathoflife2011@gmail.com