About the Workshop


The Mission of the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages is to help endangered language communities find and utilize their linguistic archival sources from archives located in the D.C. area.

This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant Number 1561167.  Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.

The Myaamia Center at Miami University has been awarded a $182,406 grant from the National Science Foundation for the 2017 “Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages”. The funding is part of the Documenting Endangered Languages program, a joint effort between the National Science Foundation and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Daryl Baldwin, director of the Myaamia Center at Miami University, Gabriela Perez-Baez, Curator of Linguistics, Director of Recovering Voices, and Leanne Hinton, professor emerita of linguistics at the University of California at Berkeley, are the 2017 co-principal investigators for the grant. This will be the fourth National Breath of Life, the first three occurred in 2011, 2013, and 2015, with support from the National Science Foundation.

The Myaamia Center will be working closely with the Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering Voices Program, which is providing important organizational and curatorial support for the program. The Recovering Voices mission aims to make the Smithsonian’s collections more accessible and create opportunities for dialogue about language and knowledge revitalization. In addition to the Breath of Life program, Recovering Voices hosts conferences, workshops and symposia on a variety of topics, in collaboration with their partners within the Smithsonian and around the world.


Visit the FAQ for answers to commonly asked questions!

The National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages is a two-week hands-on workshop that promotes the revitalization of endangered languages. National Breath of Life uniquely provides archival access for native language activists and scholars. During the first two weeks of June 2017, approximately 30 native community members from across the country will gather in the nation’s capital to analyze documentation on their languages and cultures.

While partnering with a professional linguist, these community members from North American indigenous endangered language communities navigate Smithsonian and Library of Congress archives and collections, locate and acquire documents, interpret writing systems, and transform archival materials into practical lessons for language learning. Participants will have training in fundamental linguistics and the use of archival documentation in the various Smithsonian Archives and the Library of Congress.


There are three main topics that will be covered in the workshop.

Topic 1: Finding and Accessing Archival Materials

Community researchers will learn how to find materials on their language from the vast archives in the Smithsonian and Library of Congress.  You will learn about digital archives, online collections, and audio recordings.

Topic 2: Linguistics for the Community

We have selected the most qualified instructors to help Community Researchers learn the basics of linguistics and how to utilize documentation for revitalization.  Community Researchers will learn about sound (phonology), word construction (morphology), and other language related features to help them work with documentation.

Topic 3: Language Renewal

Language Renewal might be defined as how a community works together to make a place for language in the home and community among all generations.  During the BOL Institute, participants will learn from other community leaders that have revitalized their languages from documentation and how this work has forever changed their communities.  This is an opportunity to reflect and share on the trials and tribulations of language revitalization.

Final Projects

On the last day of the workshop, participants will present their final projects to the larger group.  Final projects are derived from the archival materials used by the participant or group and can be as simple as creating a prayer to demonstrating a new spelling system for the language.

Previous Instructors

Breath of Life invites instructors from across the country to work with participants in learning basic linguistics and other skills relative to language revitalization.  Many of the instructors have been involved in revitalization issues for many years and have a wide range of experiences.  Instructors are present for most of the two weeks and we encourage Community Researchers to take this opportunity to learn from and share with these individuals.

At this stage of planning instructors have not been determined, but past programs have had the following individuals serve as instructors for National Breath of Life.

  • Dr. Leanne Hinton, Professor Emerita of Linguistics & Co-Founder of Breath of Life, University of California – Berkeley.
  • Dr. Wesley Leonard, Native American Studies, Southern Oregon University.
  • Dr. Lisa Conathan, Yale University Library.
  • Daryl Baldwin, Myaamia Center, Miami University.
  • Dr. Monica Macaulay, Department of Linguistics, University of Wisconsin – Madison.
  • L. Frank Manriquez, Co-Founder of Breath of Life, University of California – Berkeley.
  • Dr. Patricia Shaw, Department of Linguistics, University of British Columbia.
  • Line Mikkelsen
  • Zalmai Zahir