Institute History

National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages (National BoL) was created based on the model of the Breath of Life Language Restoration Workshop for California Indians. This workshop was first offered in 1996 by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS) in partnership with the University of California at Berkeley. The most recent workshop was held in June 2018.

The design and long-term success of the California workshop influenced the development of additional programs. The “Breath of Life – Silent No More” concept and name also spread to other venues. In 2003 and 2005, the University of Washington held workshops focusing on languages of the states of Oregon and Washington. In 2012 and 2014 the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma held workshops as well. In 2015, the first workshop outside of the United States was held at the University of British Columbia, Canada.

A National BoL workshop with national scope was developed in Washington, DC for access to the extensive archival collections at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Anthropological Archives (NAA) of the National Museum of Natural History, in the National Museum of the American Indian (NMAI), and in the Library of Congress. With four iterations between 2011 and 2017, the Institute has provided training in archives-based linguistic research to 117 tribal representatives from 55 language communities who are actively working to revitalize their highly endangered or silent languages. The longevity of National BoL has been the result of several collaborations including partners such as the Recovering Voices initiative at the Smithsonian Institution, the Myaamia Center at Miami University, the Endangered Language Fund, and more recently the Northwest Indian Language Institute at the University of Oregon.

For a more detailed history of National BoL see:
Baldwin, D., L. Hinton & G. Pérez Báez. 2018. The Breath of Life Workshops and Institutes. In L. Hinton, L. Huss and G. Roche (eds.) The Routledge Handbook of Language Revitalization. New York: Taylor & Francis Group.

Fitzgerald, Colleen and Mary S. Linn. 2013. Training communities, training graduate students: The 2012 Oklahoma Breath of Life Workshop. Language Documentation and Conservation 7, 185-206.