Miami-Smithsonian agreement gives language revitalization a stronger future
Opening day of the Breath of Life workshop with Daryl Baldwin and Karen Baldwin, two of the organizers of the workshop (photo by Laura Sharp, #BreathofLife2015).
Language revitalization has a stronger future through an agreement between Miami University's Myaamia Center and the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History.
The goal is to revitalize endangered languages through the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages workshop, which began June 1 and runs through Friday, June 12, in Washington, D.C. The institute is made possible by a $167,650 grant the Myaamia Center received from the National Science Foundation's Documenting Endangered Languages program with contributions from the National Endowment for the Humanities awarded to Miami University.
The Myaamia Center, directed by Daryl Baldwin, has partnered with the Smithsonian Institution’s Recovering Voices Program, a co-host of the Breath of Life institute, to provide important organizational and curatorial support for the program as well as additional funding. Additional co-hosting institutions are the National Museum of the American Indian and the Library of Congress.
The collaboration between the Myaamia Center and Recovering Voices, directed by Gabriela Pérez Báez, has "been so fruitful that the directors have committed to continuing their collaboration long term,” Baldwin said. To this end, a memorandum of understanding was signed between Miami University and the National Museum of Natural History as this year’s institute opened.
Jim Oris, Miami's associate provost for research and scholarship, stands with Chief Douglas Lankford of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma and Kirk Johnson, director of the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History (photo by Karen Baldwin).
Baldwin said the agreement "is intended to demonstrate commitment for future programs between the Myaamia Center, the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival, who founded the Breath of Life program, and Recovering Voices."
Breath of Life is unique in providing archival access for native language activists and scholars. Over the course of these two weeks, approximately 40 native community members from across the country have gathered to analyze documentation on 14 languages and cultures. They will work in the National Anthropological Archives, the collections of the National Museum of Natural History and the National Museum of the American Indian, as well as in the Library of Congress.