History and Organization

The 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 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.

The first National BoL workshop was held 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. This was the first workshop with a national scope. With four iterations between 2011 and 2017, the National BoL has provided training in archives-based linguistic research to 141 tribal representatives from 65 language communities who are actively working to revitalize their highly endangered or silent languages.

The experience of these workshops have provided important insights regarding the development of community-curated archival databases for revitalization. First, Community Archivists reach a point of readiness for different phases of the philology work at different times and paces. Second, the advanced phase of data processing involved in Native American philology work is iterative, requiring adjustments to work methods and research principles at the level of data processing and organization. This capacity building effort also takes time, resources, and leadership. In response, we designed additional advanced training modules for community researchers, archivists, linguists, and language teachers to develop the necessary skills to carry out the long-term process of archive-based research for revitalization. These modules are built into the National Breath of Life Model for Native American Philology. The first of these workshops took place in Summer 2019 at the Myaamia Center at Miami University in Oxford, OH, and the second in Summer 2021 at the University of Oregon in Eugene, OR. In addition, The National BoL is currently developing self-directed training to deliver module 1 and 2 content on demand to Community Archivists.

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.
  • Gehr, Susan. 2013. Breath of life: Revitalizing California's Native languages through archives. Master's thesis, University of California, San Jose State. San Jose: Paper 4386.
  • Linn, Mary S. 2014. Living archives: A collaborative-based endangered language archive model. Language Documentation and Description 12. 53-67.


The National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages (National BoL) has been the result of several collaborations. Each partner plays an important role in the development of the institute and the implementation of the current workshops as described below.

Myaamia Center

The Myaamia Center at Miami University currently serves as the institutional home for National BoL. The center is a research and educational development entity located on Miami University’s campus in Oxford, Ohio and directed by the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. The founding organizers of the first National BoL in 2011 approached the Myaamia Center in 2013 seeking to provide an organizational home and long-term stability for the program. Since 2014 the center’s main function in National BoL is to manage funds, provide technical development and offer organizational support and ongoing development.

Recovering Voices

The Recovering Voices Program of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History played a critical role in logistical planning and facilitating access to archival materials for the four module one National BoL workshops held in Washington, D.C. from 2011 to 2017.

The Language Revitalization Lab

Directed by National BoL co-director Pérez Báez, the Linguistics Department Language Revitalization Lab at the University of Oregon is developing an academic training hub to support the work of Community Research teams both through additional degree-based training and through data processing support.

Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI)

The Northwest Indian Language Institute (NILI) at the University of Oregon organized and hosted a National BoL Module 2 workshop in the city of Eugene in Summer 2021.