2018 Breath Of Life Archival Institute For Indigenous California Languages

June 3-9, 2018

Hosted by the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival and the University of California, Berkeley

Breath of Life logo

I hear their voices •
Their faces I can't see •
They have much to talk about •
and they want to speak with me

— Brian Tripp

Breath of Life is a response to California Indian communities and families who want to revive and strengthen their languages, particularly those for which there are no living first language speakers. By working with the linguistic field notes and other documents and recordings, participants in the workshop can learn how to understand and use these materials for the purposes of language revitalization.

University of California, Berkeley has three major archives which, collectively, house the largest collection of unpublished material on California Indian languages. We give thanks to the foresight of those who shared their knowledge with the linguists, making sure that much was recorded for posterity. Their families can find their language, take it off the dusty shelves of the archives, and turn it back into living speech – giving it the Breath of Life.

The Breath of Life Institute invites California Indians to apply. As community researchers, you will find archival materials on your languages, and learn how to use them for increasing your knowledge of your language and for purposes of language revitalization in your community. You will also be able to network with like-minded people who are trying to save their languages.

Linguistics professors, researchers, and graduate students are invited to apply to be linguistic partners for the community researchers. You will help them find materials in the campus archives, and assist them in developing the linguistic knowledge they need to make best use of them.

Applications are due by March 31.
We can accept up to 60 community researchers, and up to 30 linguistic partners (one for each language group).

What happens at the Breath of Life Institute?

Welcome from the co-organizers!

Leanne Hinton (AICLS & Berkeley Linguistics)

Andrew Garrett (Berkeley Linguistics)

Language Archives

Explore and learn to how to obtain research materials from the language archives to research your language.


Daily workshops on topics including linguistics will be offered to help you learn the basic tools to interpret your language, and utilize with all of your future language endeavors.

Linguistic Partners

Linguistic partners will be assigned to all community researchers to help them navigate and provide you with tools towards your language work.

Special Events

Attend delicious barbeque dinner on Wednesday night, and experience an evening of cultural sharing as well as learn about our rich, diverse California Indian cultures. Also you will have the opportunity to network with your fellow community members and linguists.


Everyone will be given the opportunity to research on their area of interest and or choosing. The last day of the institute, everyone will share their findings and research through a final project.


Join the language revitalization and preservation movement with us! Make lifetime friendships and build a network of community to help you address your needs throughout your journey with language.

Fellowships and Fees

There are several costs associated with the Breath of Life Institute. We encourage participants to secure outside funding to cover these costs. The Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival may be able to offer Fellowships that will cover most of the fees in cases where outside funding is not available.

The conference fee is $350. This fee covers general costs, as well as lunch each day of the conference, and dinner on Wednesday evening. Lodging is available in dorms at UC Berkeley. The price of dorms includes breakfast. Double rooms cost $345 per person and single rooms cost $475 per person for the week. For participants who wish to arrive on Saturday, June 2, an additional night of lodging in the dorm is available for $55 per person for a double room or $80 for a single room. If you are bringing a car and plan to stay on campus, you will need to purchase an overnight parking permit ($15 per night). Please note that once you arrive in Berkeley, a car will not be very useful, as all of our activities and events are within walking distance (and we can provide transportation for disabled participants). You might consider using public transportation if you would like to avoid the parking permit fee.

Apply Here

Which one are you applying as?

History of the Breath of Life Institute

Starting in 1996, Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS) has partnered with the University of California, Berkeley to run the one-week biennial Breath of Life program for California Indians, now called the Breath of Life Institute. The objective is to assist the participants in exploring and utilizing the vast archives of California Indian languages and materials for their own efforts in language reclamation. There are lectures and workshops on linguistics to help participants learn how to understand the written materials and bring them back into spoken language. Each language group is partnered with a linguist who works with them intensively throughout the week, and archivists in the museums, libraries and departments housing the materials are on hand to orient the participants and help them explore the archives. As they become familiar with the available materials, participants start focusing in on a project of their choice, which is presented to the group at the end of the week. Through social events during the week and staying together in the dorms, participants often find inspiration from fellow language activists and develop useful connections.

The “Breath of Life” concept has spread. AICLS members have helped organize the “National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages” in Washington D.C., first partnering with the Endangered Language Fund, and now with the Myaamia Center and the Smithsonian Institution; and Breath of Life workshops have been held at the Sam Noble Museum at the University of Oklahoma, the University of British Columbia, and the University of Washington.

Contact Us

If you have any questions, please feel free to contact Deborah Morillo (AICLS Boardmember) at debbie@aicls.org or Vince Medina (AICLS Boardmember) at Vincent.d.medina@gmail.com.

Credits: Artwork by Brian Tripp, web design by Edwin Ko, and photos of Breath of Life 2016 by Scott Braley.