Breath of Life Institute

Breath of Life Institute

UPDATE March 17, 2020:

Due to the negative effects of the novel coronavirus, and with special concerns for our communities we have decided not to host an in-person Breath of Life Institute 2020 on May 31 – June 6, 2020 at U.C. Berkeley. We are exploring other options such as postponing, online tutorials and small-group visits later on. Much depends on whether the university decides to close the summer session. We are keeping track of the situation and are in touch with our partners at the University. If you were planning to apply, please continue to submit your applications until April 5th. Thank you for your continued support and interest.

Welcome to the 2020 Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous California Languages

Dates and Deadlines

  • 2020 Breath of Life Dates: May 31 – June 6, 2020
  • Applications are due on or before Sunday, April 5, 2020.
  • Applicants will be notified of acceptance to Breath of Life by April 20, 2020.

About Breath of Life

Starting in 1995, AICLS has partnered with the University of California at Berkeley to run the one-week biennial Breath of Life Language Restoration Workshop for California Indians. 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 them learn how to understand the written materials and bring them back into spoken language.

Each language group is paired 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 helped organize the “National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages” in Washington D.C., first partnering with the Endangered Language Fund, and later with the Myaamia Center and the Smithsonian Institution. Now there is a “Breath of Life 2.0,” an advanced workshop for experienced Breath of Lifers to teach them how to make a database to organize and use efficiently the materials they found in university and museum archives or have in their own collections. This workshop was held at Miami University in Ohio in 2019, and will be held at the University of Oregon in 2020 (applications are already closed for that one).

The Berkeley Breath of Life is held every even year. For future Breath of Life events held here or elsewhere, keep watch on the AICLS website or newsletter for announcements.

What to expect at Breath of Life?

  • Opening reception May 31, 2020 at 12 pm at U.C. Berkeley Multicultural Center
  • Orientation for Linguistic Partners on May 31, time to be determined
  • Morning workshops, panels, and lectures on campus to prepare you for researching the University archives and daily exercises to help you understand the concepts instructed.
  • Afternoon group tours and hands-on archive research
  • Visit to San Bruno archives
  • Wednesday dinner for all attendees
  • Presentation of a final project at the end of the week

Fees and Fellowships

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

The conference fee is $350 for Community Researchers and is waived for Linguistic Partners. This fee covers general costs, lunches, and dinner on Wednesday evening.

The price of dorms is separate from the conference fee and includes breakfasts at the cafeteria. Double rooms cost $347.70 per person and single rooms cost $479.70 per person arriving Sunday, May 31.

For participants arriving on Saturday, May 30, an additional night of lodging is available for $57.95 for a double room or $79.95 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 for $16 per night. Please note that once you arrive in Berkeley, a car will not be very useful, as our activities and events are within walking distance. You might consider using public transportation if you would like to avoid the parking permit fee.

The fellowships can cover the cost of a double room in the dorm, the conference fee, and parking. The fellowships will not cover the additional cost if you choose to rent a single dorm room, nor will they cover the cost of travel to Breath of Life, off-site lodging arrangements, dinners or other personal expenses.

How to Apply

Community Researchers apply here:

Linguistic Partners apply here:


For general questions about Breath of Life contact

For questions about the application forms, contact