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 was held at the University of Oregon in 2020.

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

We are accepting applications for Breath of Life 2022

The Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival are pleased to announce the return of the in-person Breath of Life Archival Institute for California Indigenous Languages. The dates are set for Sunday, May 22 – Saturday, May 28, 2022 at the University of California, Berkeley campus.

 We are looking forward to hearing from you and hopefully seeing you at the Institute. Please note the AICLS Breath of Life planning committee is taking all precautions considering the climate with the pandemic and will keep applicants up to date as we learn more.

Important Dates

  • February 1: Applications Open for Community Researchers and Linguistic Partners
  • March 11: Applications are due
  • April 1: Applicants are notified of acceptance to the Institute
  • May 22: Dorm check-ins and tentative introductory session for all participants
  • May 28: Saturday presentations of final projects and dorm check-out

What to expect about COVID-19 procedures on campus?

We are staying in close communication with the U.C. Berkeley campus about their policies and procedures during the pandemic. Currently, BOL participants can expect:

  • Surveillance testing on arrival for all guests
  • All participants will need to be vaccinated with an approved vaccine as recognized by World Health Organization (WHO)
  • Participants will need to wear masks while in all buildings

Can I bring my family?

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we are currently planning to only allow registered participants (Community Researchers and Linguistic Partners) to attend Breath of Life events. We are exploring live-streaming the Saturday final project presentations and will communicate final details and decisions as we know more. 

Should I apply as a Group or Individual?

We encourage you to apply as a group, but you may apply as an individual researcher. If you are applying as a group, each group member still needs to complete an application form. Group capacity is limited to up to four Community Researchers. 

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 fellowships can cover the cost of lodging as well as the conference fee. The fellowships will not cover the additional cost if you choose off-site lodging arrangements, meals or other personal expenses.

How to Apply

We receive considerably more applicants than we can accept. We like having a mix of new and returning people. New applicants will have priority when we review the applications. If you were accepted to the 2020 Breath of Life before it was postponed, then you and/or your group have priority to the 2022 Breath of Life. However, we still require you and your group (if applicable) to complete the application form so we can be informed of any changes that have occurred within the last two years. 

Apply to the Institute as a Community Researcher if you are from a California Indigenous tribe and planning to attend Breath of Life to research your own language. Community Researchers are usually paired with a Linguistic Partner, if needed, to assist in acquiring language documentation and learn linguistic skills.

Use this application to sign up as a Linguistic Partner. If accepted to the Institute and we are able to pair you with a Community Researcher(s), you will receive a fellowship to cover lodging and the conference fee as well.


For questions about the application forms, contact