Publication Date

Fall 2013

Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Library and Information Science (MLIS)


Library and Information Science


Debra Hansen


archival research, Breath of Life Workshop, indigenous languages, language revitalization, Native American languages

Subject Areas

Library science; Native American studies; Linguistics


This thesis presents an oral history of the Advocates for Indigenous California Language Survival (AICLS) and its Breath of Life Workshop. Held every other year since 1996, the workshop is designed to meet the language revitalization needs of California Indian people whose languages have no living fluent speakers. Breath of Life Workshop organizers arrange visits to four archives on the University of California, Berkeley, campus and connect participants with linguistic mentors to read and interpret archival documents in their language for the purpose of bringing their language back into use.

Through interviews with AICLS founders, Breath of Life Workshop participants, and University of California, Berkeley, linguists and archivists, this study uncovers the role archivists play in the Breath of Life Workshops and in the care of Native language collections more generally. Topics addressed include the selection and use of archival documents in the program and the changes to archival practice and policies that have resulted from archivists' work with Breath of Life participants. The thesis also examines issues involved in the collection, arrangement, description, preservation, and access to the documentation of California Indian languages. The study concludes with recommendations for future language revitalization programs.