I think that the Breath of Life Archival Institute of 2011, held in Washington D.C has been a great rooster crow for the sun rising in Esselen country. Breath of Life is definitely a working conference. Each participant is paired with a mentor who is a linguist. The linguist that I worked with was Jim Bauman and he was awesome. He was very open and willing to be creative with working on the language. Esselen doesn’t have any speakers or audio recordings. Therefore, creativity and intuitiveness is important when working on the language. Every day the participants and linguists met at the National Museum of the American Indian from 8:30 am until 1:00 pm for lectures/workshops, at which point we loaded on to buses to go to places like the Library of Congress or National Anthropological Archives until 5:00 pm. Then we headed back to the dorms to do our homework. Although everyone was excited to be finding information and being able to work on their language, we were all exhausted. This was the schedule for two weeks.
Unfortunately, none of the archives had any new information or material that was Esselen but three great things came out of the Breath of Life conference for me. 1. My linguist and I were able to translate a sentence that had never been done before (correctly). 2. My linguist introduced me to a great database and input all of the Esselen words into it. Now Esselen has a database and I can add and change it quickly and easily. 3. My final project included writing and then reciting a rap in Esselen which was the first for Breath of Life (and my first time rapping in public!) Breath of Life left me with great ideas for future opportunities and contacts with other “language people” all over the United States.
Previously: Two UCD NAS Grad Students are on their way to Washington DC for the Breath of Life Archival Institute.