Skip to main content.

Smithsonian Institution Recovering Voices logo Link to Recovering Voices home page Link to Smithsonian Institution home page
Mountain Chief, Chief of Montana Blackfeet, in Native Dress With Bow, Arrows, and Lance, Listening to Song Being Played On Phonograph and Interpreting It in Sign Language to Frances Densmore, Ethnologist, March 1916, by Harris & Ewing, Smithsonian National Anthropological Archives

“This residency has really been a wonderful opportunity to see some of the excitement within the community. When the school children come by and we do our presentation to them, the students ask questions and you can sometimes see a spark in the youngsters’ eyes. It’s clear that they’re really excited about what’s going on, and that the project has started to create interest in them about their own culture.”

-Michael Livingston

Recovering Voices is a network of partners who continue to support our mission by completing related research. See below for related projects.


Global Survey of Language Revitalization

The Recovering Voices initiative of the Smithsonian Institution is carrying out a survey of language revitalization initiatives worldwide. If you are involved in language revitalization please share your experience with us.

The information you provide will allow us to do a comparative analysis of the factors that may improve the outcomes of revitalization efforts. We expect the results to yield insights of value to revitalization practitioners around the world. 
You can fill out the survey here. Please share this link with other revitalization practitioners. Many thanks in advance!


La iniciativa Recobrando Voces de la Institución Smithsonian está llevando acabo una encuesta sobre esfuerzos de revitalización lingüística alrededor del mundo. Si usted forma parte de un esfuerzo de revitalización, por favor comparta su experiencia con nosotros por medio de la encuesta.
Los detalles que usted nos proporcione nos permitirán hacer un análisis de los factores que pudieran mejorar los resultados de un esfuerzo de revitalización. Tenemos la certeza de que este análisis será de gran valor para todos aquellos quienes trabajan en pro de la revitalización lingüística.
Lo invitamos a tomar la encuesta siguiendo la liga Y le agradeceríamos que comparta la liga con otros. ¡Gracias de antemano!


L'iniative Recovering Voices de la Smithsonian Institution cherche à en apprendre davantage sur les efforts de revitalisation linguistique à travers le monde grâce à une enquête internationale. Nous demandons à des praticiens tels que vous, de partager avec nous leur expérience.
Les informations que vous nous fournirez nous permettrons d'analyser de façon comparative les facteurs susceptibles d'améliorer les résultats des initiatives de revitalisation. Ceci a pour but l'enrichissement des connaissances sur la revitalisation au bénéfice des praticiens.
Vous trouverez l’enquête en suivant le lien S'il vous plait, partagez ce lien avec d’autres praticiens. Un grand merci d'avance !


O projeto Recovering Voices da Smithsonian Institution está fazendo um levantamento internacional de iniciativas de revitalização linguística. Se você está envolvido em revitalização linguística, por favor, compartilhe sua experiência conosco.
As informações que você nos fornecer nos permitirão fazer uma análise comparativa dos fatores que podem aprimorar os resultados de inicitiavas de revitalização. Esperamos que os resultados nos forneçam subsídios valiosos para os que se dedicam à revitalização mundo afora.
Você pode preencher o questionário em Por favor, compartilhe este link com outros profissionais que trabalham com revitalização. Desde já, muito obrigada!


Программа Recovering Voices, осуществляемая Смитсоновским институтом проводит международный опрос для выяснения того, какие действия предпринимаются во всем мире с целью восстановления и поддержания языков. Если вы – один из участников такой деятельности, мы просим вас поделиться 
с нами своим опытом.

Предоставленная вами информация позволит нам провести сравнительный анализ факторов, способных улучшить конечные результаты мероприятий
по языковому возрождению. Мы полагаем, что полученные в результате опроса данные дадут всем, вовлеченным в решение проблемы языкового возрождения, ценные знания.

Заполнить вопросник можно на интернетовской странице
Перешлите, пожалуйста, эту ссылку тем, кто ведёт работу, связанную с языковым возрождением. Мы будем вам очень благодарны.  


希望参与语言复兴活动?欢迎参加 @recovervoices 语言复兴活动全球调查! 史密森学会发起的 Recovering Voices 计划现正在全球开展一项语言复兴活动的调查。如果您正在参与语言复兴活动,欢迎与我们分享您的经历。 通过您提供的信息,我们将对可能改善复兴工作成果的诸多因素进行一次比较分析。希望我们的调查结果能够产生有价值的深入见解,为全世界语言复兴活动的参与者带来惠益。 您可以在以下网址中填写调查 。希望您能将这个链接分享给其他语言复兴活动参与者。非常感谢!

Arctic Studies Center, Anchorage Alaska

Find out more about the Arctic Studies Center Anchorage office.

St. Lawrence Island Yupik Language Workshop
The Yupik and Iñupiaq languages of Bering Strait, each representing a vast endowment of Arctic culture, history, and knowledge, are diminishing. UNESCO’s Atlas of the World’s Languages in Danger considers the several dialects of both to be definitely or severely endangered based on the declining number and increasing age of fluent speakers. The Yupik spoken on St. Lawrence Island and its close cousin, the Chaplinsky dialect of northeastern Chukotka, are perhaps more fortunate than others, with a combined total of some 1300 speakers. However, few under 30 have a complete command of the language and most children are no longer learning Yupik as their mother tongue.

The Arctic Studies Center is seeking to assist community-based educational efforts to revitalize Bering Strait languages as part nmaiof the Smithsonian’s Recovering Voices initiative, funded by a current grant from the National Park Service’s Shared Beringian Heritage Program. Under the grant, ASC is hosting workshops to record indigenous languages and the knowledge they embody, and from these discussions with fluent speakers will produce two video series for use in K-12 language education. For the latest workshop in January 2012, beautiful and historic St. Lawrence Island objects were taken from the display for study and were used to stimulate in-depth Yupik language commentaries that were recorded both as group discussions and as individual on-camera presentations.

Ralph Apatiki, Merlin Koonooka, and John Apassingok shared extensive information and vocabulary related to tools and weapons for hunting and traveling on the sea ice, including a traditional walrus harpoon and a sled used for hauling skin-covered hunting boats. Lydia Apatiki, Elaine Kingeekuk, Vera Metcalf, and Angela Larson commented extensively on the design and making of skin boots (in many styles), bird and seal intestine parkas, and other clothing. Together the group reconstructed memories of how to play the lively circumpolar “bird game” using carved walrus ivory birds (meteghlluwaaghet). Altogether the workshop yielded over 20 hours of fluent Yupik discussion on a wide range of cultural and historical topics, providing rich content for the edited teaching videos and accompanying teacher’s guide.

The Glacier’s Eternal Gift: Traditional Ice Floe Sealing at Yakutat Bay
Current Arctic Studies Center research projects in southeast Alaska are connecting Tlingit, Eyak, and Ahtna oral tradition to archaeology and paleoenvironmental science to explore the intriguing 900-year relationship between people, seals, and glaciers in Yakutat Bay. Both now and for centuries in the past, Yakutat hunters have harvested harbor seals that mass in large numbers in front of Hubbard Glacier each spring to give birth to their pups on floating glacier ice.

ramosThe National Science Foundation supported research effort shows that the recession of Hubbard Glacier after A. D. 1100 opened up one of the largest ice floe seal rookeries in the Gulf of Alaska, attracting indigenous groups from all around the eastern Gulf of Alaska. Successive waves of Sugpiaq, Eyak, Ahtna, and Tlingit migration over the centuries yielded Yakutat’s complex cultural and linguistic blend and led to a unique interethnic system of access rights to the seal harvest. Multilingual oral traditions and place names encode the histories of the old sealing camps and can be matched with the radiocarbon dates and material data of archaeology. House remains and spatial layouts express the social organization of hunting, and artifacts and seal bones from the sites will provide an eco-systemic and behavioral record of human-seal interaction over time.

Community interviews with seal hunters and elders kicked off the project in June 2011, followed by two weeks of preliminary archaeological investigations at several 19th century sealing camps near the present glacial front. The study connects the past to the present day, when the continuity of sealing and of the community’s cultural and linguistic heritage are matters of urgent local concern. Excavations during the summer of 2013 uncovered a well-preserved portion of the major sealing camp at Shaanáx Kuwóox’ (Tlingit, ‘wide valley), where ancestral members of the Gineix Kwáan and other clans hunted during the 1870s and 1880s. A visit to the site by clan leaders and community members, which included ceremonies to honor those ancestors, confirmed the site’s special significance in Yakutat history.

The Art of Chagudax: The Aleutian Islands Bentwood Hat

bentwood hatUnangax men of the Aleutian Islands wore intricately ornamented hunting hats and visors that were shaped from carved, boiled, and bent planks of driftwood, intricately ornamented. These magnificent hats were practical headgear for kayak hunters and at the same time works of art that vividly expressed the spiritual connection between people and the creatures of the sea.

The Yup’iit, Sugpiat, and other peoples of coastal Alaska and Siberia created related styles of bentwood headgear, and the tradition is an ancient one; ivory hat ornaments up to 1500 years old have been found in archaeological sites from Kodiak Island to the Chukchi Sea. Two contemporary Unangax^ hat makers spent a week in March 2012 as artists-in-residence at the Arctic Studies Center in Anchorage.

The program was part of the Alaska’s Living Cultural Treasures series, sponsored by the Alaska State Council on the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Smithsonian Institution, and the Anchorage Museum. The two master artists worked with advanced apprentices to demonstrate carving, bending, and decorative techniques to visiting students and the museum public. Despite the cultural value of bentwood hats, the knowledge of how to make them declined under colonial rule and was gone entirely by perhaps the third decade of the 20th century. During the residency the artists and apprentices examined bentwood hats and visors that are on display at the Anchorage Museum in the Arctic Studies Center exhibition Living Our Cultures, Sharing Our Heritage: The First Peoples of Alaska and discussed the cultural meanings embodied by the hats. One result of this opportunity to study products of the original tradition was recognition that the bending techniques employed by ancestral makers must have been somewhat different than those used today.

Sewing Salmon

armstorngStrong, durable, water-resistant salmon skin was once widely used by North Pacific peoples for making bags, parkas, boots, mittens, and other clothing. This versatile natural material was often dyed, decoratively stitched, and patterned with other skins to accent its supple beauty. During the Sewing Salmon workshop organized by the Arctic Studies Center at the Anchorage Museum (December 2012) three Alaska Native artists demonstrated the whole process, beginning with whole silver salmon and going through the steps of skinning, processing, sewing, and decorating.

More than 1200 museum visitors, including elementary and middle school classes, came by during the week to interact with the artists and to watch the fascinating transformation of fish into fashion. More than a public program, the workshop was designed for learning and information sharing among the artists, each of whom has discovered her own path to recreating this almost-lost traditional art.

Sewing Salmon – the first of ASC Alaska’s new Material Traditions workshop series – also set up an engrossing information exchange between Alaska Native artists and ethnographic museum conservators. These conservators attended the workshop and recorded cultural data that will help them to stabilize, repair, and protect fish skin objects at their respective museums. The technical properties of fish skin were a major topic of discussion, including its fibrous structure which provides tear-resistant strength in all directions, similar to Tyvek.