Miami University’s Native American center wins historic national grant

A famed Native American program at Miami University has landed a nationally acclaimed grant for its work on ancient language and culture.

The program’s director is the same university professor who two years ago won international fame — and a $625,000 MacArthur Genius Grant — for his work with the Myaamia Center on the Oxford campus.

Last week the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH) announced $43.1 million in awards for 218 humanities projects across the country.

Among them was $311,641 grant to fund the expansion of the Myaamia Center’s work on revitalizing indigenous languages.

The grant was awarded to Daryl Baldwin, director of the center, and an assistant professor of linguistics at the University of Oregon, for their project titled “National Breath of Life 2.0: Creating a ‘Second Breath’ for Indigenous Language Revitalization.”

In 2012, Miami, with a national endowment grant, developed software to create the Miami-Illinois Digital Archive for Indigenous Languages.

This new grant will allow for improvements and expansion of the existing digital archives and the development of software to identify and analyze archival materials, according to Miami officials.

In addition, it will provide for two training workshops for tribal representatives and scholars engaged in language revitalization efforts. The Northwest Indigenous Language Institute is part of the planning team for the workshops.

Baldwin told the Journal-News the grant is the largest to be awarded directly by the Myaamia Center.

“This grant will support the further design and distribution of a specialized piece of software called the Indigenous Languages Digital Archive (ILDA) to indigenous communities who are involved in language revitalization from documentation,” said Baldwin.

“The workshops will be held through the National Breath of Life Archival Institute for Indigenous Languages, which is partly run through the Myaamia Center at Miami University. Graduate students from Miami’s College of Computer Science and Software Engineering are involved with the development of the ILDA software,” he said.

Miami University, which is Butler County’s largest employer, has a rich, historical connections to the former Miami Tribe of Ohio enhanced by the work of the Myaamia Center.

In recent years the university has devoted funds and resources to educating its students and surrounding communities about its roots including introducing a new logo last fall inspired by its Miami Tribe history.

MORE: Miami introduces new logo tied to its Native American past

In 2016 Baldwin, who has spent decades studying, preserving and sharing the language and culture of the Native American Miami Tribe in relative obscurity, learned he had won one of the widely coveted MacArthur Foundation “genius” grants without making any application for the honor.

He was the first MacArthur grant winner in the history of Southwest Ohio.

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