ILI was founded as the Institute for the Preservation of the Original Languages of the Americas (IPOLA) by Joanna Hess in September 1992 in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1997, the organization became a national center to serve all tribes and individuals working to revitalize indigenous languages in the Americas. In 2000, IPOLA was changed to Indigenous Language Institute (ILI) to reflect new Board leadership, expanded services to all indigenous communities, and working relations with indigenous communities internationally.
ILI has a Board of Directors whose members are majority Native American. The Board members’ experiences in language work at various levels steer the program direction. A multidisciplinary Language Advisory Council assists the Board of Directors and staff in programmatic, administrative and fiscal matters. The Technical Advisory Committee assists Board and staff in cutting edge technology matters that support language revitalization for indigenous communities.
The Indigenous Language Institute (ILI) convened 30 language revitalization experts from various tribes and organizations in February 1997. At that meeting, the participants agreed to the need of a national center to help connect those who are working on language preservation and revitalization. The participants developed the guidelines and a “wish list” of what this national center would provide for Indian Country, and they mandated ILI to find the funding to make this plan a reality. Since that time, ILI has incrementally built upon this plan.
Today we are an organization that serves American Indians, Alaska Natives, Native Hawaiians, First Nations of Canada, and reaching out to the international indigenous community. ILI provides the tools and training to help Native language teachers and learners help themselves in their efforts to bring language back into everyday lives of the People. The network of people and organizations developed through coming together at ILI seminars and workshops become continuing relationships for sharing experiences and knowledge with each other. ILI also builds partnerships with other organizations which have parallel and converging missions.