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Beth Sorensen
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Robert Brightman has been named to the recently established Ruth C. Greenberg Chair in American Indian Studies at Reed College. Brightman, a 1973 Reed graduate in anthropology, specializes in research in native North America, cultural theory, hunter-gatherer societies, sociolinguistics, Algonquian linguistics, ecological anthropology, and history and anthropology.

The Greenberg chair was endowed by a gift from Ruth Cooperman Greenberg, of Los Angeles, California, who gave a trust of $1,250,000 to Reed College. Funds from the endowment will allow Brightman to conduct more research and often to share research projects with students.

"This wonderful gift from Ruth Greenberg ensures that Reed's extraordinary tradition of anthropological inquiry into Native American society will continue long into the future," said Peter Steinberger, dean of the faculty. "Rob Brightman is a leading figure in the field, both as a scholar and a teacher, hence is a perfect choice to be the first incumbent of the Greenberg Chair."

"Anthropology at Reed like the discipline of anthropology in the United States more generally has from the beginning been closely associated with the study of North American Indian societies and cultures," said Brightman. "Personally I am honored to be appointed to a named chair whose intellectual genealogy reaches back through such noted Reed anthropology faculty members as David and Kathrine French and Morris Opler to the legendary Alexander Goldenweiser."

Reed College's powerful legacy in anthropology and in studies of North American Indian societies goes back to the work of Franz Boas, a German immigrant who had worked with Eskimos in Baffinland and Northwest Coast Indians in British Columbia and went on to establish the first anthropology doctoral program in the nation at Columbia University. Goldenweiser and Opler both studied with Boas, and David French, who taught at Reed from 1948 to 1988, was a student of Opler's. French was Brightman's thesis adviser at Reed. Twenty percent of Reed seniors' theses in anthropology have had American Indians as their subject matter.

American Indians today, says Brightman, have become active in many legal, political, and economic areas including land claims, linguistic and cultural revitalization, education, reservation gambling, and the environment. "They are thus to be understood both as participants in distinct cultures and as participants in contemporary American society. The subject is central to modern anthropology, and student interest in it is very high at Reed."

Robert Brightman, who received his masters and Ph.D. at the University of Chicago, is the author of several books on American Indian culture: Grateful Prey: Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships (University of California Press, 1993), Acadohkiwina and Acimowina: Traditional Narratives of the Rock Cree Indians (Canadian Museum of Civilization, 1989), The Orders of the Dreamed: George Nelson on Cree and Northern Ojibwa Religion and Legend (co-author, University of Manitoba Press, 1988), and Native North America: Dialogues in Culture and History (Routledge, in publication process). He is currently working on another book, Everyone Values His Own Wares: Native American Concepts of Culture and Tradition.

He has also written many articles on North American Indian culture, religion, and languages in numerous edited volumes and in journals that include American Anthropologist, the International Journal of American Linguistics, Ethnohistory, and the Journal of American Folklore.

Brightman was awarded a Reed College Vollum Senior Sabbatical Fellowship in 1996-97 and a National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship for College Teachers, 1991 93. His other honors include American Philosophical Society Phillips Fund grants, a summer stipend from the National Endowment for the Humanities, a postdoctoral fellowship from the Center for the History of the American Indian of the Newberry Library, and a fellowship from the Canadian Ethnology Service.

Brightman has taught courses at Reed on a wide variety of anthropological and linguistic subjects, including North American Indians, theories of culture, history of anthropology, Algonquian linguistics, language and culture, discourse analysis, myth and narrative, the anthropological field experience, the anthropology of gender, and hunter-gatherer societies. He is a member of the American Anthropological Association and the Linguistic Society of America, among many other professional associations.

Brightman's 1973 senior thesis at Reed College was The Continuing Adventures of Raven and Coyote: A Comparative Analysis of North American Indian Transformer Myths. He has been a member of the Reed faculty since 1989 and also taught at Reed as a visiting assistant professor of anthropology in the 1980-81 academic year.