The Dean’s Lecture Series takes faculty expertise and knowledge from the College of Humanities and Social Sciences into the community in an ongoing effort to foster closer connections, share intriguing and timely information, and inspire conversation.

Firelight on the River: Siberia's Ket People and Ancient North America

Professor Edward Vajda provided audience members with a fascinating, behind-the-scenes look at his original fieldwork with Ket elders during six different trips to Siberia over the past two decades. His presentation included stunning photos of traditional and modern Ket lifeways as a backdrop to historical, linguistic and anthropological discoveries. The Kets are proving to be the oldest inhabitants of northern Asia, and their language, with its unique word tones and complicated verb prefix system, appears related to languages spoken in North America by the Tlingit and Dene (Athabaskan) peoples.

Dr. Edward Vajda has been a professor in Western Washington University's Department of Modern and Classical Languages since 1987. He teaches courses in introductory linguistics, morphological theory, historical linguistics, Russian language, folklore and culture, and Eurasia's nomadic peoples. His research focuses on the languages of Northern Asia and includes original fieldwork with Ket, a severely endangered language spoken today only by a few dozen elders in the remote Yenisei River basin.

Presented by Professor Edward Vajda, Modern and Classical Languages

April 26, 2011 marks the 25th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear disaster. Edward Vajda worked as a translator and news analyst in the Moscow office of CBS News during the crisis. He describes what it was like helping to cover the story and also assesses the political and environmental effects a quarter century later.

Presented by Professor Christopher Friday, Western Washington University History Department

Presented by Dr. Todd Koetje, Professor of Anthropology, Western Washington University

In 1995, Todd Koetje joined a team extracting artifacts from Weasel Cave in the Caucasus Mountains of North Ossetia-Alania in Southern Russia to piece together what is left from the Neanderthals who lived between 250,000 and 300,000 years ago. Koetje presents and discusses his research findings from 11 trips to the caves.