David M Brugge, 85, well-known Navajo ethnohistorian, died March 15, 2013, in Albuquerque. Born and raised in Jamestown, NY, Dave served in the army in WW II and then attended University of New Mexico (UNM), earning his BA in anthropology in 1950. After establishing the Ayani Trading Company (1950–52) in Old Town with friend Jim Wilson, he became increasingly involved with Navajos, first driving Navajo Commodity Food Program trucks (Gallup), then directing the English Language-Recreation Program (Unitarian Service Committee with Santa Fe Railroad). During this time, Dave met Ruth Sherlog, a social worker; they married in 1959.
After archaeological surveys and ranger work, in 1958 Brugge began a decade with the Navajo Land Claims and Tribal Research Section of the Navajo Tribe. He became immersed in research for the claims case, Healing v Jones. With J Lee Correll and Editha Watson, Dave assembled the Navajo Bibliography (1967), the first since Kluckhohn’s of 1940. The Research Section published his 1968 Navajos in the Catholic Church Records of New Mexico, 1694-1875, an important resource for Navajo slavery research.
In 1968 Dave began 21 years with the National Park Service, first as curator at Hubbell Trading Post National Historic Monument. In 1973 the family moved to Albuquerque where Dave was affiliated with the UNM Chaco Center. In 1977–78, he became regional curator for NPS’s Division of Information and Visitor Services, Santa Fe; he retired in 1989. Like many, Dave saw relocation (per the 1974 Navajo-Hopi Land Settlement Act and 1975 Relocation Commission) as no solution to Healing v Jones. This led to another major work, The Navajo-Hopi Land Dispute: An American Tragedy (1994).
A meticulous scholar who championed Navajo rights, he was deeply interested in Navajo cultural history (History of the Chaco Navajos, 1980; Tsegai, 1986). Constantly critiquing manuscripts and reviewing publications on request, Dave was active in AAA, American Society for Ethnohistory, Society for American Archaeology, Archaeological Society of New Mexico, and many other organizations. Together with Charlotte J Frisbie, he coedited the festschrift Navajo Religion and Culture: Selected Views (1982) for Navajo scholar Leland C Wyman. That collaboration led to their cofounding the Navajo Studies Conference in 1986.
Dave’s prolific output for conferences, journals, edited volumes; book reviews; and letters to the editor was fueled by voracious reading on widespread interests. He remained actively involved in world and human rights issues. Although his dream of writing a book on Navajo archaeology was not realized, he completed another paper on rock art two days before his death. Dave will be remembered as a gracious, creative, wise elder who always willingly helped students and colleagues. Recipient of many honors throughout his career, Dave was awarded an honorary doctorate by UNM in 2005. Predeceased by his wife, Ruth (1990), Dave’s survivors include his children Doug, Steve, and Janet; their spouses; and three grandchildren, Camille, Adam, and Sarah. Those of us who knew and worked with Dave over the years count him among our very best friends. (Charlotte J Frisbie, with assistance from the Brugge family, Mary June-el Piper, and Klara B Kelley. Photograph by Steve Brugge, 2007)