Brian Alspach

The Combinatorial Potlatch

Since 1982

Speakers, UVic, 2017
Brian Alspach
University of Puget Sound, February 2002


Tinaz Ekim, Jephian Lin and Bruce Shepherd
University of Victoria, 2017

The Combinatorial Potlatch is an international one-day conference, usually held on the Saturday preceding US Thanksgiving. It has been held for many years at various locations around Puget Sound and southern British Columbia, and is an opportunity for combinatorialists in the region to gather informally for a day of invited talks and conversation. While most who attend work in, or near, the Puget Sound basin, all are welcome. Typically there are three talks given by speakers who are visiting or new to the area, along with breaks for coffee and lunch. Many participants remain for dinner at a local restaurant or pub.

The American Heritage Dictionary defines "potlatch" as: A ceremonial feast among certain Native American peoples of the northwest Pacific coast, as in celebration of a marriage or an accession, at which the host distributes gifts according to each guest's rank or status. Between rival groups the potlatch could involve extravagant or competitive giving and destruction by the host of valued items as a display of superior wealth. [Chinook Jargon, from Nootka p'achitl, to make a potlatch gift.]


News about the Next Potlatch

The 2018 edition of the Potlatch will be held Saturday, November 17, 2018, at Simon Fraser University.

Thanks to Tinaz Ekim, Jephian Lin and Bruce Shepherd for excellent presentations at the November 2017 meeting at the University of Victoria, and special thanks to Gary MacGillivray for being an excellent host.

Conference Photo, UVic, 2017
Conference Photo, University of Victoria, November 2017

Announcements of Upcoming Potlatches

Amites Sarkar (amites dot sarkar at wwu dot edu) maintains an email list of people interested in receiving announcements of upcoming Potlatches. Contact him via email to have your name added.


History of the Potlatch

The first Potlatch that anyone can recall was held in 1982 at the University of Washington (though Pavol Hell insists there were meetings in the 70s). From that time, through 1997, Brian Alspach was the prime mover and organizer. After a few years' hiatus, Nancy Neudauer and Rob Beezer resurrected the tradition in 2002. Amites Sarkar succeeded Rob Beezer for the 2017 edition. There have been at least 34 meetings over the past 35 years. A history, as best as can be reconstructed, is available here.


Photo Archives

Old Conference Photos and Speakers Photos are available also.


Potlatch Web Pages


Organizing Committee

Nancy Neudauer, Pacific University (nancy at pacificu dot edu)
Amites Sarkar, Western Washington University, (amites dot sarkar at wwu dot edu)

This is: http://faculty.wwu.edu/sarkara/potlatch_index.html   Last updated: November 20, 2017