CWU News

Explorer for the Millennium, Wade Davis, to Speak February 4

Every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? Wade Davis, celebrated anthropologist and ethnobotanist, explores the compelling wisdom of the world’s indigenous cultures.

Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time, according to Davis. Of the world’s 7,000 languages, fully half may disappear within our lifetimes.  At risk is a vast archive of knowledge and expertise, a catalogue of the imagination that is the human legacy.

“I had the pleasure of hearing Dr. Davis speak at a national conference and my first thought was that he had to come to Central,” said CWU President James Gaudino. “I think one of the ingredients of a remarkable undergraduate experience is seeing and hearing world-renowned speakers.”

Davis has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” Named a National Geographic Society Explorer for the Millenium, Davis will present “Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in a Modern World,” at 7:00 p.m., February 4, in the Jerilyn S. McIntyre Music Building Recital Hall.

A book signing of his latest work, The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in a Modern World, will follow his lecture. The event is free and open to the public; parking in CWU lots is free after 4:00 p.m. and on weekends, except for resident hall lots and specially designated spaces.

At noon, on February 5 in the SURC Pit, there will be a panel discussion on “Anthropology and Indigenous Communities: Ethical Partnerships and Responsible Conversations.” The roundtable will feature Wade Davis; Lene Pedersen, professor, anthropology; Mark Auslander, professor, anthropology and director of the Museum of Culture and Environment; Emily Washines, Yakama Nations Fisheries; and Jon Shellenberger, archaeologist/special project manager at Confederated Tribes and Bands of the Yakama Nation.

Later that day, Davis will give the keynote address at CWU’s first Annual Diversity Awards Celebration. The event begins at 4:30 p.m. in the Sue Lombard Room.

An ethnographer, writer, photographer, and filmmaker, Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his PhD in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. Mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent more than three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6000 botanical collections. His work later took him to Haiti to investigate folk preparations implicated in the creation of zombies, an assignment that led to his writing Passage of Darkness (1988) and The Serpent and the Rainbow (1986), an international best seller later released by Universal as a motion picture.

The Wayfinders distills Davis’s award-winning 2009 CBC Massey Lectures, Canada’s most prestigious and influential public forum. Previous Massey lecturers have included Martin Luther King, Carlos Fuentes, Margaret Atwood and Claude Levi Strauss. Davis’s lectures can be viewed on YouTube,

Media Contact: Valerie Chapman-Stockwell, Public Affairs, 509-963-1518,