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Eastern Kentucky University resumes its Chautauqua Lecture Series tonight with the 2021-2022 theme of “The Wayfinders.” 

Dr. Wade Davis, the renowned writer and photographer, will give tonight’s Bruce MacLaren Distinguished Lecture entitled, “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World.” 

The lecture will be streamed live at 7:30 p.m. on YouTube at

Davis is a writer and photographer whose work has taken him from the Amazon to Tibet, Africa to Australia, Polynesia to the Arctic. Having served as Explorer-in-Residence at the National Geographic Society from 2000 to 2013, he is currently Professor of Anthropology and the BC Leadership Chair in Cultures and Ecosystems at Risk at the University of British Columbia. The author of 23 books, including “The Wayfinders,” “One River,” and “Into the Silence,” Davis holds degrees in anthropology and biology and received his Ph.D. in ethnobotany, all from Harvard University. In 2016, he was made a Member of the Order of Canada. In 2018 he became an Honorary Citizen of Colombia. His latest book is “Magdalena: River of Dreams,” (Knopf 2020).

Named by the National Geographic Society as one of the Explorers for the Millennium, Davis has been described as “a rare combination of scientist, scholar, poet and passionate defender of all of life’s diversity.” Early in his career, mostly through the Harvard Botanical Museum, he spent over three years in the Amazon and Andes as a plant explorer, living among fifteen indigenous groups in eight Latin American nations while making some 6,000 botanical collections. His continuing work 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 bestseller later released by Universal as a motion picture. In recent years his work has taken him to East Africa, Borneo, Nepal, Peru, Polynesia, Tibet, Mali, Benin, Togo, New Guinea, Australia, Colombia, Vanuatu, Mongolia and the high Arctic of Nunuvut and Greenland.

His other books include “Penan: Voice for the Borneo Rain Forest,” (1990), “Shadows in the Sun,” (1993), “Nomads of the Dawn,” (1995), which was nominated for the 1997 Governor General's Literary Award for Nonfiction, “The Clouded Leopard,” (1998), “Rainforest,” (1998), “Light at the Edge of the World,” (2001), “The Lost Amazon,” (2004), “Grand Canyon,” (2008), “Book of Peoples of the World,” (ed. 2008), “The Sacred Headwaters: The Fight to Save the Stikine,” “Skeena and Nass” (2011) and “River Notes: A Natural and Human History of the Colorado,” (2012). His books have been translated into sixteen languages, including French, Italian, German, Norwegian, Spanish, Portuguese, Swedish, Dutch, Basque, Macedonian, Serbian, Bulgarian, Korean, Bulgarian, Japanese and Malay, and have sold approximately a million copies worldwide.

Regarding “The Wayfinders: Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World,”

every culture is a unique answer to a fundamental question: What does it mean to be human and alive? Davis leads us on a thrilling journey to celebrate the wisdom of the world’s indigenous cultures. In Polynesia, we set sail with navigators whose ancestors settled the Pacific ten centuries before Christ. In the Amazon, we meet the descendants of a true Lost Civilization, the Peoples of the Anaconda. In the Andes, we discover that the Earth really is alive, while in the far reaches of Australia we experience Dreamtime, the all-embracing philosophy of the first humans to walk out of Africa. We then travel to Nepal, where we encounter a wisdom hero, a Bodhisattva, who emerges from 45 years of Buddhist retreat and solitude. And finally, we settle in Borneo, where the last rainforest nomads struggle to survive.

Understanding the lessons of this journey will be our mission for the next century. 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 catalog of the imagination that is the human legacy. Rediscovering a new appreciation for the diversity of the human spirit, as expressed by culture, is among the central challenges of our time.

The Chautauqua Lecture Series is sponsored by the Department of Language & Cultural Studies, Anthropology and Sociology, the College of Letters, Arts and Social Sciences, Graduate Education and Research, and the Honors Program.