SIX NATIONS – Anthropologist, Ethnobotanist and Story-Teller Wade Davis drew quite the crowd last Friday at the Six Nations Community Hall. The hall was filled with people interested in hearing some of Davis’ stories, fables and adventures. Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill requested Davis’ presence through a 20-year partnership with the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG),
SIX NATIONS – Anthropologist, Ethnobotanist and Story-Teller Wade Davis drew quite the crowd last Friday at the Six Nations Community Hall.
The hall was filled with people interested in hearing some of Davis’ stories, fables and adventures.
Cultural Anthropologist Dr. Dawn Martin-Hill requested Davis’ presence through a 20-year partnership with the Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG), as she wanted the chance to allow the community to hear his stories and have him meet with elders.
“I’ve known Wade for probably as long as I finished my PhD, so since ’92,” said Martin-Hill. “I’ve always admired his work.”
The grant was approved in September and Martin-Hill felt it would also be a good opportunity to show what she and Davis do as professionals.
“I’m not just someone that brings exotic people to the community. I thought it would be good for people to understand that I’m a cultural anthropologist and cultural conservation is my life’s work,” she said.
Martin-Hill incorporated concepts of the global water future and allowed community members to sign up to get their well water tested by students from McMaster University. She also took the time to discuss ideas and matters of importance on the preservation of the Haudenosaunee confederacy system with Davis as a fellow anthropologist.
“I was really glad to have the time to bounce ideas off of him,” she said.
Martin-Hill also mentioned that Davis has $300 million to invest from wealthy sources that were formerly investing in saving the amazon, into indigenous land reclamation as a method of conservation.
“Instead of caring about a tree and saving a tree, he’s getting them to invest in saving the people that know everything there is to know about that tree,” she said.
‘But who is Wade Davis?’
Davis is each of the titles mentioned above, and more.
He is an explorer in residence at the National Geographic Society, the author of 15 books, he has ventured into and photographed the Arctic, Cambodia, Polynesia, Mongolia, Sahara and much more during his career.
If that doesn’t impress you — if you’ve ever heard of the book The Serpent and the Rainbow, he is the author and explorer that ventured into Haiti to document cases of zombies; individuals being declared dead but reappearing in Haitian society alive years later.
His stories at the Community Hall encompassed many of his travels and his interactions with the cultures of the world, including stories from the Arctic as he learned firsthand from the Inuit of their survivalist mindsets.
Davis said that when David Galbraith from the RBG and Martin-Hill asked for him to visit Six Nations as well as the RBG, he wouldn’t refuse.
“I was delighted to do so,” said Davis.
But as professional, he explained that his passion for anthropology isn’t wholly academic.
“Largely what I am is a story teller, I’m not really an academic,” he said. “I am a professor of Anthropology at the UBC (University of British Columbia) in Vancouver, but I only came into the academic world very recently when I was 59-year-old.”
“For all of my career I’ve been a writer and story-teller, travelling around the world to not just tell stories of culture — that’s not my only interest — I think anthropology has been less than helpful or down right unhelpful to be polite. But in its best anthropology is kind of served as a platform in which indigenous concerns can be given voice.”
So rather than poking holes in different cultures or finding flaws, Davis explained that this mindset when thinking about diversity is important to the core fundamentals of anthropology.
“It’s not about criticizing any culture, it’s really about asking ‘what kind of world do we want to live in?’ To generate a truly multicultural and pluralistic world in which every voice is heard.”
“The main idea of anthropology I suppose is that every culture has something to say and each culture deserves to be heard,” he said. “I very much come from the tradition of anthropology of activism in the sense that the purpose of anthropology is to make the world safe for human differences and in this sense I think that these days anthropology could be a good antidote to Trump, if you think about it.”
His broad understanding of the importance of every individual culture along with his cultural sensitivity made it is very easy to see why many that attended his visit said that they could “listen to him talk all day.”
Martin-Hill also hinted that it wouldn’t be his last visit to the Six Nations community.