The Wayfinders

Why Ancient Wisdom Matters in the Modern World

Nonfiction by Wade David, House of Anansi Press, 2009

I enjoy reading nonfiction books that teach through storytelling. In The Wayfinders, anthropologist and National Geographic Explorer Wade David maintains a narrative writing style that I found engaging, even though he based the book on a series of academic lectures. The journey takes the reader from Polynesia to the Amazon, the Andes, Australia, Nepal, and Borneo. We meet historical and contemporary figures who illustrate the highs and lows of cultural encounters and demonstrate the almost universally overlooked highly complex cultures and societies of indigenous peoples.

It becomes evident that these living communities’ profound knowledge will disappear if their cultures fade away through cultural assimilation or other means. In light of the many threats to the survival of indigenous cultures and ways of living, the author emphasizes the importance of language, which “is not merely a set of grammatical rules or a vocabulary. It is a flash of the human spirit, the vehicle by which the soul of each particular culture comes into the material world.”

While reading the book, I kept hearing the voice of Pope Francis, who in his encyclical on caring for our Common Home declares that the disappearance of a culture can be just as serious, or even more serious, than the extinction of plants or animals. The Pope has also repeatedly acknowledged that indigenous peoples “have much to teach us.” Along these lines, David concludes the Wayfinders affirming that indigenous peoples are “alive and fighting, not only for their cultural survival but also to take part in a global dialogue that will define the future of life on earth.”

Available on Amazon HERE.