The exhibit of artifacts and photographs, many previously on view in
UD’s Old College Gallery, grew out of a 2014 “cultural mapping” project
in Peru led by Cox and Rainforest Expeditions.
In that project, UD faculty members, four undergraduate students and
two alumni, including Bale, spent three weeks in Ese’Eja communities.
The interdisciplinary group documented the everyday lives of the people
through photos, video, oral histories and maps created from GPS
coordinates and the recollections of older Ese’Eja who remember the good
hunting and fishing locations and sacred places.
The mapping project resulted in a video titled “The Ese’Eja: From a
Cotton Thread in the Sky to Protectors of the Amazon.” The title refers
to the traditional belief that the Ese’Eja traveled down to Earth on a
The video, hosted on the National Geographic website, can be viewed
via a link on the overall project website, “The Ancestral Lands of the
Ese’Eja — The True People,” at www.eseeja.org.
The cultural mapping project was supported in part by National
Geographic’s Genographic Legacy Fund, and in 2015 Cox was named a
“National Geographic Explorer.”
For the students who took part, the expedition was a unique learning
experience that encompassed research in anthropology, ethnobotany and
education, as well as hands-on photography, videography and mapping
For Brian Griffiths, who graduated in 2016 with degrees in
environmental engineering and plant science, the project led him to a
new passion and altered career plans.
“That trip was really my first research experience in the field,
which was huge for me because now that’s what I do,” said Griffiths, a
doctoral student in environmental science and policy at George Mason
University who continues a particular interest in Peru.
“I’m studying environmental science in terms of people—their impact
on the environment and how environmental change affects them. My focus
is always on indigenous people.”
Another student from the cultural mapping expedition, Chelsea
Rozanski, is completing her Peace Corps service in Panama. A 2014
graduate in anthropology and women and gender studies, Rozanski said the
experience ”profoundly influenced” her plans to study and teach
“The opportunity of being a part of this interdisciplinary
collaborative effort was the richest personal and educational experience
during my time at UD,” she said in an email from Panama. “I grew as an
aspiring anthropologist, world traveler and advocate for environmental
and indigenous rights.”