The original “tree huggers” were NOT from the 60’s!
You might be surprised to learn that the original “tree huggers” were not hippies trying to stop the clear-cutting of old growth forests.
The first tree huggers were women and men of the Bishnois sect of Hinduism in western Rajasthan, India.
This sect started in 1485 AD and was founded on the principle of living in harmony with nature.
During a severe drought in their desert homeland, the Bishnois were able to plant and sustain a lush forest as well as collect drinkable water when surrounding areas were not. As part of their religion, they did not cut any live trees. They only used dead trees for heating and cooking after carefully removing all insects. Even at times when food was scarce, they would not allow any animals or birds to go thirsty or hungry.
Their peaceful tradition was challenged in 1730 when minions of the King of Jodhpur were sent to a Bishnois village to collect lumber for a new palace. The villagers were incensed at this blatant demonstration of excess and greed.
When the royal soldiers arrived to remove this mindfully created oasis amidst the sacred trees, the villagers were not deterred in their devotion to saving the forest.
One tribeswoman who clutched her arms around a tree declared, “A chopped head is cheaper than a felled tree.”
The soldiers would likely claim they were following orders when they decapitated this woman and her three daughters. More villagers from the surrounding area gave their heads for their sacred trees – a total of 363 heads were taken for each of the 363 trees felled.
Their self-sacrifice did not end with that encounter.
In 1973, this story inspired the “Chipko Movement” which was a non-violent protest against the rampant deforestation happening all around the world.
The stage had a similar setting. The government started restricting the rights of the Uttar Pradesh village from the forests which provided their livelihood in order to conduct logging operations for profit.
A woman named Guara Devi gathered the women of the village and organized a peaceful protest.
When the loggers came, the women of the village ran to the trees, linked arms, and wrapped around the trees slated for removal. The men called rudely to them and even went so far as to pull a gun on the village women. Gaura Devi walked straight to the man holding the weapon and insisted he shoot her rather than cut the trees.
In this particular struggle, the protestors were successful.
The word “Chipko” comes from the Hindi word meaning, “to stick to,” or, “to hug.”
The Chipko Movement has facilitated the protection of forests worldwide. The work of movement has successfully encouraged the preservation of soil, water, habitat, animal life, and human life and continues to this day.
We, the members of Tree Hugger Santa Fe, continue the work of the Chipko Movement protesting peacefully to stop deforestation in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
A small group of residents from the La Cañada village organized in the living room of one of the first members to discuss how to stop the torches headed for the Santa Fe National Forest.
All we are asking is the Forest Service conduct an EIS before taking 90% of the proposed trees slated for “management.”
Help us stand for trees of Santa Fe.