The forests are an important part of the southern Appalachian Mountains, but according to many indigenous traditions, they hold more significance than just the resources they provide.
“When the forests are gone, we lose more than just the oxygen they release, we lose more than just the resources they provide, we lose the wisdom of the trees,” said Erin Everett, a weather worker and tradition-holder in the Nahua lineage in Mexico.
Through her tradition, Everett said she works to create relationships with the weather in order to bring pleasant weather to her community.
Partnered with the Dogwood Alliance, an Asheville-based forest conservation group, Everett led an event titled “The Stories Trees Tell” in the UNC Asheville Botanical Gardens on Oct. 13. Participants selected a tree in the gardens, spent time meditating and listening to what it had to say then gathered together to share their observations.
“When we were little we saw magic in everything, we saw sacredness in everything, but we’ve been kind of talked out of that as we grow older,” Everett said. “In my experience of the indigenous understandings and cultures that I’ve been exposed to, children would be encouraged. Sometimes their connection with the world around them can help adults. To me, the thing I love about working with indigenous wisdom and bringing that to modern people is that it really gives us something to do to help build that relationship back again.”
Participants in the event were first led in a group meditation by Everett, then sent off to spend time with their trees. Everett instructed participants to begin their individual meditation with their trees with an act of gratitude.
“Would it hurt to just go back to some of those ways, not giving up our technology, not giving up our cars but being grateful for those things and being grateful for the world around us who has provided us with so much electricity and all these comforts that we have in modern life?” Everett asked. “If we just add gratefulness and gratitude to the equation, there’s balance.”
Following individual time with their trees, participants gathered to share their findings with one another.
“What sacred witnesses trees are, how many joyful moments they get to see,” said Ash Wahl, an Asheville resident who said she frequently talks to trees.
Wahl hopes to do a similar event with children through her organization the Ash Tree Faery.
“I found it really amazing the things that you can learn by not putting it in a category,” said Alyssa Melton, a junior ecology and environmental biology student. “I just felt really connected to it.”
Overall, the that goal of the event was to impart the objective of forest protection.
“The Dogwood Alliance was honored to have Erin,” said Kimala Luna, a representative of the organization. “She always finds a way to inspire others and instill the mission of forest protection.”
Everett said she hopes events like these can inspire forest protection by helping people recognize the significance of nature.
“It’s like we’re falling asleep in the illusion of our own independence, that human beings don’t need anything else,” Everett said. “But we’re going to find out, and we are finding out, that we do.”
Ultimately, Everett said she hopes to continue helping people recognize the true importance of the natural world by upholding and practising indigenous traditions. .
“I really enjoy helping modern people connect with indigenous traditional wisdom and apply it to modern life in a way that’s really practical and sustainable,” Everett said. “It’s really the most practical way of living, the way these people live and to me it’s the ultimate sustainability knowing how to make relationships with the trees and forests and with nature, like we did tonight.”