Rainbow Gathering

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"Welcome home" and "We love you" are common greetings at the Rainbow Gathering.

Rainbow Gatherings are temporary intentional communities, typically held in outdoor settings, and espousing and practicing ideals of peace, love, harmony, freedom and community, as a consciously expressed alternative to mainstream popular culture, consumerism, capitalism and mass media.

Rainbow Gatherings and the "Rainbow Family of Living Light" are an expression of a Utopian impulse, combined with bohemianism and hippie culture, with roots clearly traceable to the 1960s counterculture. Mainstream society is viewed as "Babylon," connoting the participants' widely held belief that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy and out of harmony with the natural systems of planet Earth. The original Rainbow Gathering was in 1972, and has been held annually in the United States from July 1 - 7 every year on National Forest land. Other regional and national gatherings are held throughout the year, in the United States and throughout the rest of the world.

The largest Rainbow Gatherings pose significant logistical challenges, providing up to 30,000 people with food, water, sanitation, medical care, and order in remote settings. Relations with law enforcement and local communities are frequently an issue. Media coverage is often unfavorable, focusing on drug use, nudity, and the countercultural aspects of the assemblage. Nevertheless, the Gatherings have proven durable phenomena for 37 years.[1]


[edit] History

The first Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes, a four-day event in Colorado in July of 1972, was organized by youth counterculture "tribes" based in Northern California and the Pacific Northwest. Twenty thousand people faced police roadblocks, threatened civil disobedience, and were allowed onto National Forest land. This was intended to be a onetime event; however, a second gathering in Wyoming the following year materialized, at which point an annual event was declared. The length of the gatherings has since expanded beyond the original four-day span, as have the number and frequency of the gatherings.[2] ,[2]

Corrections should be made in so far as, although indeed groups from California and the Northwest region of the U.S. were heavily involved in focalizing (a Rainbow term for providing a focus upon) the first official (or unofficial as some folks would say) Rainbow Gathering, the U.S. Southeast was strongly represented with at least 2,600 people from throughout that region who focalized one the the 4 Main Camps/Kitchens and provided invaluable support for the 1972 Rainbow Gathering of the Tribes on Strawberry Lake, above Granby, Colorado. There was also strong representation from the U.S. Northeast and many other regions of the U.S. It was a truly National Rainbow Gathering. The original founding Council members of Rainbow at the Vortex Festival in Oregon in 1970 were primarily from the U.S. and Canadian West Coast.

[edit] Social aspects

Gathering peace prayer

[edit] Values

The Rainbow Family has no leaders, no structure, no official spokespersons, no official documents, and no membership. Documents are produced as needed and maintained by various groups, and certain themes are consistently seen in this Rainbow literature: [3], [4], [5]

[edit] Non-Commercialism

Trading Circle

As Michael Niman notes, "Rainbow Gatherings, as a matter of principle, are free and non-commercial." Using money to buy or sell anything at Rainbow Gatherings is taboo. There are no paid organizers, although there are volunteers ("focalizers") who are crucial to setting up the gathering site. Participants are expected to contribute money, labor, and/or material. All labor is voluntary and never formally compensated.

Aside from taking up collections (the "Magic Hat" in Rainbow parlance) for essential items purchased from the local community, there is little or no exchange of currency internally at a Gathering. The primary principle is that necessities should be freely shared, while luxuries can be traded. A designated "trading circle" is a feature at most (if not all) Gatherings. Frequently traded items include sweets ("zuzus"), crystals, and handcrafts. Snickers bars have emerged as a semi-standardized unit of exchange at some gatherings.[3]

[edit] Consensus process

Gatherings are governed by councils, which use consensus process for making decisions. According to the Mini-manual, "Recognized Rainbow rules come from only one source, main Counsel at the annual national gatherings."[4]

Talking circles are also a feature of rainbow gatherings. Each participant in the circle talks in turn, all the others present listening in silence. A ceremonial stick or feather is passed from person to person around the circle to mark their role as the speaker. If they don't wish to speak, they may hold or pass the stick in silence.[5]

[edit] Creativity and Spirituality

One of the central features of the annual United States gathering is silent meditation the morning of the Fourth of July, with attendees gathering in a circle in the Main Meadow. At noon the entire assembly begins a collective "Om" which is ended with whooping and a celebration. A parade of children comes from the Kiddie Village, singing and dancing into the middle of the circle.[6]

The gathering's greeting to new arrivals is "Welcome Home!" and "We Love You!" Many spiritual traditions are represented, often with their own kitchen, from Hare Krishnas to Orthodox Jews to many varieties of Christianity and much more.[7]

Spritiually, there is a very strong influence from Native American Shamanism and Neo-Paganism. Shamanism and New Age aspects are apparent in a large portion of the culture, tradition, and every day life for the participants.

Creative events may include variety shows, campfire singing, fire-juggling, and large or small art projects. At one gathering, a cable car was rigged to carry groups of four at speed across a meadow. Faerie Camp was "alive with hundreds of bells and oddly illuminated objects." Musicians and music pervade all Gatherings, at kitchens, on the trails, and at campfires.[8]

[edit] Gathering logistics

"Rap 107," concise Gatherng participation principles[1]
A Rainbow 'brother' waiting in line to fill his water containers at the 2002 Family Gathering in Michigan

The annual U.S. Rainbow Gathering can attract as many as 30,000 people. Regional Rainbow gatherings can attract as many as 5,000.[9] The U.S. national gathering centers around July 1-7th, but people come up to a month earlier to help set up (this is known as "Seed Camp") and remain on site up to a month later to participate in clean up and perform ecosystem restorations.[10]

Although each event is more or less anarchic, practical guidelines have been reached through the consensus process and are documented in the Mini-manual. Items which are strongly discouraged at gatherings include firearms and alcohol. Other items are also discouraged including radios, tape players, sound amplifiers, and power tools.[6]

[edit] Camps and Kitchens

Camps and kitchens are the basic community units of the Gathering. Camps may be based on regional, spiritual, or even dietary commonalities. For example, Kid Village attracts attendees with children. Brew-Ha-Ha specializes in serving herbal teas in a drug-free/smoke-free environment. Bread of Life Camp promotes Christianity.

Not all camps are kitchens, but all kitchens are camps. In addition to feeding passers-by, kitchens send food to the two large communal, predominantly vegetarian, meals served daily in the main meadow.[11]

[edit] Water and Sanitation

Drinking water is filtered at gatherings, both by small pump filters and large gravity-feed devices. Attendees are encouraged also to boil drinking water. Water is often tapped at a source (such as a spring or stream) and run hundreds of yards to main kitchens in the gathering via plastic hosing.

Sanitation has historically been a major concern at Rainbow Gatherings. Human waste is deposited in latrine trenches and treated with lime and ash from campfires. New latrines are dug and filled in daily. The 1987 gathering in North Carolina experienced an outbreak of highly contagious shigellosis (a.k.a dysentery) (known at the gathering as Beaver Fever) causing diarrhea.[12] The 1996 Gathering in Missouri also had a large outbreak, reportedly of shigellosis. The source was rumored to be animal waste pollution in the creek which ran along the site.[citation needed]

[edit] C.A.L.M.

C.A.L.M., or the Center for Alternative Living Medicine, is the primary group of healers at Rainbow Gatherings who take responsibility for the health, wellness, medical emergencies and sanitation of those who attend these large gatherings.[13] It is an all volunteer, non-hierarchical group encompassing both mainstream, conventional medicine and alternative medicine, such as naturopathic healing modalities. It is common to find physicians working with herbalists, EMTs helping massage therapists and naturopaths coordinating with Registered Nurses on patient care. C.A.L.M. works closely with Shanti Sena, as they are often the first on the scene in a crisis. There is usually one main C.A.L.M. camp near the inner part of the gatherings and smaller first aid stations set up around the Gatherings. Even those without medical experience are encouraged to help with things such as procuring water and cooking for the healers, who are often too busy to attend main circle or visit other kitchens. In case of any emergency CALM can be contacted on FRS Channel 3 (no tones, 462.6125 MHz UHF) and other site-specific radio frequencies.

[edit] Shanti Sena

Within the Rainbow Gathering, security, conflict resolution, and emergency situations are handled by the Shanti Sena ("Peace Keepers").

Shanti Sena also sometimes act as liaisons to observers and law enforcement officers who patrol the Rainbow Gathering, often tracking the movements of police and park rangers through the gathering, and overseeing the interactions between officers and people attending the gathering to ensure that neither group instigates or takes part in illegal or inflammatory confrontations. In some particularly serious situations, Shanti Sena have collaborated with law enforcement officers (although without violating the Gathering's principle of consensus).[14] For example, a wanted murder suspect and gathering regular, Joseph Geibel, was peacefully approached by Shanti Sena and transferred to police custody at the 1998 gathering.[15]

[edit] Difficulties and criticisms

Difficulties include:

  • The often unacknowledged class and power structures of the Rainbow community and its events.[16]
  • The phenomenon of "Drainbows"—individuals who are perceived to not give sufficiently of their labor or other resources for the common good, but rather are only consuming the social benefits a Rainbow gathering offers (a classic cooperation problem).[17]
  • Relationships with both the Forest Service as well as local communities and other stakeholders in National Forest lands (both commercial interests as well as local environmentalists, who are often concerned about Gathering impacts).[18]

[edit] Relations with law enforcement

Police and medics near "trading circle" at the annual U.S. national Rainbow Gathering in West Virginia, 2005

In an October 2008 report the American Civil Liberties Union stated:

The U.S. Forest Service systematically harasses people who attend Rainbow Family gatherings on public lands.[19][20][21]

All major Gatherings in the United States are held on National Forest land, which is under the jurisdiction of the United States Forest Service, a federal agency. The Forest Service has often tried to prevent these gatherings from taking place or insisted that a group-use permit be signed, contending that this is standard practice for large groups wishing to camp on public land and that it is necessary to protect public safety and the local environment. Gathering organizers generally contend that the United States Constitution and Bill of Rights give them the right to peaceably assemble on public land and that requiring a permit would violate that basic right by turning it into a privilege to be regulated. (The Gatherings did attempt to initially work within the permit system starting in 1976, but found the government-imposed requirements for facilities and insurance too onerous.)

In 1984, the Forest Service enacted a regulation requiring a permit for any expressive assembly of ten or more people on Forest Service lands. This was unenforced for a year and a half before the Service attempted to apply it to the gathering in Arizona in 1986. Judge Bilby called attention to the selective enforcement of the regulation, and in any case ruled it unconstitutional, in part because it required expressive assemblies, but not non-expressive ones, to obtain permits.[22]

The U.S. government will sometimes treat a given individual as a representative of the Gathering (e.g., to sign a permit), however, this is in violation of the well-established Rainbow principle that "no individual may officially represent the Family as a whole." A number of court cases have resulted from both Forest Service prosecutions and Rainbow Family-inspired legal actions against enforcement activities; the Forest Service found itself rebuffed by the judge in a defendant class suit originating from the 1987 North Carolina gathering, among other defeats.[23]

A notable account of Gathering relations with law enforcement, Judge Dave and the Rainbow People, was written by U.S. Federal Judge David Sentelle. The book provides a first hand account of Sentelle's role in presiding over the 1987 case brought by the State of North Carolina in an attempt to stop the Gathering, including site visits to the Gathering and related legal actions. Garrick Beck, an active Rainbow Family member and protagonist of the 1987 case, wrote an afterword to the book in which he expresses agreement with Sentelle's characterizations.[14]

The Forest Service has dealt with the scale of the US Annual Rainbow Gathering in the past by assigning a Type 2 National Incident Management Team (NIMT). Around 40 personnel from the NIMT have been assigned in the past, including NIMT members, Forest Service law enforcement officers (LEOs) and resource advisors. Because the Rainbow Gathering utilizes the land without required consent from the Forest Service, the gatherings are given special attention, as under current Forestry rules and regulations they occur illegally and may not take required health codes into account. [7].

In 2005 (West Virginia), an "individual permit was issued for the purpose of conducting a noncommercial group use event on the Gauley Ranger District of the Monongahela National Forest.". This came after the Incident management Team raided water systems and blocked roads illegally forcing a changing of sites.[24] [25]

An individual's application for a permit for the 2006 United States Annual Gathering was denied. The reasons for denial where that there was "inadequate ingress/egress in case of a large fire" and that a permit would "conflict with existing uses for businesses that have Priority Permits and have activities planned in the area". The Gathering elected to take place without the permit. Three "incidents involving aggressive actions toward Forest Service personnel" were reported in a Forest Service press release of June 29, as were two arrests for assault on Forest Service personnel. Additionally the NIMT issued a total of 218 citations for violation of federal regulations. [8]

In July, 2008, an incident occurred at a Rainbow Gathering in Wyoming when Forest Service officers tried to arrest a member of the group. A spokeswoman for the U.S. Forest Service said that about 400 participants in the Gathering began to advance, throwing sticks and rocks at the officers.[26] Pepper balls were then fired to control the crowd.[27] Witnesses reported that officers pointed weapons at children and fired rubber bullets at gathering participants.[28] One witness was reported as saying "They were so violent, like dogs"[28] The ACLU said it would investigate the behavior of the officers a spokesmen saying that they were concerned by the handling of the situation "Particularly the pretext arrests — the idea that people are just cruising around looking for people to arrest when there have been no complaints and no reason for them to be there."[27]

[edit] Drugs and Alcohol

Alcohol is frowned upon at the gatherings. A distinguishing characteristic of the U.S. national gatherings is "A-Camp," (meaning "alcohol camp") typically located near the front gate, where those who want to drink alcohol can stay. Gatherings in Europe do not have "A-Camps." Some gatherings in Canada have "A-Camps" and some do not. Wine is tolerated in moderation at some European gatherings, particularly in France, where it is customary to drink wine with the evening meal.[29]

[edit] Confusion over Hopi Legend

There has been a longstanding Rainbow rumor that the gathering was/is recognized by the elders of the Hopi people as the fulfillment of a Hopi prophecy. This was debunked by Michael I. Niman in his 1997 People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia.[30] Niman traced the supposed Hopi prophecies to the 1962 book Warriors of the Rainbow by William Willoya and Vinson Brown, which compares prophecy of major religious sects throughout the world and tales of visions from North American natives.[31]

A portion of the legend erroneously attributed to the Hopi states: When the earth is ravaged and the animals are dying, a new tribe of people shall come unto the earth from many colors, classes, creeds, and who by their actions and deeds shall make the earth green again. They will be known as the warriors of the Rainbow'

[edit] Gatherings outside the United States

The Québec tipi at the World Gathering in Costa Rica, 2004

Sizable gatherings are routinely held all over the world, in such places as many countries of Europe and Americas, Australia, New Zealand, Israel, Turkey and India.

[edit] European Gatherings

Many European countries host their own national gathering. In addition to these is an annual European gathering. The first European Rainbow gathering was held in 1983 in a Ticino valley (Val Campo), Switzerland. The 2007 European gathering was held in Bosnia. The 26th annual European Rainbow gathering in 2008 was held in Serbia.

[edit] World Gatherings

World Gatherings have been held in Australia, Zimbabwe, Brazil, Costa Rica, Canada, Turkey, Thailand and China. The 2000 World Gathering in Australia, held on farmland in Boonoo Boonoo State Forest, northern New South Wales, attracted 3000 people at full moon. The next world gathering will be in New Zealand at the end of 2009.

[edit] List of Gatherings

[edit] United States Annual Rainbow Gatherings

[edit] The European Gatherings

Impromptu art at the Rainbow World Gathering 2004 in Costa Rica
  • 1983 Switzerland
  • 1984 Switzerland
  • 1986 France
  • 1987 Spain
  • 1988 Spain
  • 1989 Norway
  • 1990 Austria
  • 1991 Poland
  • 1992 Poland
  • 1993 Ireland (Ballyhupahaun, County Laois)
  • 1994 Slovenia
  • 1995 Czech Republic
  • 1996 Portugal
  • 1997 Greece
  • 1998 Russia
  • 1999 Hungary (on the path of the solar eclipse of 11 August)
  • 2000 Romania
  • 2001 Croatia
  • 2002 Italy
  • 2003 France (Pyrenees)
  • 2004 Bulgaria
  • 2005 Germany
  • 2006 England
  • 2007 Bosnia
  • 2008 Serbia
  • 2009 Ukraine

[edit] World Gatherings

At the Rainbow World Gathering 2004 in Costa Rica
  • 2000 Australia
  • 2001 Zimbabwe (on the path of the solar eclipse)
  • 2003 Brazil
  • 2004 Costa Rica
  • 2004 Quebec, Canada (Turtle Island Gathering, non-consensed w.g.)
  • 2005 Turkey
  • 2006 Thailand
  • 2008 China
  • 2009 New Zealand

[edit] See also

[edit] References

[edit] Notes

  1. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 30-37 and passim
  2. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 32-33, Roots Rock, Rainbow section
  3. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 68-72, "A World Without Money" and "Trade Circle" sections
  4. ^ "Mini-Manual: Counseling". http://rainbowguide.info/MiniManual/MMeng.php?id=4. Retrieved on 2009-02-08. 
  5. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 42-43
  6. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 32-35, "Roots, Rock, Rainbow" section
  7. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 146, "From Ethnocide to a Multispiritual Utopia" section and passim
  8. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 28, "Sunflower's Day" section and passim
  9. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 33, 40
  10. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 60-66, "From Seed" and "Seed Camp" sections
  11. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 72-78, "Kitchens" section and passim
  12. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 78-80, 185-186, and passim
  13. ^ "Center for Alternative Living Medicine". http://www.welcomehome.org/rainbow/calm/. Retrieved on 2009-02-08. 
  14. ^ a b Sentelle 2002, pp. 200-204
  15. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 118-125 "Not Really Cops Rainbow Cop Trip" section
  16. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 35, 55-57, 118-125, 128-130 "Roots," "A Persistent Democracy," "Not Really Cops Rainbow Cop Trip," "Peace through Violence-The Rainbow Ghetto" sections
  17. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 85, "Work and Drudgery" section
  18. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 170-183, "Land Stewardship and Community Relations" chapter
  19. ^ http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5g4dumsUYLVcErlCB8lA6JdaEApdgD93JB6L05
  20. ^ http://www.montanasnewsstation.com/Global/story.asp?S=9121074&nav=menu227_2
  21. ^ http://www.nytimes.com/2008/10/05/us/05rainbow.html?ex=1380859200&en=1168fed07455eae0&ei=5124&partner=facebook&exprod=facebook
  22. ^ Sentelle 2002, pp. 249-50
  23. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 184-189, "The Rainbow and the U.S. Government"
  24. ^ "Noncompliance Letter, July 2, 2005". http://www.welcomehome.org/rainbow/sites/wva-2005/permit-bs/noncomply-20050702.html. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  25. ^ "Rainbow Guide - Rainbow Family of Living Light - 2005 National Gathering Information". http://rainbowguide.info/Gathering2005.php. Retrieved on 2008-07-24. 
  26. ^ 5 arrested in Rainbow Family clash with feds
  27. ^ a b ACLU plans to investigate Rainbow Family treatment
  28. ^ a b Arrest leads to Rainbow riot
  29. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 125-128, "'A' Camp for Alcohol Abusers" section; 189-193, "The Drug Factor" section
  30. ^ Niman 1997, pp. 131-147, "Fakelore" chapter
  31. ^ Interview with Michael Niman by John Tarleton, July 1999

[edit] Bibliography

  • Niman, Michael I. People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia (1997) University of Tennessee Press. ISBN 978-0870499890
  • Sentelle, David B. Judge Dave and the Rainbow People (2002) Green Bag Press. ISBN 0-9677568-3-9
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