Native Sun News: Rainbow Gathering receives criticism and support

The following story was written and reported by Richie Richards, Native Sun News Staff Writer. All content © Native Sun News.

One of several camps at the Rainbow Gathering in South Dakota. Photo by Richie Richards

Rainbow Gathering makes statement in Black Hills
By Richie Richards
Native Sun News Staff Writer

HILL CITY –– As the Rainbow Gathering comes to a close near the Deerfield Reservoir in the central Black Hills area, many travelers will make their journey home having learned the resolve and commitment Lakota have to the environment and with local support from Lakota leaders.

Before and during their time in the Black Hills, the Rainbow Family of Living Light was met with both resistance and acceptance from many self-representing spokespersons of local Native American community groups and activists.

Beginning in mid-June, resistance came on two fronts against the Gathering, from leadership from the United Urban Warrior Society and the Independent Lakota Nation – Cante Tenza Okolakiciye, who faced criticism from its own members.

On June 16 in Hill City, Independent Lakota Nation, Lead Representative Canupa Gluha Mani served a member of the Rainbow Gathering, “Bajer”, with a Notice of Complaint titled “Lakota Refuse Rainbow Gathering in the Black Hills,” citing the Bad Man Clause of the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868.

Following the Complaint, on June 25, Cante Tenza Okolakiciye issued an eviction notice from Lakota lands citing the Ft. Laramie Treaty of 1868, 1961 and 1969 Vienna Conventions and International Law, which went ignored.

Despite the resistance, the Rainbow Gathering of 2015 has come and gone with little action. According to Forest Service regulations, an individual campsite is permitted for up to 14 days in any 60 day period. Since the Rainbow Family of Living Light is without proclaimed, organized leadership, they did not need a permit for their Gathering.

Many Native organizations and activists supported the Gathering as they may receive support from the Rainbow Family in future protests in the Black Hills area. Included in the Rainbow supporters were AIM Peji Wahuta, Chase Iron Eyes and Cody Hall of Last Real Indians and activist Alex White Plume.

The peaceful gathering is an annual event held from coast to coast with upwards of 20,000 people attending. This year’s event was a relatively low-attendance Gathering as there was dissension in the ranks, according to one member, “Novel.”

Novel has been participating in the Rainbow Gatherings for several years and spoke to Native Sun News regarding his experiences.

The Rainbow Gathering camp site was broken up into several smaller village-type of camp sites located near Deerfield Reservoir, which had signs designating their space and individual names. Each camp site has its own style of cooking with stoves and ovens constructed from stones and mud. Native Sun News decided to visit the camp called, “Hobo Alley.”

Novel is from Phoenix and has gone to the Rainbow Gatherings as a Family member for much of his adult life. He says, “This is a social gathering to see old friends and visit with like-minded individuals who just want to live free.”

When asked if the Rainbow Family, largely does education or research regarding local environmental statistics or culturally-relevant historical training, Novel said, “We do not. I would say that a large percentage of us are ignorant to the local Native American causes or issues.”

Each Rainbow Gathering culminates on July 4 of every year. This is the beginning of the Vision Council in which Family members gather for discussion, prayers, and to pass the feather. The feather passing ceremony gives individuals a chance to speak on future locations for Gathering sites.

Novel guarantees the land used by the Rainbow Gathering will be returned to its natural state. They “ax the land” to aerate the earth and sometimes the Forest Service provides grass seeds. Sticks and stones are scattered about to return the land to its owner, nature.

The Rainbow Gathering, though meant to be environmentally sensitive, self-sustaining, and cost-effective costs the local governments thousands of dollars each year in law enforcement, grounds keeping, trail reparations, trash disposal, medical emergencies, judicial services, and other costs related to hosting thousands of people without permits.

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Copyright permission Native Sun News

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