Where will the gathering be?

We will gather peacefully for silent meditation the morning of July 4th, 2017 from dawn until noon; and a peaceful assembly of free speech and expression from July 1st through the end of Vision Counsel; in the state of Oregon. For directions, click here.

To find out how to get into the gathering without getting a mandatory court appearance ticket, click here and check out the right side-bar. To reach a human being, email Karin.

Sunday, May 14, 2017

What is it like when the Forest Service tries to shut us down?

In my humble opinion, the gatherings from 1999 to 2008 were the height of the conflicts between the United States Forest Service (USFS) and those who chose to gather and pray for world peace and the positive evolution of the planet on the 4th day of July.  For brief recounts of those years, click here.

I believe that the Forest Service was trying to discourage family from coming home with harassment, legal maneuvers, sending people to prison, issuing untold number of B.S. tickets (see blog sidebar), and doing their best to either stop the gatherings altogether or to convert them into a version of Burning Man -- i.e. an event that charges admission and has porta potties, paid staff, etc. (no disrespect to Burning Man).

Many people who still gather today, attended some or all of the worst years. Now don't get me wrong, there were some amazingly beautiful moments during those years - the 4th in Michigan when we didn't know what would happen, but we all silently crossed the bridge to the west bank while being smudged by the bridge fairy and in our peace and prayer, defied the Forest Service to make us leave. The dragonfly who landed on the clasped hands of me and another sister during the om.  That morning still brings tears to my eyes. This family was incredibly strong and powerful in our silence and prayer.

However, for those of you who did not gather during the worst years, I would like to share my thoughts and ideas of what the gathering was like, what I feel I and others could have done better.  I also offer this personal reflection as what I think we as a family could do better in the future if,  under the new administration, the USFS is forced to or decides to change their strategy.  As an FYI, as of last year in Vermont, the USFS strategy is that although we are an illegal event, they will treat it as a recreation event and limit their interference.  (Yes I hear those of you who were in Vermont last year groaning -- but that was limited interference compared to the height of the conflicts). 

One tactic some people took was to try to avoid being a "group" with the argument that if we are not a "group," the group use regs do not apply to us.  The results was that we stopped having councils and we stopped using the words council, counsel and circle to explain what we do. We also stopped trying to reach a consensus for much of anything based on the argument that if a council can reach consensus, then we have a governing body that can sign a permit. We were trying to prove we were less organized then we were.

IMHO, the fallout from that is that we slowly drifted away from being a family and being more like small groups of people who gather at the beach to watch fireworks on the 4th of July.  Both things are great but very, very different.

Without cooperation between all of us when we gather, we lose the big picture, fail to deal with problems collectively, and loose our focus. Now council/counsel/circle is not the only way cooperation happens, but it is the way that is most opening to all bellies at the gathering.  For example, if no council is called to discuss parking, then people park where ever, many people's cars get towed, and then when it gets really bad, a few people off to the side are forced into dealing with the situation. While counciling may take longer and have its own challenges, it is the process that insures that all voices are heard, we are doing what is best for the gathering (not a handful of people), and it allows less experienced gatherers to learn from more experienced gatherers. By the way, it also allows less experienced gatherers to share new and potentially better ideas with everyone. Fresh eyes can see opportunities tired eyes don't see.

We and by we, I also mean "I," spent too much time focusing on the USFS and not enough time taking care of our own house. What I mean by this is that were were endless calls, discussions, ideas spent trying to figure out how to get the Group Use Regs struck down, modified to accommodate a unsigned operating plan, and/or grant the gathering an "alternative means" to comply with the regulation (per the regulations themselves). We had circles with the USFS at gatherings, side conversations, discussions at kangaroo courts, and conference calls with the USFS.

I personally spent years walking with the USFS to insure that there was a witness to their harassment and  my family knew they were coming. These were the years when yelling Six-Up could get you arrested. These were the years when some or much of my family thought Shanti Sena meant law enforcement. These were the years when the conflict was at its worst.  Why did I spend so much time walking with the USFS?  Very few people were willing to do it then. 5 or 6 people were trying to cover 8 hours a day, with multiple groups of USFS law enforcement officers.  These were the years that if you tried to talk to a law enforcement officers, you might get taken to jail for "interfering with an officer."

Some of these years, digging shitters might get you a mandatory court appearance ticket so when the calls of "Six-Up" rang out, shitter diggers disappeared into the woods -- not a scenario that helps us all to stay healthy.  Some years, our medical folks where harassed when trying to help the health of our family: cars were held up when trying to take people to the hospital, medical personnel tents were searched, and charges were brought for a host of issues against family trying to help family.

Many of these years, the USFS came into the gathering at dinner time on the third of July looking to serve warrants on people who missed their court dates.  The years 2006 to 2008 were especially bad for this with the USFS engaging in escalating aggression and violence toward gathering participants.  These were scary years and there were times that I was so scared I was shaking. I was afraid of what the USFS was doing to us, and I was afraid of what gathering participants might do to the USFS. Thankfully this is a wonderful family. We have always acted better than the USFS although that doesn't mean we have always acted as good as we could have. We are the peacekeepers the world needs now.

These are all hard issues to deal with and they do demand a lot of attention. If I have to do it all over again, there are some things I would change and some I wouldn't.  I would still walk with the USFS as much as I can. It deescalates their behavior, tends to keep them on the trails instead of searching through people's campsites, and keeps my family from being arrested. But I would also make sure to spend more time participating in workshops, sitting in council/counsel/circle, and encouraging others to go about their business while ignoring the USFS as best they could.

I would encourage all of us to have councils/counsels/circles as much as possible. Even one council with 20 people changes the vibe of the area around them. I've been witness to this myself on more than one occasion.  While trying to find a permanent resolution with the USFS is important, sharing our knowledge on how to gather with each other is even more important.  If we forgot how to gather, then gatherings will stop.

I would encourage the USFS to sit in council with us. I would encourage the USFS to have their meeting with us in the Cooperations area (usually near INFO) so that all family are free to attend, listen in, ask questions, and share their ideas. However, as we do not control the USFS, I would strongly encourage that where ever the meetings with the USFS take place, the information is widely distributed and all people who can be peaceful with law enforcement attend.  Remember, they tried to shut us down by imprisoning people they thought were leaders. That's only possible when a handful of people step up. When a thousand people step up, that doesn't happen. Be one of the thousand!

Protect the meek among us. Many of our meeker family stopped coming home during the bad years because it was all too much for them. We need the meek as much as we need the brave.  Life is a balance and if we are going to create peace on earth, then we need what looks like peace to everyone, not just to some.

When I interact with the USFS, I would try to be kinder and gentler.  While dealing with the USFS is a fact of life when we gather on National Forest Land, we can set the tone for our interactions, we can educate each other, and we can take more responsibility for protecting the natural resources and not rely on the USFS to be the muscle behind us.

Doing our own media outreach is critical. Many media outlets don't have the time to come to the gathering, so having people who can be reached by telephone helps a lot. The more people who volunteer to share their personal perspective about the gathering, the better.  Doing outreach in the local towns is critical. The more people who volunteer to share their personal perspective about the gathering, the better.

During these years, the USFS tried to drive a wedge in the gathering between more hippy-like-gatherers and more dirty-kid-like gatherers. They stated in multiple town meetings that most of us were good, but the there was a criminal element among us that fit the description of dirty kids. We must always stand together and not allow anyone to blame problems on one set of gatherers.  Now I know that some people cause more drama at gatherings than others, but that just means they are more in need of healing than others.  We should focus our efforts on those who need healing -- what ever that means.

During the worst years of the conflict, we were slowly forgetting how to gather in a way that protects the land, maintains human health, and that allows other creatures to co-exist.  IMHO the most important thing I and hopefully others can do if the conflict resurfaces is to keep sharing our collective knowledge, keep gathering how we gather, refrain from becoming reactive to the USFS and always project love and kindness -- even to law enforcement.

As an early gatherer has said repeatedly, "peace wins."



  1. Fontyart@yahoo.comMay 18, 2017 at 10:02 PM

    Thank you!

  2. Peace is mere myth, especially with these kids

  3. tho I have heard many reports about how the dirty kids are troublemakers and dangerous hoodlums the fact is that I have always had good relations with them... I show Respect and expect Respect and I get Respect back from everybody. The ONLY exception to that is the disRespect that is directed towards all of we Gatherers from SOME of the gun toting badge-guys. Here is my take on that. I have done and will always cooperate to the best of my ability with the foresters. I do my best to have no discourse whatsoever with anybody who is wearing a gun or who rides a horse through the waters where we swim and where children especially congregate or use the water... If officers or tourists RIDE horses through kid village and through our encampments without protecting We the People from the horseshit they are threatening the health of the people and thus they are committing a crime. I love critters of all sorts but my first and foremost responsibility will always be the health and safety of the children and the mothers... if a guntoter comes at anybody ferociously the ONLY response has to be to sit down and remain totally silent except to give your legal name until u are ticketed or booked in. do not think you can change their minds or talk them into or out of anything. again, if they treat us with Respect we give it back to them by the bushel-load and if they show disRespect we be as neutral and UNrespectful (not DISrespectful) as possible right back. compromise with fascism is collusion. discussion that is not a two way avenue of Respect is a waste of time. they get paid to waste their time and ours, we do not so why get caught up in it?

  4. Karin's description here of what it is like when USFS tries to shut down rainbow gatherings and her description in the separate link about how we choose where to gather can be really helpful information to understanding the difference between counseling and counciling. These are two divergent concepts that make all the difference in the world to understanding the basis for the legal disputes and harassment regarding the USFS requirement that someone sign a "group" use permit application whenever over 75 people assemble on USFS land.

    I agree there is a legitimate argument that if there is such a process as "council" in rainbow gatherings that it indicates there is in fact some recognized process of making a collective decision on behalf of the "group", and by logical extension if that collective authority is capable of making any decision on behalf of the "group" such as designating where a gathering site is then that same collective authority is capable of designating an agent to sign a permit application on behalf of the "group".

    The reality though is that there are not "councils" with any collective authority for any "group" in rainbow gatherings because even when agreement to any idea is recognized by a period of silence in an open forum of people counseling on the land, there is no enforcement mechanism--it is just a "circle" of people communicating with each other and others who respect the wisdom that often comes out of this process--not a "group". It might seem like meaningless word games, and it is if we don't take the distinct definitions of "council" and "counsel" to heart in the ways that we feel and behave. In my opinion, understanding the meaning of the difference between these two words, even if a person never uses either of those words in this context, is essential to understanding one of the most important aspects of nonviolence that makes rainbow gatherings distinct from any other gatherings. There is a huge dictionary of the English language that is something like 28 books the size of a normal collegiate dictionary in fine print. Studying the roots of the two words in this dictionary (I think it's called the unabridged Oxford Dictionary) can illuminate why it is important for our liberty to stop talking and acting like people at rainbow gatherings are "counciling" and realize we are "counseling". The two words have the same root of counsel describing the means by which early Christians learned to cooperate by sharing perspectives as equals. However, as part of the Roman Empire's efforts to subvert the egalitarian Christians who were resistant to the violent coercion to assimilate into the authoritarian confines of the police state, the state began to find "treaty chiefs" (a comparison to Native Americans willing to sell out their traditions to make peace)who were willing to organize "councils" that would make authoritative decisions on behalf of their congregation in exchange for the police state agreeing to stop violence against those congregations that agreed to organize an authoritarian body (that should sound like a familiar theme to those who have danced through the rough rainbow years Karin describes). Thus, over a period of a few hundred years, the two terms took on different spellings and meanings to reflect what we still today think of as the authoritarian power of a church "council" to excommunicate or a city "council" to make enforceable ordinances as compared with the voluntary cooperation we associate with therapeutic "counsel" or the friendly advice of a trusted friend.

    to be continued ...

  5. I assert that the process of circle at rainbow gatherings is more like therapeutic counsel geared toward learning how each person can better choose to cooperate than making enforceable decisions of what people must do whether they agree or not in order to stay out of trouble. I further assert that just as this egalitarian way of learning to cooperate was such a central part of the spiritual ways of early Christians, that it is also a central factor of why so many people experience some sense of spiritual enlightenment associated with participation in rainbow gatherings because we are thrust into a situation where we have to find more compassionate less coercive ways of communicating if we are to achieve cooperation.

    Karin's description of the spring counsel circle process accurately describes this autonomous nature of the process when she notes that a site is not always concensed to by silence or any formal process, but rather sometimes by the exodus of people "voting with their feet" to the most likely site. I will add that there are also assemblies of autonomous individuals who choose not to gather at the site where most people go and instead observe rainbow customs at this time in a different place because they don't agree with the region, the specific site, don't like large assemblies, or just don't have the gas money or time to travel--and this might be only a few or several thousand people. These individuals might consider the wisdom of the counseling process either by being there in person and listening or by reading reports of the spring counsel (or other counsel) but they exercise their freedom to choose without fear they will be excommunicated from the congregation or suffer some penalty for noncompliance with a perceived "decision" of some "council".

    As an attorney who has paid careful attention to a lot of the judicial drama as well as drama in the field, I think that this fact of "counsel" is the most important fact to establish in our hearts and in the courts to realize the extraordinary protection of religious exercise that the Religious Freedom Restoration Act might provide for rainbow gatherings--but that is a rap for another blog. Suffice it to say that it takes a lot of love to cooperate without coercion, and in my opinion that is the evolutionary message of salvation to the world that rainbow gatherings demonstrate.

    Tony Nenninger aka Goodwater

  6. Educate yourself on the meaning of the word "meek"

  7. Educate yourself on the meaning of the word "meek"


I look forward to comments that avoid racist, sexist, homophobic, and/or other 'ism' language that does not advocate violence.