Rainbows in New Mexico
by Dick Overfield
July 8, 2009
During the months of June & July, The Rainbow Family of Light is
having an annual gathering in the Santa Fe National Forest some
thirty miles northeast of Cuba, in northwestern New Mexico. The
opening days were a bit wet & muddy. It's the monsoon season in New
Mexico so the rain came as no surprise to some 13,000 people
celebrating a desire for world peace, freedom & the power of universal love.
The Rainbow Family of Light is an extended, loosely structured tribal
community that dates back to the mid sixties when they held their
first gathering in southern Colorado. They are a sophisticated,
politically astute society of free spirits who pose a clear &
distinctly viable alternative to the anti-humanist aggressiveness of
American consumption based free market capitalism. Their economic
policies are based on barter. Necessities are available based on
need. There are no celebrities in their vision of the world. Broad
decisions made on behalf of others are made by "elders." That is
about as oligarchic as it gets.
There is an undeniable vein of Luddite values in their world view.
They actively shun alcohol, most drugs, technology & money based
economic systems whenever possible. They reject greed, excessive
materialism, competitiveness & militarism of any kind. They believe
we are here to learn, share & take care of each other. The natural
world is a source of wisdom to be protected & revered as opposed to a
resource to be exploited for profit & then consumed. They openly
celebrate sensuality & eroticism on an intimate, personal level. They
celebrate & revere children & childhood.
Rainbow Family members are not utopian. They are genuine realists &
dedicated, nonviolent revolutionaries. They believe peace in our
time is not an empty phrase. With a pagan exuberance, they are
passionately dedicated to making it happen now.
For the Rainbow Family of Light, tolerance, kindness & unconditional
love are goals of the highest order to be pursued on an individual
level from moment to moment. That is a tall order. It is
particularly so in the face of the general cynicism & mindlessly
reflexive materialism of hostile outsiders who consistently
misunderstand & fear them. The Albuquerque Journal, with its typical
obtuse, wrongheaded, crime & violence obsessed main stream media
fixation on the sordid, called the Gathering a "mudfest." Family
members have always made it clear that cameras not be used when
attending events at the Gathering, but Journal photographers were
there anyway contemptuously & intrusively taking the photographs they
believed they had a right to take for their front page no matter what.
All in all, Cuba, with roughly 800 residents & the Cuba police
department have handled themselves very well. In June, during the
early stages of the Gathering, law enforcement officers arrested a
group of family members for marijuana possession, unleashed dogs &
other minor infractions. The group appeared before an Albuquerque
judge who reduced their offenses by half & set a fine accordingly &
invited them to return to their event in the Santa Fe Forest.
I asked an eighteen year old skate boarding jujitsu adept freshman
from the University of New Mexico who had been there two & a half
days what he thought of it all. He raised both hands making a big
peace sign & said it was the most amazing experience he has ever had.
Rainbow Family Gathers for Peace
By Erika Celeste
Santa Fe National Forest, New Mexico
06 July 2009
While most people express a desire for world peace, few have any
idea how to bring it about. Some get involved in politics or
community service; others support organizations working for conflict
resolution. Many say a prayer for peace in their worship services.
For the past 37 years, people from all 50 U.S. states as well as many
foreign countries have spent the July Fourth holiday in Santa Fe
National Forest near Cuba, New Mexico to pray for world peace.
There is a Native American legend which says when the earth is broken
and the land is dying, a tribe of many colors and creeds, like the
rainbow, will rise up to heal the planet. These special people would
be known as the Rainbow Warriors.
In 1972, a group of about 2,000 free-spirited individuals decided to
hold a gathering for world peace and took the name, the Rainbow
Family, in honor of the legendary clan. A man who goes by the name
Barry Plunkar helped organize the first gathering, which was to
include an hour of silence for participants to meditate for peace.
"Now there is not any one place on this planet where you could impose
any sort of authoritative silence on any of these people," he says.
Only half of those present kept quiet. So the organizers made the
silence voluntary and suggested that those who would like to
participate should gather in a circle. Soon Christians and Krishnas,
Buddhists and pagans, Jews and atheists were joining in the quiet
celebration, holding hands in a meditation circle of peace. Over the
years, the hour of silence has expanded, and now the circle lasts
from dawn until noon.
"So there's no way to impose silence. It has to come from the
community," Plunkar says. "That's self-discipline on the part of individuals."
Hour of silence grows into week of activities
The silence isn't the only thing that has grown over the years. The
event itself has also grown, from a weekend to a full week of
impromptu workshops, discussions and activities, with as many as
Plunkar says people often begin camping in the forest as much as a
month early to prepare for the gathering, while others stay after the
event on clean-up duty.
"We all share one thing: We show respect to one another, with the
idea and the vibration that if we truly had any love or respect for
one another, we would not lay [power] trips on one other," Plunkar
says. "We are not above one other; we're not below. We're sort of
living a natural equality."
Because of this natural equality, Rainbows believe in
self-responsibility and govern by consensus instead of through a
hierarchy. There are no leaders, because that would be exercising
control over another. There are no rules, except to treat each other
with respect. Therefore, there are no membership requirements. Anyone
who wants to be a Rainbow is a Rainbow.
Participants bring their talents
Denny, a man with long, blond dreadlocks, says while this may sound
like it would inspire chaos, quite the opposite is true.
"We're known as the world's biggest unorganized organization, so
everybody has to take it upon themselves to decide what their duty
is. I personally love cooking, so I come with my talent and whatever
I can, and a lot of people here have better talents to, say, make a
tarp over the kitchen than, say, I do. So everybody comes out and
brings whatever talent they can."
While some people dig trenches for latrines, others carry logs to
construct foot bridges on forest paths, and still others erect tarps
to shield sleeping quarters from the harsh sun. It's become a
tradition to name the various campsites, so participants set up tents
among the trees in areas called "Camp Kitten," 'Love Militia" and
It's a massive volunteer effort to feed the Rainbows during their
gathering. Denny is one of a few dozen people running the kitchens,
which serve free food. Like the campsites, the kitchens have catchy
names. You can grab a bite to eat at sites like "Instant Soup,"
"Jesus Kitchen" and "Lovin' Oven." And many of the attendees take
colorful Rainbow names, as well.
Food, music, merriment
Turtle Girl is a marketing executive from Wisconsin. Dressed casually
in a sweatshirt and khakis and sporting a cowboy hat, she kneads
sourdough for bread near a large earthen oven. She says she's learned
an important lesson from attending gatherings.
"Do we all know how to be kind to each other and treat each other
with respect, no matter what walk of life you're in? That's what we
should all be trying to do."
Musicians playing everything from folk music to rap wander through
the forest, engaged in spontaneous jam sessions. Each day, people
gather in the meadow in small circles for workshops on everything
from herbal healing and tai chi to drumming and juggling. An outdoor
market is set up along a path through the forest. Rainbows display
bumper stickers, crystals, candy and other wares on blankets. Goods
are purchased through barter and trade, not money.
A special area called Kid Village is set up for the smallest
Rainbows. Medicine Story, a Wampanoag Indian from Massachusetts, uses
his talent as a counselor to organize special games and music for kids.
"It's like a summer school in trying to figure out how to live
together in a good way," Story says. "To me, the most important part
of that is how we are with the kids and, of course, how we are with
each other, because that effects the kids, too, and so that's my main focus."
Silent prayers for world peace
Excitement builds as the time for silence draws near. Robby is a
Rainbow elder, a respected member who has attended many gatherings. A
slight man, he sits in his wheelchair in front of his tepee and
recalls his first one.
"I was sitting together in silence with my daughter, and I was
crying. There were tears all over my face for Mother Earth, and a
sparrow landed on my foot, a little sparrow. That's the kind of thing
that happens in silence."
Turtle Girl smiles as she explains what it's like to be among 20,000
people gathered silently in a meadow, praying for peace.
"It's kind of an interesting thing to stand in a circle when you
can't see the other end, and you know you're all thinking about the
same thing that we wish we could stop war and have a peaceful family
- it always makes me cry."
As the sun rose high in the Santa Fe Forest on Independence Day, the
Rainbow's prayer for peace was spreading. Across the Atlantic Ocean,
a second Rainbow Gathering was taking place in a forest in Ukraine.
At noon, the silence broke and people begin to sing as the youngest
Rainbows led a parade across the meadow, signifying the bright
promise of tomorrow in a world of peace.
'Rainbow people' fewer this time grace area forest
By David Tell
A much smaller contingent of Rainbow Family members than North
Carolina's Nantahala National Forest has sometimes experienced
descended on Buck Creek in the forest's Tusquitee District in late June.
In 1987, an estimated 12,000 Rainbow Family members converged on
Nantahala Forest in Graham County an invasion that caused
substantially more problems than the recent incursion.
A group of Rainbowers numbering 50 to 60 had converged at a campsite
in the national forest in Clay County off U.S. 64 west of Franklin.
Clay County Sheriff Joe Shook said it was actually four or five Clay
County residents that ended up with citations from the U.S. Forest
Service, however. It's not that the local residents were arrested for
harassing or trying to join the campers.
Instead the locals got tickets for various mundane violations, like
dead tags, expired licenses, no insurance, improper registration and
the like. Shook surmised the locals were driving out to the area to
get a look at the campers, Shook said.
"They was just out there looking seeing what was going on and the
Forest Service had set up some checking stations on Buck Creek. A
couple cars and trucks didn't have insurance, so they had them towed
in," Shook said.
Shook said the checkpoints were also not meant as a deterrent to
people bothering the peaceable campers, but were a routine practice.
Shook emphasized that the Rainbow Family campers presented no law
enforcement issues at all.
"If they don't cause us a problem, let's not create a problem," Shook
said of his attitude toward them. In fact, the only concern was
whether they would overstay the 14-day limit on camping. Leading up
to Fourth of July weekend when they would have hit the 14-day mark
Shook said a deputy would continue to check on the encampment until
the campers left.
Attempts to get more detail from the Forest Service about the tickets
issued were unsuccessful.
The Rainbow Family is a decidedly unorganized, uncentralized group or
movement with its origins in the 1960s counterculture. The group
subscribes to a philosophy of love and peace. The Fourth of July is
apparently a traditional occasion for mass Rainbow campouts, which
they reportedly call "harmonic convergences." The events are said to
develop by word-of-mouth and through information made available on the web.
Rainbow Gathering creates peace, love and piles of trash
By: Gadi Schwartz, Eyewitness News 4; Charlie Pabst, KOB.com
The Rainbow Gathering in the Jemez Mountains near Cuba is over, but
the clean-up is not.
A few hundred hippies stayed behind to clean up, but they really have
their work cut out for them.
Rainbow Brother Roo has become an expert at sorting garbage from recyclables.
"There's always good fun stuff to find in the trash. It's like
treasure," Roo said. "Shirts and pants all this stuff that if you
throw it in the washing machine, it will be fine… you'll be able to
use it save you a few bucks."
It's tough to convince 10,000 people to take what they brought with
them. "We try to get the hippies to take a bag of trash with them
when they leave- and it's our policy that the trash get dispersed
more than a hundred miles away from here in all directions. We don't
want to overwhelm the local town," one member of the clean-up crew said.
But there are still piles of garbage waiting to be trucked out, and
since a lot of the hippies at the gathering hitchhiked, they didn't
take their trash with them.
It's expected to take about three weeks to clean everything.