Where will the gathering be?

Where will the 2014 gathering be?
Near Heber, Utah. Click here for directions
Who is invited?
Every person with a belly button. If for some reason, you lost your belly button, you are invited as well.
What you really need to know:
How to Get Into The Gathering Without Getting a Mandatory Court Appearance Ticket.
How to Contact Someone?
If after reading the information on this blog, checking out the links on the right hand side, you still have questions, concerns, or problems, email random gatherers for assistance.

Sunday, May 4, 2014

A Brief Summary of Gathering/Forest Service Relationships

I find it helpful to have a basic understanding of situations in order to make informed decisions going into the future.  While my understanding of the relationship between the gathering and the United States Forest Service (USFS) is just one perspective, I hope that putting together a brief summary of how things have gone may help myself and other to see the big picture.

As I wasn't around until the late 1980s, I will try to keep my summary focused on things I do know and let others fill in the rest.

At the first gathering of the tribes, the USFS told family that a gathering could not happen without a permit and that no permit would be issued.  The next several years, the issue disappeared from the radar. From 1976 to 1980 permits were signed, often under protest. If you're interested in the details, read Plunker's summary of the permit issue from 1972 to 1983: Permit Herstory.

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.

In 1987 at the North Carolina gathering, the state tried to tell us we need a permit for all public gatherings. After a lot of legal wrangling and an elephant, Judge Dave issued a consent decree that theoretically was not a permit, but .....Judge Dave was so taken with his experience in 1987 that he has written a book about it called Judge Dave and the Rainbow People. All didn't end so well as some of the cleanup crew where arrested. Click here for the consent order.

 In 1988 at the Texas gathering, the USFS demanded a permit and when family just said no, they blockaded the gathering and refused to allow ingress to the gathering site. Family walked around the blockade to bring in supplies. The situation wound up in court. The judge presiding over the hearing was Mr. Justice or as he is more commonly known in Rainbow Circles Justice Justice.   This regulation was deemed unconstitutional because not all groups of ten or more people were required to obtain a permit. In other words, if people attending the gathering were sharing information, fliers, beliefs, etc, then a permit was required. However, if they weren't, then no permit required.  For Plunker's rap on what happened, click here.

The USFS Group Use Regulations governing "special events" were struck down at the 1988 gathering in Texas --visit these sites for more info:
The USFS regrouped and tried to write regulations governing special events that would stand up in court.  It took them quite some time and if you're interested in a perspective on how that all happened, read the PC&U's article, From the Trenches.  (This article was written just after the Wyoming 1994 gathering).

In late 1995, a new set of group use regulations was published by the government that required any group of 75 or more people to apply for a "Group Use Permit" under the Non-Commercial Group Use Regulations.

In 1996, one individual signed a permit and then later tried to rescind it. For a summary, see the Ozark Gazette article.  Folks gathered and so it goes.

In 1997 at the annual gathering in Oregon, the USFS tried a new tactic: they came with arrest warrants for people they deemed "secret leaders"  and then these "secret leaders" counter sued. We had an amazing council for days on end with the USFS and worked out an unsigned operating plan on the land.  (You can find copies of a few of these plans here). Finally, the USFS bullied a woman in Portland who had a child at the gathering to sign a permit, which she did.

Wrangling over the permit continued at the Arizona gathering in 1998.  While a small victory was won by a gatherer, it was a technicality and had no great impact on the future course of events.
For a summary of events, see the Arizona Republic Article or the New York Times article.

During the 1999 Rainbow Gathering in Pennsylvania, 3 individuals were chosen by the Forest Service's Incident Command Team as "secret leaders," and cited for not applying for a group use permit. As Rainbow is a leaderless, self-created temporary community, these charges were totally bogus. Unfortunately, due some legal maneuverings by the USFS, the "Rainbow 3"  lost their case (they weren't allowed any witnesses, among other things). An attempt was made to bring the case to the US Supreme Court, but the justices declined to take the case and the "Rainbow 3" spent time in the federal prison system for refusing to illegally sign a permit. For more legal information, click herehere or here or read the article that appeared in Legal Affairs.

Moving out west for 2000 in Montana, a cat and mouse game played out between the "secret leaders" with some of them sneaking in and out of the gathering to avoid continued legal harassment and the USFS. Three people were picked out by the Forest Service as “Rainbow leaders” to receive tickets for camping without a noncommercial group use permit. One of the defendants challenged his ticket. The Forest Service replied, as they had in the previous cases, that the group use regulation was a constitutional time, place, and manner restriction that is narrowly tailored to fit the specific government needs of protecting Forest Service resources, insuring public safety, and deciding between competing uses in a way that leaves open ample alternative channels for expression. Furthermore the signature requirement was a valuable means of ensuring that the group would adhere to the terms of the special use authorization and of protecting against fraudulent statements. All three defendants were sentenced to jail time although the sentences varied.

The cat and mouse game continued in Idaho in 2001 with tickets for all despite the fact that a permit application was made and denied.   While I don't have the exact number of citations issued for being at a an "illegal gathering" (One with more than 74 people and no permit), there's a great article from the Boise Weekly on the issue and my guess is over 500 if not closer to 1,000 people received the magic ticket.   The governor issued a declaration of emergency. The USFS even went so far as to inform the local chapter of Trout Unlimited that they would be unable to perform restoration work in conjunction with gatherers.  By the 4th of July, USFS mounted officers were seen joining in the celebration for world peace and the positive evolution of the planet.

In 2002 the gathering was in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan and drinking water was in short supply. The USFS tried to smoke us out by dumping drinking water en route to the gathering. but the local townsfolks  help out.  Then the USFS refused to issue a permit to an applicant.  Finally, the USFS decided that the illegal gathering could happen on one side of the river but not the other.  The infamous "west bank" of the river became off limits to everyone although every evening after they USFS LEOs went home for the day, we gathered there for dinner circle and for the silence on the 4th.

In 2003, a long time gatherer approached the USFS and promised to sign a permit for the gathering in Utah. He followed through on his plan meeting with officials before hand but the situation with the USFS was as bad as ever.  The USFS expected the permit signer to be responsible for every detail of the gathering and we all know that was doomed to failure.

Prior to the California 2004 gathering, meetings and telephone calls with the USFS took place in an attempt to find a workable solution for both sides - including a meeting with the head of the USFS in the Haight-Ashbury library in San Francisco.  Despite attempts to trying to work together, things didn't work out and the gathering was once again declared "illegal." Again someone not affiliated with the gathering signed a permit, but the USFS kept up it's campaign of intimidation, people were cited for being at an illegal event before the permit was signed, and the USFS declared the site off limits to nudity despite the fact that nudity was legal at this location before the gathering started.  People who were cited for being at an illegal gathering or being naked by their tent were treated to a visit to kangaroo court: a makeshift court just for us in some random building located in a small town near the gathering.

West Virginia in 2005 marks the first time the annual gathering relocated under pressure from the USFS.  A permit was signed for a location that the USFS wanted us to be on, many people received tickets for being at an "illegal gathering" and kangaroo Court was set up at the local visitor's center.
  In 2006, the USFS put up road blocks at the Colorado gathering in a failed attempt to prevent people from entering yet another "illegal gathering," many citations were written to people at the gathering, folks walked in through the woods (just like in 1972), kangaroo court took place in the local Fire Station and someone applied for a group use permit, which the Forest Service denied.

Arkansas 2007 was an attempt to work with the upper levels of the USFS  on a cooperative solution and the USFS took an unsigned operating plan worked out with gathering participants on the land in lieu of a falsified signature on a permit.  Life didn't change that much and the LEOs pulled pepper spray guns at family when they arrested a young woman (without bothering to inform her that she was being arrested).

The tension escalated the following year in Wyoming 2008. Again, the USFS accepted an unsigned operating plan worked out with gatherers on the land in lieu of a permit.  Unfortunately, the tension between the heads of the USFS who agreed to the unsigned operating plan model and the LEOs on the ground played out in the LEOs shooting up Kid Village with the same pepper spray paint ball guns they pulled the previous year. For perspectives on this situation from gatherers, click here.   For the report from the federal government on this incident, click here.

And by my accounts, Wyoming 2008 marks the absolute low in the relationship between the United States Forest Service and the Rainbow Gathering.

The New Mexico gathering in 2009 was a strange one.  Again someone not affiliated with the gathering signed a permit.  Everyone was jumpy after 2008. The US Marshals were there to baby sit the USFS LEOs and despite some scary moments, the US Marshals kept the USFS LEOs peaceful (that's not the official party line but I spent a lot of time on that movie and myself as well as others I know believe this to be true).

Then starting with Pennsylvania, 2010, gatherers on the land, working cooperatively with USFS resource and law enforcement personnel continued with the unsigned operating plan model.  The day we counciled on the actual operating plan, the head of the forest and the law enforcement incident commander sat in council with us, passed the feather, and worked together to address concerns, issues and problems.  :)

That relationship continued in Washington 2011 with really awesome USFS LEO leadership working with folks on the land.  An unsigned operating plan was worked out between gatherers and USFS resource personnel.

Tennessee 2012 continued the unsigned operating plan model. As I iwasn't there, I cannot include the play by play.

In Montana 2013, local family in the area met a number of times with resource folks in the spring leading up to the gathering. Because there is strong local family in Montana and because a lot of  USFS folks live in Montana, laying the ground work for good discussions early on was key.  The incident commander appointed by the federal government was local to the region, which also helped significantly. 

An unsigned operating plan was worked out with gatherers on the land in a central but shady spot and the participants varied quite a bit. Lot's of younger family came to participate.  Finally, the USFS did not ask and no gatherer offered for a consensus to be called on the operating plan. The USFS still signed a delegation of authority taking the top dog position away from the local ranger and assigning it to a LEO. While in years past, this LEO was from outside the area, this year, the LEO was local to the area--a huge step forward. In another huge leap forward, no emergency was declared.

Just an aside, please do not ask the LEOs to come in and deal with a problem where you were a victim. They never get who they are looking for and their presence sends everyone into a tail spin - especially those of us who have been gathering for awhile as we remember the time of difficulities. If someone steals from your, physically harms you, etc. please get Shanti Sena involved either when the event is happening by yelling "Shanti Sena" or by reaching out to experienced Shanti Sena. While we all our Shanti Sena, some family is very experienced in dealing with serious situations such as assualt, rape, and murder (not that these things happen a lot, but they do happen from time to time). If you do not personally know experienced Shanti Sena and have an issue, go to INFO and tell them you need to speak to someone regarding what happened and the INFO crew will hook you up.

Now we've arrived in 2014 and scouting has started.  I am hopefully that this year will be as good or better than last year.

This post is an updated version of one I wrote last year. It's kind of a rolling high level hipstory. If I update it, I will update the date.

If you've managed to read this entire post, you now have a clue.  If you managed to read all the links, you actually understand the journey we've been on with the US Government.  As far as I'm concerned, gatherers sharing love and acting peacefully took on the US Government and we're still standing - quite an accomplishment family.  I know many of us have had differences of opinions over the years on how to deal with this situation and I think this saga proves that we're on a good path, one with many perspectives, a bit of bickering, and more love than my heart can hold. 

Additional References

USFS Non-commercial group use regulations

Welcome Home's FS Regs page

Butterfly Bill's nice summary of court cases.

Butterfly Bill's stories of gatherings' past.

Karin's archive of FOIA Requests


  1. I have to say I'm not quite understanding this. All of these permits that were signed, you claim were by people unaffiliated....yet anyone with a belly button is supposed to be a part of the family if they so choose.

    You can't have it both ways. Either those people are part of Rainbow family as well, or they aren't, and last I checked, and no offense is meant here, you aren't in a position to declare who is affiliated and who isn't (unless you're one of these make believe "secret leaders"). My point is a permit being signed by someone is within their right to do if they see fit. It doesn't make them any more or less a rainbow.

  2. to sign a permit for me would be like me entering a contract for you. craig get with some good greybeard and have a good rap..claims and suppositions aside it is a bad idea to enter a contract with a government agency when entering a situation with so many similarly situated individuals.

  3. @ Craig, Another way to look at it is you and your friends were camping out in say California. Some person in say Virginia signed a permit for the campout and entered into a legal contract with the US government over where tents should be set up and where they shouldn't. You've never met that person in Virginia, the person in Virgina has never been to California. Now you get a mandatory court appearance ticket because although nudity is normally legal in this location, the person in Virgina agreed that no nudity would be allowed. How would you feel?

  4. Karin.... Love. Them forests appreciate the love, I've been back to the new mexico location, even greener.

  5. The way I look at it, is that we are all electric, and the love and light are the energies within every living thing, every human being, tree, dog, cop, maybe even rocks, etc. You get the drift? I am of the family, love and light here on this plane. Our energy ~~spirit, soul, and chi, is all the same. We all possess this inalienablness! We are all siblings. We are never our of love and light; we are of love and light!
    you may call me sibling


Comments that use racial/sexists slurs, advocate violence against anyone, or that attempt to sell things will not be published. If this is what you're into, do it on your own website.

I welcome healthy debate on ideas of interest to the 2014 annual gathering of the tribes.