Volume 105, Number 26 - June 26, 2008
brought to you online by Pinedale Online
Town meeting hears both sides
by Jennie Oemig
The Rainbow Family of Living Light held a town meeting last week with the intention of allowing community members, local government officials, the Forest Service and other interested parties to ask questions about this year’s Rainbow Gathering, which will take place on Bridger-Teton National Forest land.
Gary Stubbs of California, who said he has been attending gatherings since 1984, began the meeting by trying to quell some of the misunderstandings of those not affiliated with the family.
“We are people of peace,” he told those in attendance, asking that everyone join in a moment of silence.
During the meeting, one concerned citizen, Bonnie Whitley, said she and her family were run out of the woods near Big Sandy while on a picnic on Thursday. She said they were threatened with bodily harm, an incident the rest of the Rainbow family said was the result of one individual’s actions and not the entire group.
“Almost every single gatherer here, we would risk our lives if we heard your cry for help,” environmental activist Karin Zirk pointed out.
It was also suggested that the person who threatened Whitley’s family could have been a local who was camping with the Rainbows or some other individual trying to make the family look guilty.
“There’s bound to be a bad apple,” Stubbs said. “I’m sure there are bad apples in Pinedale … If they threaten you, then they will threaten us and we will pray for them while they’re sitting in your jail.”
The question was posed to U.S. Under Secretary of Natural Resources and Environment Mark Rey as to how the Rainbow Family of Living Light can occupy national forest land without being required to follow Forest Service regulations that everyone else has to abide by.
“We exercise our discretion and look at it on a case-by-case basis,” Rey explained, telling those in the Lovatt Room of the Sublette County Library that the gathering was merely an experiment of sorts.
But Barry Adams, known as Plunker, said the group is cooperative and willing to work with the local government agencies.
“When we have problems … that we cannot deal with, then we will call the police,” he said. “We try to work with law enforcement as much as possible.”
Another concern that was raised by community members was that of the impacts on the land, which many Rainbows said was a concern for them as well.
“You have to face the fact that the lifestyles Americans live damage the environment every single day,” Zirk pointed out.
Other members of the family also noted the clean-up efforts that take place after the gathering.
“We have a fantastic record of cleaning things up,” Jeff Sebesta said. “ … We are doing our absolute best.”
With Adams’ insistence that there was no leadership among the group and that they were all just individuals, Mayor Steve Smith questioned how issues could be addressed if no one was in charge.
“Who do we visit with [when we have concerns]?” he asked. “ … Do you have a chain of command?”
It was then explained that anyone could come to council, which is held daily, and speak their minds and ask questions of the Rainbows.
And while questions arose regarding the moving of the gathering from Dutch Joe Guard Station to another location, it was affirmed earlier this week that the Rainbows would not be moving.
According to Zirk’s Rainbow Gathering blog, after the Forest Service asked the Rainbows to move to another site, the proposal was taken back to council.
“About a hundred people were at the council (coming and going) and in the end, the council was unable to come to consensus about whether to stay or go,” the entry states.
“Because of this, the old consensus still stands (reached by Spring Council) to gather at the current site.”
With the Rainbows staying at the Dutch Joe site, Rita Vollmer, the information officer for the Incident Command Team in charge of policing the gathering, said Bridger-Teton National Forest (BTNF) officials will be seeking an alternate site for the Boy Scout’s Order of the Arrow project.
“It was pretty much the impression that they would be staying there,” she said.
“Through the department, we are obligated to accommodate the Rainbow family … They were already set up and they had over 100 people there already.”
As the gathering nears, Vollmer said the number of people at the site will grow exponentially.
“Our estimation is 1,300,” she said Tuesday of the number of Rainbows at Big Sandy. “Later this week and by the weekend, we’ll start to see a dramatic increase.”
Photo credits: Jennie Oemig
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