Between 5,000 and 20,000 hippies are expected to converge on the sacred Black Hills for their annual Rainbow Gathering slated for July 1.

Here Come the Hippies: Oglala Lakota Tell Rainbow Family to Behave in Sacred Black Hills

Simon Moya-Smith

Oglala Lakota president John Yellow Bird Steele told a group of New Age spiritualists who plan to gather in the Black Hills that as long as they respect the sacred site, including Lakota traditions, he does not have a problem with their scheduled event next month, a spokesman for the Oglala Lakota said.

The Rainbow Family of Living Light – a group of hippies and nudists that, since 1972, has held a yearly celebration of “peace, love and alternative lifestyles,” according to its website – met with Steele on the Pine Ridge reservation in South Dakota and promised him event participants will act accordingly, Oglala Lakota spokesman Kevin Steele told ICTMN.

Representatives of the Rainbow Family also promised to help the Oglala Lakota rebuild the pow wow grounds on the reservation, Kevin Steele said.

On Monday, the U.S. Forest Service confirmed that the Rainbow Family Gathering will be held in a remote area of the western Black Hills on July 1 through 7. The event could produce upward of 20,000 attendees, according to reports.

William, who said he is a wizard, saunters across a meadow on July 4, 2001 during the Rainbow Family Gathering in Cache Creek Meadow, Idaho. Getty Images.

Activist and hip-hop artist Nataanii Means, who is Oglala Lakota, told ICTMN he is concerned not all the hippies converging on the Black Hills will treat the land with the respect it deserves. Means said the sacred Black Hills is where the Lakota creation story derives – that the Lakota emerged from the soil there.

“I feel bad for the Black Hills,” he said. “I can’t help but feel, like, exploited for it, feel sad for it, feel hurt. We’re still fighting for the Black Hills. We want our Black Hills, and [we] don’t want them desecrated.”

Means, who recently returned to Santa Fe, New Mexico, from a sun dance in the Black Hills, added that he is especially concerned that drugs will be used en masse during the event. He suggested the Lakota send its warrior society to the gathering to police the area for use of illicit substances.

“They use drugs to connect to the earth,” he said. “It’s just ugly.”

Event-goers have already arrived in nearby Rapid City much to the chagrin of local authorities. Last week, Rapid City police and sheriff’s officials said there has been a rise in aggressive panhandling and drug crimes, Seth Tupper of the Rapid City Journal reported. Business owners in the area, however, are readying for a surge in patronage.

A Rainbow Gathering participant at the annual event in Montana in 2013. Photo courtesy

Since it was rumored the event would take place in Paha Sapa (Lakota for the Black Hills) roughly a month ago, the gathering has drawn caustic criticism. Native Americans, not only of Lakota descent, have clashed with Rainbow gatherers over the event, arguing the group makes a mockery of indigenous spirituality; that they unabashedly appropriate Native American cultures, and that they will almost certainly desecrate the Black Hills.

A Facebook page recently launched in protest of the gathering calls on “all warriors to help in a planned blockade of the Rainbow people in the event they chose [sic] to stay in the Black Hills.”

In 2014, the Rainbow Family Gathering was held in Heber City, Utah, where, following a stabbing, a death and a drug overdose, authorities said at the time their biggest concern was “drugs and violence.”

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Rainbow Hawk
Rainbow Hawk
Submitted by Rainbow Hawk on
A Wake-Up Call  A great many Lakota, like Eagle Bull, are greatly embarrassed by the outrage caused by a few in the Lakota Nations name. Personally in my own investigation of all of the factors, the whole opposition thing appears totally manufactured to cause divisions between the Lakota and Rainbow relations, divisions within both Rainbow & Lakota and many divisions between many individuals and groups. The entire thing stinks of covert operations by operatives whose organization(s) use as their primary tool is the oldest game in the book: DIVIDE & CONQUER. The people themselves have to see that they have been sucked into a game which divides the people, fosters threats and perhaps acts of violence, threatens to divide Rainbow from our Lakota relations when we have been for decades one of their greatest allies and on their side of many issues, including their right to the Black Hills, along with the other tribes which hold them sacred. Rainbow of course sees the entire Mother Earth as sacred and we can understand the feelings of a land that may be considered more sacred by those who live there. We honour and respect all sacred lands and seas upon the Mother Earth. When one looks at the actual situation as it physically is today, you see gold mining (a highly toxic industry that poisons the lands and the water tables around them), various other commercial interest which want to cash in on the Black Hills one way or another, the famous Sturgis Bike Run that brings over a quarter million people to the Black Hills and it is hardly environmentally friendly. Casinos. The ongoing battle between the U.S. Government which is still "negotiating?" the situation of the Black Hills with the Lakota and other tribes and has no intention of them being returned to the Lakota as they think that they can reimburse the Lakota and other tribes with money for the seizure of their lands. Then things like Operation Jade Helm 15 a portion of which is also happening in the Black Hills National Forest and a part of its' declared objectives” is to train in operations which supposedly are designed to protect innocents from "terrorist". The whole thing stinks to high heaven of covert operations by vested interest to divide Rainbow and our Lakota relations, to divide both within themselves, possibly to provoke incidents of violence (of which threats have certainly been made). People need to wake up and see the whole picture. When they do, if they have a lick of sense, they will say that all of this hoopla and divisions is a facade with whole other agendas.  Or as I think of such things, having decades of experience, it is COINTELPROs (if you don't know it look it up) latest version on steroids.

Zucchero's picture
Submitted by Zucchero on
The Rainbow people have arrived, they are shoplifting at my job in Rapid City and making a mess. Please go back to Utah!

nativewomn's picture
Submitted by nativewomn on
Rainbow Hawk, obviously not Native and yet another fake name, has been harassing our people, and chastising us for 'not sharing'. We're tired of sharing. They want everything, even our crumbs. We've been told we OWE them, we MUST teach them our ways, and that they are going to show us the RIGHT way, THEIR way. Further colonialist garbage. Contradict their claims of cleaning, not destroying, not stealing, and you see their vacant 'peace and love' turn into vomitous hate. We're been threatened, called names, called fakes, plants, feds...they claim they don't allow drugs and alcohol, yet most threads have people talking about all the drugs they do at gathering. Some of the women have received details sexual threats. These people are NOT respectful, and we have many first hand accounts of how they behave, stealing, cutting down live trees, they do not follow their own protocols and feel they have a RIGHT to do whatever they want, wherever they want!

Anna Shingleton
Anna Shingleton
Submitted by Anna Shingleton on
When I first met the Rainbows it was in the late 70's in Idaho. My Dad being the kind generous person he is offered them assistance with food gas etc... no money of course. Besides the flower power, scantly glad smelly aroma and the chilled out behavior they turned out to be harmless. Complaints were in abundance about all the trash scattered when they left but all in all it was cool. 25 Years later and in a completely different state I was asked by a Nevada family to help them (psychic) find out what happened to their daughter. She had dyed her hair green hit the road from Vegas and headed to the Rainbow gathering in Utah. She left the gathering and was traveling north with the rainbows when she disappeared. They body was found hanging from a tree branch with her knees touching the ground. Law enforcement deemed it suicide despite evidence that indicated foul play. Across the path from her body and about 15 ft down hill was the rainbow camp she had come with. The body was found 3 weeks after she had died. Her teeth had been pulled out of her mouth and her dog was gone. Local hippies who had partied with the group either left town immediately or refused to say anything. Five years later and present day I met several rainbow families heading to the gathering. All of them between the ages of 18 - 36. Keep in mind at the transient park ppl engage in drug use, alcohol, violence and sexual encounters. One of the young guys I was working with had just gotten out of the state hospital and was selling and doing a lot of Meth. Needless to say the Rainbows forked out large amounts of cash for re-upping their Meth stash. Hmmmmm.... heroin, weed, alcohol no problem but METH..... bad news folks. Rainbow mentality and Meth are a deadly combo which makes these folks a danger to themselves and innocent by standers. As for the TJ's opinions on rainbows they all agreed the old schoolers were good ppl but this new generation of rainbows have taken on a political tone and a violence driven attitude making them an unpredictable and dangerous force.

aliberaldoseofskepticism's picture
Submitted by aliberaldoseofs... on
Yeah, a white dude explaining COINTELPRO to Indians. Unlike white New Agers, Indians actually were targeted by COINTELPRO.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on
In accordance with the NEW "Progressive" Media agenda, the Rainbow people have just as much right to call themselves them "Lakota" as a man can call him self lady, a child can call herself a black-girl, and an illegal alien can themselves "US citizen". To say other-wise about the Rainbow people, YOU are just as racist, bigoted, small-minded, intolerant of people. These are the new realities of 'progress', so why should YOU be any different?

Lillian Moore
Lillian Moore
Submitted by Lillian Moore on
First of all respect and deep gratitude for the Lakota people standing up for your lands. These lands are precious and need to be protected. I am a mother of two small children and I have attended the rainbow gathering for 3 years. I appreciate the sense of community, people taking care of each other and the land. I hope that I can speak to some of your concerns. The rainbow family is like a town and in that town there are some mentally ill people, there are some kids that have lost their way and their are some addicts (which is also a mental illness). The wonderful thing about the rainbow family is that in our town these people who receive little love and care most of the year are fed and receive first aid. Every body is treated as a human deceiving of love and respect. These people are the minority. My observation is that the rainbow family also does its best to care for these people while also setting clear boundaries for example no alcohol is allowed inside the gathering. I always feel safe and taken care of with my children. The majority of the rainbow family are healthy community loving people and many of them are involved in bigger services like aid relief and environmental protection. Because we have learned to set up kitchens quickly in the wilderness many of the camps have been able to offer disaster relief faster than the government. There are also land stewardship practices that happen during the gathering like native seeding. Someone mentioned the appropriation of Lakota spiritual practices. This is something I am very sensitive to. I was raised in the carrizo/comecrudo way and I learned many Lakota songs and sat in lodges as a small child. I was also educated about the social/ political issues and really understand that a spirituality cannot be taken without the people. If you care for the practices you must care for the people. I know that many of my people don't practice with that awareness. but... My people are a community of orphans. Most of us don't know our history or our own spiritual lineage, and have never been on the land of our ancestors. We are hungry to connect with the creator like everyone else and we are on the land that these lessons came from. Isn't it natural that we would feel called to burn sage and sing songs about the hawks? It is good for everyone to pray. The prayer brings more awareness and compassion. I see how cultural and spiritual appropriation is disrespectful and harmful but I also see how the actual practices heal and rebalance everyone. This allows us to better ourselves and be more capable of treating all people and lands with more awareness. Rather than white people not singing sacred songs we should sing the songs with gratitude for the people who first sang them and educate ourselves about how to serve the interests of the native people. Thank you for reading and I welcome your comments and perspectives.

TalkingStone's picture
Submitted by TalkingStone on
It does rather make me uneasy. The Rainbow Family does not have a particularly good track record on their use of sites. I have heard a Forest Service ranger complain bitterly that a Rainbow Gathering is an "ecological catastrophe" that floats around the Nation, typically into pristine national parks and forests.

TravelsRoadDog's picture
Submitted by TravelsRoadDog on
I've quite a bit of experience with Rainbow building kitchens, seed camps, clean ups, etc. It's my experience that very few of those who attend gatherings truly do care about the place where they are camping. I can't even begin to describe the mountains of trash that I've helped try and haul out after a national gathering. And people just drive out of the gathering without even helping haul it out. Sadly, most of it gets burned. The amount of crap that people bring in and just leave thinking someone at the gathering will want like shoes, tents, cloths, etc. is unbelievable. It was that kind of behavior and more that, although the Rainbow gatherings have potential to really help make a difference in the world, they do not. It's full of a lot of people who talk about things they do not show by their actions or the way they live. The idea that Rainbow and Lakota are "one tribe" is so unbelievably egotistical. And to think that Rainbow attendees are first people or anything of the same culture is a symptom of that ego. The Rainbow has never been an "ally" of the Dakota or any other first people except in the minds of the Rainbow people themselves.

Maria LaDoucer
Maria LaDoucer
Submitted by Maria LaDoucer on
Even though I may choose NOT to attend the Rainbow gathering, I do support their riight to assemble. If you want people to respect you then respect others. Years ago missionaries did the same thing to the Lakotas, they criticized, ridiculed and scorned your people for following their own spirit and expression through prayer,song and dance; this is no different. Mother Earth can handle a week of Rainbow people; she is far stronger than that! As far as the garbage issue,,,really??? Look in your own backyard,the reservations are filled with trash piled up among the yards and along the streets. Drugs, alcohol, gangs, violence, killings, all on the rez. Maybe you should write an article on that?

Maria LaDoucer
Maria LaDoucer
Submitted by Maria LaDoucer on
Even though I may choose NOT to attend the Rainbow gathering, I do support their riight to assemble. If you want people to respect you then respect others. Years ago missionaries did the same thing to the Lakotas, they criticized, ridiculed and scorned your people for following their own spirit and expression through prayer,song and dance; this is no different. Mother Earth can handle a week of Rainbow people; she is far stronger than that! As far as the garbage issue,,,really??? Look in your own backyard,the reservations are filled with trash piled up among the yards and along the streets. Drugs, alcohol, gangs, violence, killings, all on the rez. Maybe you should write an article on that?

juanmancias's picture
Submitted by juanmancias on
Genericism is not Tribal. Even Chaos has order according to the Creator. The very loss of our Tribal sacred sites is subjugation to the colonial mentality of a bunch of over dosed non coherent individuals concerned only about their feelings and not connected to the ancestral ties that Natives have is an oppressive and in total disregard of the Sacred Ties that are Autochthonous only to those whose cultural ties define their Lifeways. This oppressive disregard is not any better than the drunken and cocaine ridden politicians that make laws regulate only the Native People from being in their sacred ancestral lands.

hammertime's picture
Submitted by hammertime on
I dont understand why anyone would allow these lost souls to gather on your land to take god knows what kind of drugs...METH, ACID ...SHROOMS..or whatever else and have an orgy for a few weeks? Then they trash out the whole place and then take off to leave you to clean up the mess they leave behind... cool?? Maybe if you were to charge them a large fee to come to this gathering most of them would probably stay home.... So.why would anyone want to bring this kind of trouble down on themselves??

moonlion's picture
Submitted by moonlion on
The original Rainbow Family Gatherings brought together folks who were united in a philosophy/spirituality that led them to behave with respect for the Earth and for all beings living upon it. These people were thoughtful of others living in the area where they had their gatherings, and thoughtful for the environment in which the gatherings were held. Like any getting together of many people, trash was generated, but it was cleaned up and packed out and the area left as it had been found. As they gatherings have attracted larger and larger numbers of attendees, far too many of those attending come with more of a "let's party!" attitude. I believe the core group of the Rainbow Family still holds and follows the same beliefs and behavior they always had, and these folks would do nothing to offend the Lakota people or in any way disparage the Black Hills. Everyone in a crowd of many thousands of people will not adhere to the same principled behavior. I hope the event goes peacefully. I am sure the core group will honor their promises to the Lakota people and I hope others will not behave in any way to bring dishonor upon themselves.

Robin Andreae's picture
Robin Andreae
Submitted by Robin Andreae on
I usually refrain from writing my opinions in forums. But not this time. This is not just an issue of Rainbow people desecrating holy land. It’s been brewing a long time. White folks seem to co-opt just about everything. But the point about them being orphans is just plain wrong. The European pagan culture still exists. It exists in the Christmas, Easter and Halloween holidays. Did you ever wonder why there are trees in the front of practically every yard in the Midwest? It heralds from the Celts who believed the tree is the guardian of the home. All of white pagan traditions are there. But they’ve been co-opted by well-meaning Romans who wanted to bring civilization to the savages. Is this what the Rainbow people want for the Lakota? Lakota religion with their spin on it? Do you really believe you have the answers? Or for that matter that a people of another culture can help you to find your own? And in the end isn’t just about trying to pray and show compassion for our earth and one another? All of the other stuff is just that, other stuff. You need to ask yourself the question, is this just your personal neediness or is this a higher purpose? All the rest is just one big selfish party. It’s time to grow up and take responsibility. The Earth will heal from your actions. But will you?

Sher Dietrick
Sher Dietrick
Submitted by Sher Dietrick on
Being Rainbow (70s - 90s) I think all tribal members should be welcomed to assist in eliminating alcohol and hard drug use - as OUR bylaw was no synthetic (man made) drugs except needed medications to maintain health or alcohol in any form should ever be allowed at a gathering as they inhibit true connection with mother Earth. Natural herbs for tea, smoking or cooking WERE allowed and we had a nursing center (strictly volunteer) in case of medical emergencies. Vaccinations were recommended so as not not cause a resurgence of childhood diseases, children were not allowed in Ms Toad's Tea Room, a child care area was designated with face painting, food and entertainment in the form of reading, plays and interactive activities.

Louie WindWalker Audia
Louie WindWalke...
Submitted by Louie WindWalke... on
The Spirit of the land cries out to me that it does not want these peoples. Grandfather will not be happy with this decision .

CreeDence's picture
Submitted by CreeDence on
Every people has the right to define who they are and not by what others claim. Speaking on my own that's what I see that is severely lacking among those who are not of Native American descent. And for me my experience I was in such a hurry to find more people who know who they are, and who are Native American, and to learn from those who put themselves at stake and not just anyone at a public powwow. For me it meant meeting a few people from AIM, it's not difficult. And besides, you kinda discern for yourself as well. Why AIM, putting yourself on the line means something, and it's not just "head knowledge" from some guy who wrote a book but has no connection to ground he or she walks on. That's like an environmentalist who only walks on concrete. And really what I'm saying it seems some people have this idea of "NDNs" and they come to meet us with all kinds of drugs, alcohol, smelly and not think of the trash they leave behind....why? Does it show deep down they have a misconstrued idea of Native Americans. Can I just say this, there's a difference from being a hippie and being Native of Turtle Island. This reminds me of people who get angry easy and blame it on being "part indian." Or want to smoke pot "because the indians do it, or did it." I'm trying not to judge the Rainbow people since I don't know them but the Black Hills are not an Occupy Wall Street gathering and don't leave trash behind like they do...and yes they left trash beind. Many protests do. Has anyone seen the garbage that is left behind by supposedly "open minded" people. It's a matter of respect. There's a principle involved, and that is leave nothing but footprints. And as a Cherokee I know the Black Hills is Lakotah country, and even if I were full blood I or anyone else would know you respect the ground you walk on, you respect the Lakotahs who live there, and know the history that is involve, and people of the present day. I'm sure the Rainbow elders brought tobacco with them, gave that to the Lakotahs, and asked for permission. And once you're there, or anywhere, my point is made Years ago I remember Russell Means wrote about a vision he saw. From what I can remember he saw a vision of strangers buying and selling sacred items. And one of the things lacking was a respect for native culture (besides the obvious...buying and selling), and is it right to say there is a whole lot of pre-conceived ideas the dominant culture has and they (being Rainbow tribe or anyone else) bring that with them. Sure, Rainbow tribe is not dominant culture, but that is where they come from for many of them....the older ones I mean. It boils down to respect. If you go to someone else's backyard leave nothing but footprints. How else to say it. It's like my user name, CreeDence, not a native name, my initials are CCR and that's where that came from. Let's not say that name is native since it's not. After writing all this I had to vent, and from meeting one of the long term members of the Rainbow tribe he told me what happened did not represent the Rainbow tribe and it was a terrible mistake and I hope that is true.