An Open Letter to the Rainbow Family

I write this letter out of love and respect and not to scold and reprimand you.  I have watched with horror the development of the debate about having the national gathering in South Dakota and I feel that, although it seems at this point that most people will not be attending a gathering on that sacred land, some of the ugliness still needs to be addressed.  To be a force for peace in the world, we must first learn to see past our own desires, wants, and privilege.  Peace is not the absence of war, it is the presence of justice.  Because peace without justice is oppression.

I understand your culture and how it works, the pros and cons of your system.  I have attended a number of national gatherings and dozens of regionals. I have been part of scouting groups, seed camps, and many clean up crews.  I have sat through seemingly endless councils struggling to find consensus.   Rainbow was once an important part of my life and it is because of that that I choose to speak now.

I also understand that these words are unnecessary for most of you.  Most of the people that I know that are involved with Rainbow would never want to disrespect the tribes that have had stewardship of this land since mankind stepped foot on this continent.  The ideals of peace and harmony stand in harsh opposition to the type of cultural privilege that I have seen stated in Facebook feeds by people proclaiming themselves as Rainbow.  True peace and harmony is rooted in respect and integrity and healing the wounds of colonialism involves self examination and honesty.

My message is to all of those people that are still planning on gathering in the Black Hills, who feel that it is their “right” to gather wherever they please, who don’t feel that the Lakota have the right to tell you not to gather on their land.  This message is important for everyone though, because it is up to those of us that know that gathering on Native American land against the wishes of the tribe is wrong and by doing it you are furthering the spread of a colonial mindset that is the most detrimental mindset on the planet, an attitude that is responsible for innumerable atrocities throughout history.  Because it is important for those of us that stand with the Native tribes to speak out now.  To speak out because sometimes people in white culture will only listen to those that share the same culture as them, and to speak out so that the Lakota people and all other Native tribes know that they are not alone in their struggle, that we are their allies and will stand with them in defending their land and their sovereignty against the dominant culture, whether they come in suits, hardhats, or with dreadlocks and beads.

This is an important moment for the Rainbow Family, a moment where there is a choice between talking about your ideals and actually living them.  It’s a moment to choose sides in the centuries old war between Native Tribal Cultures and the White capitalist forces that seek domination over nature.  It’s a moment to choose to heal some of the damage that the United States has done to the Native Tribes by making the choice to honor their sovereignty and human rights, rather than siding with the US Government and Forest Service, which are not your allies and would like nothing more than to see both the Rainbow Family and the Lakota buried and gone, or siding with the federal government imposed and supported Tribal Government that does not speak with the voice of the people but works for the interests of the rich.  With all the myriad of new age spiritual philosophies, this is where the rubber meets the road.  Peace and love in action looks like justice and respect.

We are not the saviors of the Indian people, nor are we their reincarnated warriors.  Native peoples have their own destinies, their own ancestors and their own warriors.  What we can be for them is their allies.  We can stand with them against western colonialism and speak out in defense of their rights.  This is where our voices matter.  Being an ally to someone is not to tell them how you are going to help them, its asking THEM how you can help and then doing what they ask, even if that request is to leave them alone.  Right now the Lakota do not want to “learn our ways” nor do they want to “share their ways” with us.  Great damage between the Lakota Nation and the Rainbow Family has already occurred.  What the Lakota want from the Rainbow Family is for the Rainbow Family to leave Lakota land and leave them alone so that they can focus their efforts on the other battles that they are involved in, against the U.S. government, against the Keystone pipeline, against the racist system that keeps them in poverty.

So please, listen to the spiritual stewards of the Black Hills and Do Not Go to South Dakota for the Gathering, Do not even go there to see if it might happen.  Go to Michigan or wherever else alternatives to the South Dakota gathering pop up.  Be a voice of reason in these debates and speak out against disrespecting Native communities and voices.  Show the world that the voices that strive for peace and harmony outweigh the voices mired in privilege and entitlement within the Rainbow Family.

In Love and Service,

Brennos Agrocunos

Coru Cathubodua

13 thoughts on “An Open Letter to the Rainbow Family

  1. Pingback: An Open Letter to the Rainbow Family | ~Heidi's Wicked Haven~ Blog

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  3. You have summed it up nicely and explained why ‘ high minded’ notions of bringing healing to a troubled people; a lofty aspiration but a misguided arrogant, assumption of being so full of the Rainbow Light that we know what is best (doctor heal thyself) is an inappropriate means of healing the plight of the Lakota and strengthening relationships. It’s easy to pass a joint or pipe with youth but that only scratches the surface.

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  4. Well, as a Native American AND a Rainbow Warrior. Where does that leave me???? I shouldn’t gather on land that NO ONE owns? Mother Earth OWNS this land. I understand ur point but how do we teach if we deny speaking to the youth?


  5. I also disagree with lumping all Rainbow into one group. I don’t smoke, I’m not there to party. I’m there for the land I love so much. So being both sides leavs me torn.


    • Hi Kae,
      I respect and understand the position you find yourself in in this issue, and all I can do is give you my opinion on the situation from my experiences working with both Rainbow and Native tribes.
      First of all I’d like to point out that I specifically stated in my letter that I don’t think all Rainbow are acting in bad faith in this. I said that I think the vast majority of Rainbow wouldn’t dream of disrespecting the traditional elders of the Tribes. Both Rainbow and Native tribes have various factions within them that often come into conflict with each other. This particular conflict is feeding those divisions and causing strife between them on both sides.
      I am also not saying that there should never be a Rainbow gathering but that the decision to have one in the Black Hills without permission from the traditional elders is disrespectful and a very bad move for the future of Rainbow.
      As I’m sure you realize, Native communities have a serious problem with drug and alcohol abuse among their youth especially. And as someone who has been to gatherings before, you can’t deny that where Rainbow goes, so does A Camp , and even without A Camp, a gathering comes with weed, acid, mushrooms and a variety of other drugs. This can have devastating effects to a community that is struggling with addiction issues. We can’t pretend that because we are not responsible for bringing it into the community that it doesn’t happen.
      But mostly, in this case one of the main problems is lack of respect, lack of respect for the Rainbow process and tradition and lack of respect for Traditional native elders shown by those Rainbows that insist on occupying the Black Hill despite these issues. That type of disrespect will have disastrous consequences to both communities.
      My advice to anyone that cares about both the Rainbow Family and Native Sovereignty is to leave the Black Hills for now, go to one of the other sites that are happening, and later, when things cool off, approach the traditional elders with respect and ask them how you can help heal this damage and start good relations with them. I wish you all the best.


      • But mother earth owns the land, no human. And with me being both, Rainbow and Native American, why should I stay away? Why should my family stay away? We’re entitled to the land just as much as you are. I agree the fakes with thier “party”. That’s NOT rainbow. And I understand they should not be allowed to disrespect the land. But should people like me, who are on both sides, with the Earth running thru our veins be denied access to the land?


      • It’s really not about whether or not you can have access to the land. The problem is having you and 10,000 other people on sensitive and sacred land. If you truly care about the land, you have to look beyond your own wants and do what is best for the land and the communities that have stewardship of that land as well as what is best for both of your tribes. But I’m just a person giving you my opinion for my experience. You have to follow your heart and do what you feel is the right thing to do in this situation. But I ask you to truly sit with this and pray on it and do what is best for the land, not just what you want.


      • I visit all kinds of Sacred lands, not as a want, as a need to be one with my mother. You seem to think this is about wants. This is about my connection to the land. My family’s connection to the land. Being both rainbow and Native American puts me in a tough spot. No human has any right to deny my being anywhere. I can’t help if people follow me. I am speaking for myself, not others. No one can tell the rainbow tribe what to do, although I have been told that there is a new syte so I suppose there is no need to share what’s not even yours. But I tend to visit my Sacred areas and no human has the right to tell me I can not.
        My family deserve to touch the earth. To meditate. To be one with our makers.
        It’s unfortunate that an agreement was not made and hostilities grow. What does that teach our younge? It’s the same as the US government telling my tribe to leave my land. That’s what the younge will see. I’m sorry you feel the way you do. I’m sorry that the wrong people made it this way. It’s to bad that a lot of nasty words were used to discribe good people. I have no control over what people do. I am only me and my brothers sisters mothers fathers and clan. We should not be turned away from our home as you should not be turned from yours. I feel the hate must stop and real Rainbows (not people that trash and party) should be welcomed. But that’s not the case and that will live on thru the children.


  6. Pingback: Decolonize Rainbow! | Cody Lestelle

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