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,