Thursday, June 25, 2015
By Kacie Svoboda
Despite opposition from some Lakota tribal members, the final decision was made to hold the 2015 Rainbow Gathering in the Black Hills National Forest. The spring council of the Rainbow Family of Living Light began deliberations about where to “welcome home” members of the Rainbow Family on June 17 and a consensus was reached on June 19. The exact location will be three miles southwest of Deerfield Lake on Forest Road 294.
Dates of the gathering are officially listed as July 1-7 with July 4 as the main day of the gathering. On July 4, the Rainbows will observe silence from dawn until noon in order to pray, meditate or contemplate world peace in whatever manner they choose. Many Rainbows are expected to leave shortly after that. Due to the controversy of holding this year’s gathering on lands considered sacred by the Lakota, attendance estimates have fallen from the 20,000 range to less than 5,000.
From now until the first day of the gathering, the Rainbows will be moving to the chosen site to start what they call seed camp — the process of setting up a site to handle the basic needs of the thousands of expected family members during the Rainbow Gathering. Kitchens will be set up, trails created, a water source will be prepared and bathroom facilities will be dug. Blogger Karin on MidwestOrNew-EnglandGathering2015.blogspot.com explains the reason for calling these preparations seed camp.
“Spring council is the planting of the seed that unfolds during seed camp (when we build the gathering), and blossoms on the 4th of July,” she said.
Some family members have already been sighted around Hill City. According to the Rapid City Journal, several individuals, reportedly in the Black Hills for the gathering, were arrested on panhandling and drug charges in Rapid City. Law enforcement expects to have further encounters with wayward individuals as more people arrive for the gathering.
According to Capt. Jay Evenson with the Pennington County Sheriff’s Department, deputies have been assigned to patrols every day into the evening near the gathering spot.
“We will continue to put more resources into that area as the need arises,” Evenson said.
The Black Hills National Forest (BHNF) will also be monitoring the site.
“To ensure public and employee safety, and cultural and natural resource protection, Forest Service personnel are on-site daily,” said BHNF supervisor Craig Bobzien.
On Tuesday, June 23, Jerry Cole, executive director of the Hill City Area Chamber of Commerce, hosted a town hall informational meeting about the Rainbow Gathering at the Hill City Senior Center. The meeting was open to Forest Service personnel, Pennington County Sheriff's Department representatives and other governmental agencies as well as any interested residents and businesses. Evenson attended and was available for questions.
According to Cole, the purpose of the meeting was to share first-hand information with the public about the Rainbows and the Rainbow Gathering.
“It is true that some of those coming to the gathering may engage in anti–social acts, negative behaviors or even bring drugs and alcohol into camp,” Cole said. “It’s important for all of us to keep in mind that the latter do not represent all in the Rainbow Family.”
Cole encouraged Hill City residents to get their questions answered and decide for themselves how to get ready for these “new visitors.”