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Rainbow Family passes through

The group is having a regional gathering on Ochoco National Forest


by: CENTRAL OREGONIAN - Rainbow Family gatherings like the one above, take place throughout the United States. A gathering is taking place this week on the Ochoco National Forest.

The Rainbow Family are called “an expression of Utopian impulse,” according to Wikipedia, “with roots clearly traceable to the counterculture of the 1960s.”

The family has held gatherings throughout the world since the early 1970s, and once again, some of its members have chosen the Ochoco National Forest to congregate.

Ochoco National Forest Public Affairs Specialist Patrick Lair said they were given a heads up by Rainbow Family members before they began arriving on the forest. Unlike the 1997 national gathering, which drew thousands of people, the upcoming event is a regional affair that draws a smaller crowd. Forest personnel were told the gathering would take place from this past weekend through this weekend.

“We are not sure how many people are coming. The difficult part of it is that no one comes in and gets a permit for large group gatherings,” Lair said. “Normally, if you have a group of over 75 people, we require you to get a permit. We set some terms and conditions in the permit for how your group will behave and the person who signs that permit is responsible to make sure that happens. The Rainbows don’t really operate that way.”

Wikipedia states that the Rainbow Family has no leaders, no structure, no official spokesperson, no official documentation and no membership. They believe that modern lifestyles and systems of government are unhealthy, unsustainable, exploitative, and out of harmony with the natural systems of the planet.

Although the gathering was not expected to start until the weekend, Rainbow Family members began passing through Prineville last week on their way to the forest. Lair said the group is meeting north of Mill Creek Wilderness, near Ingram Springs. A head count Thursday revealed that 80 to 100 people had already arrived.

Throughout the gathering, forest service law enforcement will coordinate with county authorities in order to ensure that people stay safe and protect the forest’s resources.

“Basically, we are doing some patrols through the area every day,” Lair said, “and going through and talking to them about things like campfire safety.”

He went on to note that they have talked to Rainbow Family members regarding protection of the forest land and have found that most visitors comply with their requests.

“They are not there to trash it,” Lair said. “They have agreed to leave a group behind to help pick up afterward.”

As forest service law enforcement takes the lead during the upcoming gathering, Crook County Undersheriff John Gautney anticipates county authorities will have little involvement with the event.

He acknowledged that during the 1997 national gathering, several incidents of shoplifting occurred, and local resident likely remain wary of the Rainbow Family as a result. However, he does not believe the regional event will cause many problems in the community.

“The only issue we would have is if we have a crime that occurs that requires us to do an investigation,” he said.

He pointed out that the last regional gathering, which took place two years earlier, was in his view a nonevent.

“In fact, most people didn’t even know it was going on until it was over,” Gautney said. “We are not putting on any extra bodies.”



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