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Permit Herstory

Dated: February 1, 1983
To: Rainbow Tribal Council
From: Barry Adams, Plunker
, Liaison, Rainbow Family Tribal Council

re: letter from Forest Service dated Jan. 7, 1983 signed by Paul Barker, for Roy Feuchter, Director of Recreation Management
(reply 2700)


This particular letter from the Forest Service is a letter of reply to a letter that we sent to the Forest Service (enclosed). In our letter we requested a reply to several questions that were gone over in Council at the Gathering in Idaho. I believe that the Council notes will show that we negotiated an agreement with the Forest Service. At the end of that negotiation period the final agreement was brought before Council.

Over 500 people went over the letter of agreement. In fact it was read in Council word for word, period for period, for the entire three pages. This was a written version of a verbal agreement between the U.S. Forest Service and the Rainbow Family Tribal Council about our Gathering in peace on public lands in Idaho. This agreement was finalized by cleaning up the Gathering area after the Gathering had moved on. The cleanup crew completed our end of the agreement.

At the same time as the agreement was gone through in Council, I requested that our Liaison crew be given full support in proceeding to insure that our people and other groups or people will have the right to gather in peace on public lands. This Liaison crew (volunteers from our Council) have been negotiating with the government for years and most particularly have been negotiating with the government since the West Virginia Gathering in 1980, directly involved with the “permit process”.

My intentions in this letter are to direct Council’s attention to this matter, and give a brief herstory of the process as it has evolved in the past few years. Discuss the letter that we sent (copies included), and discuss the next few recommended steps to insure that our people’s needs are met in the Forest Service process and a short letter that I have written in reply to the Forest Service letter (in which we request the opportunity be given for our People to have their public input introduced in the process of “new regulations” being implemented).

At the end of this letter is another letter. As has been requested by a number of people, I will add to the pile of advice that will be headed the Council’s way about Gathering. Most of this section titled “Advice from an Early” will be advice that any sensible people would probably pick up on and figure out for themselves.

Section One: Herstory of permit process

In 1972 in Colorado, the U.S. Forest Service told us that we needed a permit to Gather and that we would not receive one, for a variety of reasons. At one point we were blockaded by the government (varying agencies), went to U.S. District Court, and we were denied the right to Gather. The People, bottled up in the town of Granby, Colo., marched out of the parking lot where they were living, waiting for the blockade to lift – under gun (meaning that armed government personnel were stationed around the camp and in the hills between the People and the Gathering where another 1,000 people were already gathered). The blockade was finally broken and the People gathered in peace. (I have written 53 pages on the legal history of the Gatherings. Upon specific request I would send a copy to the Council Liaison crew in Michigan).

For the next several Gatherings the permit process was largely ignored. The government insisted that we have one, we insisted that we would not, and that was the status of matters until Montana, 1976. Under reassurances that the government would not try to regulate us out of existence, to make a long story short, our Liaison crew at the time negotiated a permit for our Montana Gathering. We then had a permit in Montana 1976, New Mexico 1977, and Oregon 1978.

In Oregon in 1978, the local county government decided to begin regulating us. We realized at the time that if the opportunity presented itself, these various government agencies would halt us through regulatory processes. We resisted all attempts on the part of the county or the State of Oregon to impose regulations (other than the state health inspector’s recommendations). For a complete herstory of the Oregon scene, there is a copy of a report I did and the U.S. Forest Service reports on each of these Gatherings.

In Arizona, 1979, we had a permit, and this was one of the better phases of government-Rainbow relations. All through the entire permit process, I repeatedly objected to our need or the government’s right to “permit” us anything related to peace assemblies. I also objected (as did many of the Council) to paying for a permit, based on the fact that this is a type of tax and that the money would be going to the general fund of the government (federal), and that some of the money would then be used for the Offense Department (making weapons), which we all object to.

In West Virginia in 1980, we had poor relationships with the Forest Service. In the end we negotiated a “permit under protest” in which we wrote out and listed our protests, and had hundreds of folks at the Gathering sign. We were in court twice during the West Virginia event over the permit process. I ain’t going to explain it all, but the gist of the matter was that we determined that it was unhealthy for our Council to apply or accede to the permit process.

In Washington, 1981, we refused to apply for a permit. Instead we tried to negotiate a “working agreement” of the type that we subsequently put together in Idaho, 1982. The government sent to us a permit after the Washington Gathering in 1981, and requested that we that we send them the required $25 fee. They attached the “working agreement” that the Council had worked out with the Washington Forest Supervisor. We sent a letter back to them refusing to sign the permit and refusing to pay the permit fee (tax).

In Idaho 1982, the government came to Council, approx. June 21, 1982, in the form of Gene Benedict, Forest Supervisor officer, who indicated that the U.S. Forest Service expected us to apply for a permit. The Council could not reach consensus on making such an application.

We sat in a council about 40 people out of the 100 or so folks who were gathered at that time, maybe more. The camp was well represented. The feather was passed and we all discussed the various viewpoints.

When Gene indicated that it was very hard to try to get several thousand people to agree to the permit, but that there were only the few in number there at that time (approx 100 to 200), and that the government could move us out of the site with so few of us present, I replied that it was true. The government could move the few of us, the hundred or so, and we would have to move around the state in peace. But the fact is, we had done that move in Arkansas in 1975, and we wound up traveling around the state until the 27th of June. This was a drag on our energies, the government’s energies, and every little town that we stopped at. I expressed what an immense drag that it would be to have us few Rainbows wandering around the state of Idaho looking for another site and not being allowed to gather somewhere and stay, and thousands of other Rainbows wandering around looking for the rest of us. What a picture!

The ranger, Gene, was able to see the difficulties in that scenario, and at that time we began to negotiate the “working agreement” that we finalized in a formal signing in Council (at the Gathering) – two originals, exchange of originals, and copies of originals. Our people signed for the Rainbow Tribal Council and Gene Benedict signed for the Forest Service on July 3rd, I believe. We felt that the government and local sheriff’s authorities overstepped their duties regarding our Gathering and we sent the letter to Dave Scott and to the U.S. Attorney’s office. We had hoped for a definite reply. One additional point is that the Mud Creek “affinity group” in Idaho apparently were ready to apply for a permit but were turned down by the Forest Service and run out of that site by the sheriff. The reason the Forest Service refused them was because the Gathering Council itself remained up on the hill. (Divide and conquer is an old story.)

In the letter to the Forest Service we made complaint concerning the treatment of this “affinity” group, because our Council must ever be vigilant about the rights and liberties of all people. Any group has the right to peaceable assembly on public lands. This is our position, as stated in the letter.

This is the end of the background herstory (very briefly stated, for further details contact Garrick Beck, BobCat, or others of the Liaison crew).

Section Two: Our reply to the latest Forest Service letter

Now we come to the letter the Forest Service sent in reply: it is addressed to Rainbow Family Liaison. (This is significant, as we have for several years tried to gain status as lay council representatives for the Tribal Council, much like being an attorney for our Tribe, leaving the legal responsibilities for any action the People may take in the hands of the Tribal Council rather than any so-called leader-types or individuals). “The Forest Service is in the process of revising the Code of Federal Regulations concerning assemblies on National Forest land, to make sure that all First Amendment rights are protected.” Any change in Forest Service policy requires that public input be requested by the Forest Service, and it is in this area that we, the Council, and scattered members or aware citizens should take action. We can demand that our input be considered in all the public hearings; we can request that we be asked to appear at public hearings on the matter; we can insist that our input be respected, considered, and digested before the new regulations are written; and we can persist in developing our rights to peaceably assemble on public land.

We have insisted as we do that the First Amendment guarantees of the rights to peaceably assemble for purpose (we fall under two categories, as indicated by the letter to Dave Scott and the U.S. Attorney).

Apparently the government wants to come up with a better program concerning our types of assembly on forest lands, hence the word “special use authorization” rather than the usual “special use permit”. There seems to be an opportunity for negotiations.

Some may ask what difference does it make that the government uses the word “permit” or “authorization”? The point is that if the government can permit or authorize, then it can also unpermit or unauthorize with the same vigor. This is the objection we have to these words. When we discuss a working agreement with the Forest Service, we do so as equal partners in the division of authority between church and state, between the powers designated to the government and those retained by the People – as are specified or not specified by the Constitution. In our case, there are many Supreme Court decisions that strengthen the rights and liberties connected with peaceable assembly, religious purpose, etc., but there are little or no actual precedents in the law that would specifically apply to our case. Of those cases that are similar, it would seem that within the law our rights and liberties would be protected, but there is always a chance that the government would use the law on us in an unfavorable fashion.

So we approach the l983 Michigan Gathering with the same problems. To gather in peace, work out an agreement with the government to do so, and retain all our Constitutional rights and liberties to the fullest.

It must be remembered that the Sons and Daughters of Liberty met beneath the Liberty Tree in Philly, instigated the Boston Tea Party, and began this country through such peaceful assemblies. It is very important to maintain a strong assertive position on this matter. This matter also involves other points, such as no guns, less surveillance (we want none), and other very vital perspectives. This completes this part. A short letter of reply is enclosed, sent by our Liaison crew stationed here in Montana, indicating that the Forest Service should contact the Council in Michigan (when it begins giving the Michigan address).

I would like to add that I agree with the suggestion made by the Forest Service to contact the Michigan Forest Service fairly soon, simply to let them know that you plan to open Council in Michigan in late April and will contact them thereafter. I would suggest nothing more to be said beyond that, but it would open the ballgame in a formal fashion, and it would stall for time until Council could meet on the matter of formally submitting various suggestions concerning the new regulations. I hope I am clear in saying that I would suggest this as procedure, but that the Michigan Seed Camp Council will have to be the main input on this matter, and the general Council during the Fourth of July period. I, those of us who are Liaison here in Montana, and others will continue to work with this process. We have been at it for a number of years, and we intend to continue to be volunteers in this respect. Any other persons who would be or are volunteers for Liaison can contact us, and we will be only too happy to continue in this effort. The Michigan Council will have its negotiations with the government over the “permit process”. My job, as I see it, is to keep the Council informed on any developments and await the Council’s further considerations on this matter. Obviously, there are few persons who have been involved over the long term on this matter, and it is important that some of the Council volunteer to continue this process. After ten or twelve years of negotiations the government seems to be willing to make some changes. An encouraging sign. In this next part I will accede to various requests to put forth some tips on Gathering. If they are of any use, I would appreciate someone remembering to to send a letter saying so.

Advice from an Early

My name is Plunker or Barry. I have been involved with the Gatherings from the very beginning and before that. Of the few of us that were around in the infancy of Gathering and have carried on throughout the years, a number of us have worked or served or did duty at the Gatherings so as to encompass every aspect of the Gathering itself.

Because of this involvement and I will specify: in digging shitters which are fly-proof and plastic lined (for protection of water supplies), parking cars (50 acres will park 2,000 automobiles and a few busses, five people on average per vehicle), worked as Liaison, as scout, cook for Seed Camp, wood getter, water carrier, Shanti Sena (peace scenes), dish washer, supply carrier, and other tasks. In every aspect I have enjoyed and met a myriad of real characters –from road freaks to communitarians, all who have turned their hands to the tasks of winning the hearts and minds of the people who are Gathering. (This includes the local townspeople, officials, media, and other folks tuned into the event). In all this, one gets experienced at doing these tasks and meeting the people. It is essential, in my opinion, that anyone who would like to gain status and recognition in the Council must take up these tasks on an experiential basis (do the work), otherwise one will not understand the task, nor understand the possibilities and limitations, of working with the environment and the People.

There has been some discussion in the past few years over the types of models that we should use as examples for our organizing. There have been a few folks who are tempted by the concept of a hierarchical system, where elders or leaders are recognized by the People. In this pecking order, those with more Gathering experience would be recognized, and the Council would operate along the lines of giving some-sort of better positioning or more time to be listened to, or some other forms of recognition and respect, etc., etc. This would give folks with more time in service some position in regards to others who may have just happened in.

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