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Rainbows debate site choice on e-mail

June 29, 2001

Pressure from Native American tribes and conservation groups is causing the Rainbow Family to re-think its choice of Bear Valley for this year's gathering. NewsChannel 7 has been following the Family's discussions on the Internet.

The Rainbow Family keeps in touch with its members around the country by using an email list. We've signed up for that list and are getting those emails here. For the last three days there's been one big topic: should the family move out of Bear Valley?

This week two Idaho tribes asked the Rainbow Family to move off the tribes' sacred ground.

So far, the Rainbows have stayed -- but in an email to the members who aren't there yet, one member writes:

"As long as the Family continues to disregard these requests, i am disassociating myself from the Family."

Another says "If Shoshone have made their concerns clear, that should be the end of it. If Rainbows don't show respect for them, that will be the beginning of the end for gatherings such as this."

The tribes' request to move has split members on what to do next.

"On any given year there will be some group that will insist we go elsewhere," one member writes. "A bad choice was made, so be it."

Then there are environmental concerns -- that salmon spawning in bear creek will never survive 20,000 people camping nearby.

In an email one Rainbow member writes "as the gathering grows, and the impact of activities already happening become more apparent, it is clear that the size of an event will result in significant impact."

But another member says the group should take the concerns as a challenge:

"We can do something. Let's make sure everyone there hears the word about keeping this land clean."

A message Rainbows on-site say they've already heard.

The people reading and writing these emails are not yet at the gathering site near Lowman. As of Friday afternoon, the Forest Service had counted 4,300 people there — Incident Command says watching how many people arrive this weekend will be key to guessing just how many will show up by July 4. Right now the numbers are low compared to last year's gathering in Montana.

Lee McGuire is the investigative reporter for Idaho's NewsChannel 7. E-Mail Lee

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