The Ancient Tradition of Tribal Gathering

...Public Land and the Exercise of Freedom

There Is An American Legacy Of Land And Liberty

It goes way back -- from the millenia of the Red ancestors living in the Spirit of earth and sky, through the centuries of Whites and Colors who came to speak and pray as they believed. The Landscapes and Freedoms of America are linked in the eyes of the world, in the hearts of the people. As the country grew & settled, the call rose topreserve this heritage. The National Forests were founded in that spirit -- as public lands in trust, where our Natural bounties and Constitutional rights would be protected. p>Over the past 90 years, the Trustees have changed their tune: Mountainsides are stripped bare, the gifts of Nature sold & soils washed away --and the Forest Service says It's 'Government Land', Not 'Public':

They have made policies to oppose free assembly, and now they want to be in the Police Bizness, bigtime...

The Legacy Lives On In Our Times

In 1972 the ancient tradition was revived -- Gathering in communion and consensus on the Land. Every 4th of July since then, thousands have come in pilgrimage to a Gathering in the National Forest joining in the Sanctuary of Nature to celebrate freedom & pray for peace, share heartsongs & care for the land This new tradition fulfills Native American prophesies of a Rainbow Tribe that would join peoples of all colors to heal the Earth. And it is an historic experiment in Social Ecology and Consensus Democracy.

The Law shows up too; Gatherers cooperate with local Rangers and leave sites clean, restored, and replanted, yet USFS officials have upheld a policy of selective enforcement and harassment, in some cases severe. And they have tried to take legal control over assembly on public land, and stop the Gatherings.

The US Forest Service has proposed two new regulations to amend the Federal Code; both are under review before enactment, and widely opposed...

Group Use Rules & Law Enforcement Rules:
36 CFR Parts 251 &
261 36 CFR Parts 261 & 26 {Fed.Reg. 58:86; 5/6/93} {Fed. Reg. 59:32; 2/16/94}

These rules would make it a crime gather peaceably on public land without a permit, and create sweeping enforcement powers to deny citizen access. They pose unprecedented agency authorities over the exercise of freedoms protected under the Bill of Rights.

This is the third time since the early 1980's that the forest service has proposed rules restricting constitutional & civil rights.

Both prior 'Group Use' measures (1984, 1988) were struck down in Federal Court tests:

USFS enforcement has been hostile and invasive: Peaceful assemblies have suffered illegal roadblocks, searches, surveillance, and military incursions. In 1991, Vermont locals complained of " unnecessary show of authority that turned their community into a police state". {U.S.Forest Service: 1991 Rainbow Gathering Report, pg. 26.}

These policies are out of step with the times and spirit of America.

The 'Group Use' rules face growing opposition, including the ACLU, America the Beautiful Fund, Kentucky Resources Council, Independent Voters of Illinois, and others.

They are condemned by the House Judiciary Committee as ";the latest in a series of Forest Service actions that have threatened to infringe on the First Amendment". [Subcommittee Chair Don Edwards (D-CA), 11/1/93]

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act (PL 103-141) was signed in November '93, restoring a stringent "compelling interest" test upon laws restraining spiritual belief and ritual. The Native American Free Exercise of Religion Act is now pending (S.1021); it would recognize and protect sacred gathering sites.

The USFS has new leadership, with some progressive ideas for National Forest environments.

It's time for progressive constitutional policies as well, to ally citizens & public servants in cooperation and shared stewardship for lands in the common trust.

For further information, contact...

PO Box 27217 -- Washington, DC 20038
PO Box 6625 -- Chicago, IL 60680
202-462-0757, 202-265-5389 (Fax)

Hotline: 312-409-0018