SALEM, Ore. (AP) - Concern is growing in a conservative, remote corner of Oregon as people start arriving in a national forest for a Rainbow Family of Living Light annual gathering, a counter-culture get-together expected to draw thousands.
Officials with the Malheur National Forest said this week that 600 Rainbow Family members already are camped at a gathering site near Flagtail Meadow and that between 10,000 and 30,000 are likely to arrive by July 4.
An Indian tribe said the site is within its ancestral territory and asked for attendees to respect its cultural resources.
The U.S. Forest Service said its resource specialists are making sure that kitchens, peace circles and latrines are located appropriately to protect the landscape, plants and animals.
The site is near the town of John Day in Eastern Oregon.
Burns, Oregon -- Burns Paiute Tribal Chairman Joe DeLaRosa today called upon a group known as the Rainbow Family of Living Light to respect the Burns Paiute Tribe's cultural resources when the group visits the Malheur National Forest next month. "The Rainbow Family's proposed camp site is squarely within our ancestral territory," explained Chairman DeLaRosa. "This land is sacred to us, and we hope they respect it."
Recently the Rainbow Family announced that they had selected a site in the Malheur National Forest, near Seneca, Oregon, for their annual week-long gathering, known as the "Gathering of the Tribes." There are important archaeological and other cultural resources nearby.
The Burns Paiute Tribe are a federally-recognized Indian tribe whose ancestors inhabited southeast Oregon, southern Idaho, and northern California and Nevada. The Burns Paiute Tribe's present reservation is located near Burns, Oregon. The Burns Paiute Tribe's ancestral territory includes the area now managed as the Malheur National Forest, as well as other federal lands in southeast Oregon. The Burns Paiute Tribe has not ceded any of its rights in the Tribe's ancestral territory.
The Burns Paiute Tribe's ancestors signed a treaty with the federal government in 1868. The 1868 treaty was not ratified by the United States Congress, but both parties acted in reliance on the treaty. Under its terms, the Government guaranteed it would protect the safety and property of the Northern Paiute people. The Government also committed to inflict punishment for "any crime or injury [that] is perpetrated by any white man upon the Indians aforesaid ... according to the Laws of the United States and the State of Oregon."
In addition, the federal government has a Trust responsibility to the Burns Paiute Tribe to protect cultural resources on federal lands. Several federal laws protect native cultural properties. The Burns Paiute Tribe is also communicating with federal officials on the need to protect its important sacred resources on federal lands.
"The Burns Paiute Tribe is landless, due to the wrongful taking of our ancestral homeland, much of which remains in federal ownership," explained Chairman DeLaRosa. "It is critical that the federal government protects our cultural heritage on federal land," he added.