Several days ago, I read the wonderfully ironic Rapid City Journal headline, “Thousands of Hippies May Invade Black Hills for Gathering This Summer.” The local paper raised concern that the Rainbow Family of Living Light could bring drugs, death, and nudity to the Black Hills.
“We have been made aware that they may be coming, but we’re not 100 percent sure that they are coming,” USFS Public Relations Officer Scott Jacobson said Friday. “The last couple of years we understand they have had approximately 8,000 people attend, but they’ve been doing this since 1972 and have had as many as 20,000” [Tom Griffith, “Thousands of Hippies May Invade Black Hills for Gathering This Summer,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.06].
Rainbow Family members confirmed their plan (to the extent the self-styled “non-organization” makes plans) in Hill City yesterday and guesstimated that maybe 5,000 hippies will show up.
Meanwhile, we’re hoping for, cheering for, a million bikers to descend on the Black Hills for the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally in August, a noisy gathering that upends daily life, state operations, and other tourism for a full week but which state officials celebrate as South Dakota’s “one true global event” and a heck of a moneymaker. If those darn hippies would just come to town and buy more booze, maybe they’d get more love.
But opposition the Rainbow gathering goes deeper than our embrace of the monetizable co-opting of biker culture and continued rejection of less consumerist leftist lovefests. Black Hills National Forest supervisor Craig Bobzien brought Rainbow reps together with tribal officials to discuss Indian concerns about flower children prancing naked and dancing and drinking in the sacred Paha Sapa. Tom Griffith reports that Indian activist James Magaska Swan showed up to cuss the hippies out over a loudspeaker (see videos of Swan’s persistent rants and some hippie responses on his anti-Rainbow page) and otherwise antagonize them into a chanting love circle and this interesting retort from a dude named Bajer:
After the confrontation with Swan, Bajer was defiant.
“We didn’t ask his permission to be here, and we aren’t going to ask his permission to be here,” Bajer said. “This is land that belongs to him, us, everybody” [Seth Tupper, “Anger Arises over Planned ‘Rainbow’ Gathering in Black Hills,” Rapid City Journal, 2015.06.16].
Wow: Bajer starts off sounding like General Custer and the Daugaard cabinet officials who oppose giving Harney Peak a more suitable Lakota name. But then he whips out some Lakota judo and co-opts the tribal notion that land cannot be owned. Uff da—sort that one out, multiculturalists!
Hippies, bikers, Lutherans—we all ought to be able to respectfully, peacefully enjoy the Black Hills. But if Swan is going to set up loudspeakers to holler at a couple dozen hippies holding hands in Hill City, I’ll expect to see him outside the city limits of Buffalo Chip shouting at the far more numerous and disruptive Sturgis Rally-goers baring their butts in sight of sacred Bear Butte.