A Thanksgiving Circle and council was held in Montana November 25-28, 1999. About 40-50 people attended over the course of the weekend. On Thursday, November, 25th we held a circle and offered prayers of Thanks and enjoyed a beautiful potluck feast in honor of the Holiday. It was decided informally (in circle) that our counciling would begin Friday. Thursday was a day folks arriving, celebration and informal discussion. Paper was placed on walls for people to write down topic ideas for council. A list was also started for sign ideas.
Disclaimer: Thanksgiving council is a circle of individuals speaking only for themselves. It is free and open to all individuals as a forum to share discussion, prayer, visions, etc., for the coming annual Gathering 2000 in the Montana/Idaho region. It has no legal authority and is not representative of any individual or group. Please note that the following notes are from subjective accounts, not comprehensive, and only meant to summarize topics discussed and ideas put forward.
Council began with a reading of topic items from the listing on the wall and open question as to what would be discussed first. "Ecological Concerns" was the first issue for discussion. Many views were expressed regarding the importance of the Gatherings impact on the land and water. Individuals explained some of the regional ecological issues including the importance of staying away from critical habitat of endangered/threatened species; species concerns include grizzly bears, wolves, bull trout; also concerns about protected roadless areas. Past problems and successes were both discussed extensively; issues included clean-up, shitters, wetlands, weeds, trails, garbage, site selection, etc. It was suggested that a deep ecology center could be set up to provide sound ecological information onsite. Several speakers suggested inviting environmentalists to attend and participate. Bleach alternatives and problems related to bleach use were also discussed. After a lengthy discussion, the following was consensed by silence: "We as individuals in circle affirm our commitment to an ecologically aware Gathering in the year 2000."
"Site selection criteria" was discussed next. Individuals offered potential criteria for site selection and gave voice to their major
concerns or visions for the next site. These were offered as "messages to the scouts." Suggestions included avoiding sensitive sites with extensive wetlands, finding a site with plenty of good water, avoiding critical habitat, avoiding fire hazards, finding a site already impacted by grazing and other common impacts. Another major area of concern brought up here was accessibility forhandicapped, aged, and others who have difficulty with high altitude, cold, or rugged terrain; low altitude would be nice. Vehicle access and adequate parking is important. Some individuals spoke for a large open meadow at the center of the gathering to allow for a large circle on the fourth and visibility of camps, tipi circle, council arbor, first aid, cooperations, etc. Some also spoke for a smaller meadow, not so big we that we lose closeness; the geological features should draw us together. We also discussed the importance of site history and the issue of native Tribes and respecting sacred sites, we should also contact local tribes out of respect before we settle on someplace. [Hipstorical Note: For many years, all of these criteria have been part of scouting, this is re-affirmation of concerns.]
Next, we discussed the issue of mail and information sharing related to Montana/Idaho Gathering 2000. Interested volunteers formed an "information sharing circle," no more, no less, to discuss whether to get a mailbox and how to handle inquiries and other communication needs.
The council for Friday ended with a circle of thanks as family prepared another beautiful dinner.
The first topic of the day was Spring Council and Scout Council. Concerns were raised over the seeming exclusiveness of scouting,
and how to make it more accessible to newcomers. Potential dates for spring council and scout council were tossed around. Scouting and spring council will need to be later since we are in a Northern region. It takes time and money and several crews to do a good job of scouting. Good communication between the scouts and between the scouts and spring council is important. It was suggested that the scouts meet among themselves before Spring Council to work out differences. Scouting probably won't happen until mid-May. People> who want to help, please write to the Gathering 2000 address for rendezvous/contact information. The consensus on Spring Council and Scouting was as follows: "We as individuals in circle affirm (suggest) that Spring Council begin on June 10th, 2000." "We as individuals in circle encourage scouts to co-ordinate their efforts from Thanksgiving Council on and to get together at the beginning and again at the end of scouting prior to Spring Council."
After this, we took a break for a scouting fieldtrip to nearby potential site. Some scouts expressed that the road was too steep and narrow, albeit to a great parking lot; there was too much snow to do more exploring. After this journey, there was more discussion about accessible roads, and not creating roads into roadless areas. [Hipstorical note: last time a ThanksGiving Circle journeyed to Scout, 1975, before Montana Gathering 1976.]
Re-affirmation of the Spiritual Nature of the Gathering: This was proposed for consensus and the following was consensed by silence: "We as individuals in circle affirm the Spiritual and Healing nature of Peaceable Gatherings."
Having More "Phun": Several folks expressed that we should "Have More Phun" at the Gathering.
Info Sharing Circle and Magic Hat: Various individuals took on the tasks of finding a mailing address to facilitate responses to Scouting questions, Spring Council questions, Howdy Folks requests and donations to scouts. Interest was expressed in planning a spring get-together for making signs, etc. Volunteers agreed to get the Thanksgiving council notes out. A Hat Holders circle (ie, banking) was formed and three hat holders volunteered. The following was consensed: "We as individuals in circle affirm that a Hat Holder's Circle (ie banking) was formed. Donations are appreciated and can be sent to the Gathering 2000 mailing address (see below). Checks can be made payable to Gathering 2000."
Gathering 2000 mailing address is: Gathering 2000PMB 512 1001 East Broadway #2 Missoula, MT 59802
(Standard disclaimer applies: This mailbox does not purport to be any more than it is; a channel for information sharing)
Council Arbor: Individuals shared a vision of a council arbor made of poles and tarps, large enough to accommodate 2000 people. This was proposed as a way to help center the council process and provide a place where people could get out of the sun or rain to council. Such a structure should be in a central location for easy accessibility, participation.
West Virginia, 1980, killings retrial Update: It was reported that Jacob Beard, the man convicted in in West Virginia, 1993 of murdering two women, (Sisters) on their way to the 1980 West Virginia Gathering, is coming up for a new trial in January 2000. Individual volunteers who have been watching this case, tracking evidence since 1980, (Shanti Sena, Apple Blossom et al) request donations/support. Please pray for justice.
Co-operations: Individuals expressed an interest in setting up a centered "Cooperations" tent or area that would serve as a main toolbox for shitters and fire watch, daily work council area, sign making area, etc. Other individuals suggested that this could be a centered communications point where a circle could be available 4-7 to facilitate cooperation, and communicate with the main council daily. It was also requested that the Oregon '97 tools be recovered for Gathering 2000.
Communications/ Radios: Several concerns about radio distribution and use were expressed. It was suggested that radios need to go to responsible people in areas that need them. Others expressed problems with the use of cell phones within the Gathering. Several 911 calls were made on cell phones in Pennsylvania, calling Police Authority to come directly into the Gathering. It was suggested that people with cell phones be encouraged to "check in" with communications volunteers and possibly provide additional communications support. It was also suggested that some of our older kids could be asked, and may like to be message runners, and this is an important resource not to overlook.
Recycling and Trash: It was suggested that local businesses be contacted concerning waste disposal and recycling options. Someone suggested acquiring (bearproof) dumpsters; in the last days of clean-up in Pennslyvania dumpsters were rented. It was suggested that July 8th, 9th, and 10th be named "Family Clean Up Days" to encourage folks to clean-up their neighborhoods, close shitters, trails, etc, and pack it out. It was also suggested that trash and recycling centers be set up in the parking lots or along the road where it can be shipped out more easily.
Cop Watch: Next, an announcement was made regarding "Cop watch." This has become an important volunteer activity at gatherings. People are needed 24 hours a day to observe and record civil rights violations on roads and areas in and around gatherings. Common infringements by police authority include illegal searches, "gauntlet-style" mobile roadblocks, unwarranted stops and paper checks. Anyone with a video camera, camera, or pen and paper can help.
Children/ Kid Village: People affirmed that the gathering is about the children, giving kids priority is good. Concerns about kid village and kid care were discussed; some people felt that too many "adult kids" come there for zoozoos and feeding, which detracts from it being a "kids place". It was suggested that more people could help focalize kid village; perhaps a council (parents, others) would form to focalize kid village. Concerns were raised about keeping forest service agency propaganda, including smokey bear and woodsey owl, out of kid village. Activities or a special area for teens, older children was suggested. It was suggested that kids should be encouraged to speak in any council. [hipstorical note: children of all ages have spoken at various Council since Earliest Gathering Days.] The following consensus was reached: "We as individuals in circle affirm that Gatherings are for the Children. All children should be able to speak freely at council."
In addition, Shanti Sena information was shared: Jose AntonioRamos, a child predator in jail in Pennsylvannia as a result of harm to children, at Pennsylvania Gathering 1986, is coming up for parole; letters concerning this matter are encouraged.
Legal Schmegal: We discussed our Constitutional right to peaceably assemble on public land and the numerous legal challenges to this. Many good points were brought up, including: we are the public; Rainbow process is based on the principle of the Commons; it is our Right to free expression; the gathering is our petition to the government for Peace; if we can not freely gather, there is no chance for peace. It was suggested that we should provide educational workshops on the Constitution. It was also observed that the entire Gathering is an education in the Constitution. Several current regulations being advanced by the FS were also discussed.
On October 5th, the Forest Service released a proposal for new regulations that will guide the development of forest plans and sitespecific decisions for the next several decades; see "Proposed National Forest Management Act (NFMA) Planning Regulations;" see <http://www.fs.fed.us/forum/nepa/rule/>, or the Federal Register for October 5th, 1999 (page 54074). Comments are due February 3rd, 2000. First Amendment uses do not appear to be addressed directly, but this Omission could severely hamper the adequacy of the forest planning process; if there is no room for Gatherings in forest plans, this may be used to shut us out in favor of planned for uses. Please comment and advocate the explicit protection of First Amendment protected uses, and the inclusion of large group use areas in Forest Plans (something which has never happened yet). Please address your comments to:
CAET-USDAAtt. Planning Rule
FS plans for system wide user fee programs are also moving forward. Pilot programs have been expanding steadily for several years. System-wide user fees could be instituted as early as June 2000. Constitutionally protected uses should be exempted from user fee programs and other fees for commercial privileges. It would not hurt to include this point in Planning Reg comments, and watching for comment periods on fee programs.
4th celebration/ children's parade and timing: A controversial suggestion was made that the children's parade on the 4th causes stress for the children and prevents some parents from participating in the silence. An on-going discussion has begun among folks, some who are strongly opposed to this idea and favor keeping with the traditional children's parade, on the 4th, to end the silence. NO consensus, discussion to be continued.
Dogs: Issues relating to dogs at gatherings were discussed. The following consensus was reached: "We as individuals in circle suggest that if you bring dogs or other pets to the gathering, please take responsibility; leash your dogma."
Healthy Gathering 2000: The desire for a Healthy Gathering was discussed next. Concerns about health and safety were discussed; including handwashes, shitters, first aid, kitchens, education, communications, etc. It was suggested that porta-potties (home-made, rented) might be good to have in parking areas where visitors and newcomers who are not yet familiar with shitters can find them. Concerns about CALM/MASH and other first aid stations were discussed. The following consensus was reached: "We as individuals in circle affirm the importance of a Healthy Gathering, and encourage the Health and Healing and Medical and Emergency Volunteers to Communicate, Cooperate, and Coordinate their efforts."
Clean-up: The difficulties of focalizing clean-up were discussed,including FS cooperation or interference, number of volunteers, hard work, etc. Pennsylvania clean-up volunteers were applauded and the hand-written FS sign-off letter was read. The need for more workshops and involvement were discussed. It was suggested that family be reminded from the beginning that clean-up starts now; don't build it if you can't disappear it; pack it out; etc. The following consensus was reached: "We as individuals in circle affirm the importance of Cleanup, and we ask our Brothers and Sisters to be conscious of clean up every day. Clean up begins now. Trash and recycling, all the way out, every day, please."
After this, it was agreed that too many folks had left to consider any more consensus proposals, and that those present would continue to discuss informally. Ideas were put forth for a Rap 2000, which would be a site-specific addition to Raps 107 and 701.
"We as individuals in circle affirm our commitment to an ecologically aware Gathering in the year 2000."
"We as individuals in circle affirm (suggest) that Spring Council begin on June 10th, 2000."
"We as individuals in circle encourage scouts to co-ordinate their efforts from Thanksgiving Council on and to get together at the beginning and again at the end of of scouting prior to Spring Council."
"We as individuals in circle affirm the Spiritual and Healing nature of Peaceable Gatherings."
"We as individuals in circle affirm that a Hat Holder's Circle (ie banking) was formed. Donations are appreciated and can be sent to the Gathering 2000 mailing address (see below). Checks can be made payable to Gathering 2000."
"We as individuals in circle affirm that Gatherings are for the Children. All children should be able to speak freely at council."
"We as individuals in circle suggest that if you bring dogs or other pets to the gathering, please take responsibility; leash your dogma."
"We as individuals in circle affirm the importance of a Healthy Gathering, and encourage the Health and Healing and Medical and Emergency Volunteers to Communicate, Cooperate, and Coordinate their efforts."
"We as individuals in circle affirm the importance of Cleanup,and we ask our Brothers and Sisters to be conscious of clean up every day. Clean up begins now. Trash and recycling, all the way out, every day, please."
Gathering 2000 mailing address is:Gathering 2000 PMB 512