The Seattle Times Monday, July 6, 1981
By Peter Lewis
Times Staff Reporter
USK, Pend Oreille County - It was not the kind of Fourth of July celebration most Americans are accustomed to. No flurry of flags, cold beer or fireworks.
Instead, in a large meadow in the Colville National Forest near here, about 10,000 persons sat silently in a circle, many of them dressed unconventionally or not dressed at all.
It was a 20-minute walk to circle them. After about an hour under the blazing Eastern Washington sun, the silence was broken by blowing into real bull's horns, then mass chanting of the word "om," a sound said to epitomize fulfillment.
Then those assembled for the tenth annual Rainbow Peace Gathering stood. They headed toward the center of the circle, forming as they did a series of concentric circles. Hands joined, arms raised, the "oming" intensified for several minutes, ending with skyward yelps.
With the exception of a National Guard helicopter that thwacked overhead, the main event came off as planned and peacefully, as had been the case throughout this seven-day gathering.
A measure of the cooperation between the family and the "host" Forest Service is that Ray Quintanar, the Forest Service's on-site coordinator, said the agency had tried to ban overhead flights even though the "legalities" involved were uncertain.
"I wish I could have done something about that," Quintanar said of the unwelcome flyover, which really didn't do much to spoil the mass prayer. The Forest Service estimated that the crowd reached a peak of 10,000 to 12,000 about 4,000 more than expected.
The gathering to promote peace and "new-age consciousness" was beginning to break up yesterday under rain that waited to fall until after Saturday's spiritual climax.
"People are leaving the area in considerable numbers," a Pend Oreille County sheriff's spokesman reported yesterday. Vehicles, which once numbered more than 1,500, were leaving the site at a rate of 30 to 50 an hour yesterday, and foot traffic was 120 an hour, the sheriff's spokesman said.
"Everything seems to be progressing smoothly," he said.
Many might view the people who came here as a bunch of "hippies" or "losers" coming together to party in the woods while they recover their egos. In some cases, they might be right.
Certainly drugs- mostly marijuana- were in evidence, and some people didn't appear to be pulling their own weight in terms of sharing in the work load.
However, there are a number of persons inthis loose-knit, spiritually oriented family who seem to believe sincerely that America is in trouble, in part because much of straight society has forsaken the responsibility that goes along with freedom.
That's the attitude, at least, of Mickey, 45, who traveled here from the San Francisco area in a school bus he lives in with a woman named Liz. "The best government is that which governs least," said Mickey, who called the Rainbow Philosophy toward government "Thoreauean."
"Simple living and high thinking," was how Liz summed up the Rainbow way.
Before the first council was even held, latrines and firepits were dug, log bridges to cross Calispell Creek were built and food supplies were arranged.
Two Rainbow people who had arranged through a non-profit organization to buy two or three tons of government-subsidized food - items like peanut butter, soybeans, butter and vegetable oil - were overruled by the family council, to which anyone can belong. The consensus grew out of a desire to stay clear of government handouts and a belief it would be hypocritical for a group that espouses self-sufficiency to accept delivery.
When the gathering officially ends tomorrow, a work crew of Rainbow people will remain behind to restore the land to its pre-gathering condition. The Forest Service reports the family has an excellent record in this regard.
A man whose cattle were forced off their grazing pastures by the Rainbow Family is said to be considering a claim against the Forest Service, sources said, adding that the action could be averted if the cattle rancher is satisfied with the restoration job done by the family.