The Rainbow Family of Living Light wants to hold its annual druggy love-fest in the Black Hills, but a local Native American group is fighting back.
James Swan parked his old Dodge alongside the South Dakota visitor center, where grungy hippies were sprawled on a lawn and passing around a feather. The two-dozen vagabonds are planning to unleash thousands of their brethren into the Black Hills for prayer and free thinking. But Swan wasn’t feeling the peace and love.
“We don’t want you here. You have no f—king respect for Lakota people!” the 54-year-old Native American yelled into a mic attached to his truck. His T-shirt bore another message: portraits of warriors who had shellacked the U.S. Army in the Battle of Little Bighorn, alongside the words “Original Homeland Security.”
“They aren’t listening to anybody,” Swan told The Daily Beast of the phalanx of graying flower children and their next-generation recruits. “This might work for them everywhere in other states, but they’re dealing with Lakotas now.”
“We’re a warrior society,” he added. “We don’t want violence, but this is our culture, our sacredness and we will protect it.”
Swan is not a tribal council representative and does not speak for the Sioux. That isn’t stopping him from fighting the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a counterculture group that’s held annual gatherings in national forests every July since 1972 to pray for world peace—and deliver drugs, nudity and sometimes murder and other crimes in their wake.
To some Lakota, the love fest threatens to desecrate the sacred Black Hills National Forest, where 5,000 to 20,000 hippies are expected to dig trench latrines, fire pits and kitchens. Swan and his band of activists with the United Urban Warrior Society say they’re planning a blockade and will remove the bums. Swan said Rainbow Family adherents tried to soften him up by saying, “We’re just like you, [but] the government doesn’t recognize us as a tribe.”
“You’re not a tribe,” Swan added. “You’re fricking fruitcake people.”
The Rainbow Family is in the midst of “Spring Council” meeting to decide where they’ll set up camp this year. On Monday, Sioux tribal leaders met with a Rainbow members and the USDA Forest Service—a talk to which Swan was not invited. Leaders of the Rosebud Sioux and Oglala Sioux tribes did not respond to the Daily Beast’s requests for comment. Neither tribes have approved of the Rainbow plans.
“You’re not a tribe. You’re fricking fruitcake people.”
Swan protested against the unkempt wanderers for several hours, he said. After the interaction became heated, the Rainbow Family crew pulled back, held hands and formed a circle, the Rapid City Journal reported. Then the Rainbows chanted, “We love you!”
A week before their camp-out, the Rainbows are already in trouble with the law. On Wednesday night, five of the clan fell prey to South Dakota’s harsh marijuana laws and were arrested on felony charges. After a citizen reported aggressive panhandling, the suspected beggars fled in a car. Cops pulled them over after their vehicle ran a red light. Police found two ounces of pot, paraphernalia, marijuana wax and open liquor containers during a consensual search, the Rapid City Journal reported. The visitors’ urine tests were positive for THC.
One Rainbow, who goes by “Bajer,” was defiant to the Rapid City Journal —or what Swan’s club has dubbed the ‘Racist City Urinal’ for what they call biased reporting. For the record, executive editor Bart Pfankuch disagrees with Swan’s moniker.
“I support the right to free speech of James Swan and anyone else,” Pfankuch told The Daily Beast. “Our newspaper coverage is out for all to see. I think we cover things in a fair and balanced way, and people are free to make their own calls about that.”
The Journal reported that Bajer, whose name is actually pronounced “badger,” lashed out after prodding by Swan.