Hereditary chiefs of Tla-o-qui-aht First Nation have reversed their decision to allow members of the World Rainbow Family to gather in a tribal park on Kennedy Lake, near Tofino.
However, by late afternoon Wednesday, about 50 counterculture campers were already at the Rainbow Beach site — known as Chu-is by First Nations.
“We are working with all the different policing organizations to mitigate any problems we could face,” said Terry Dorward, a band councillor and project manager for the tribal park.
Feelings about the month-long camp changed overnight among the six hereditary chiefs, Dorward said. “Unfortunately, there are mixed feelings in the community. … It seems like we were 90 per cent in support and, [Wednesday] morning, there was a total 180 and we are not in support,” he said.
“The biggest concern is they don’t really know a lot about [the Rainbow Family]. We have similar beliefs in protecting Mother Earth, but there was not enough time to really sit down and discuss it. It’s really unfortunate,” he said.
The group, which does not have leaders and is based on a neo-hippy culture of peace, love and taking care of the environment, delivered a communiqué to the chiefs Wednesday that described their ethics.
The group said it would probably not exceed 250 people at Rainbow Beach — down from 400 it estimated the previous day and well below the 2,000 people estimated to be heading to Raft Cove Provincial Park last weekend, before the park was closed by Environment Ministry staff.
One of the concerns about Rainbow Beach is that it is considered a sacred site, Dorward said.
In the history of the Tla-o-qui-aht people, during a time of hunger, the area is where a thunderbird dropped a whale from the sky, he said.
“It is a really special place in our history.”
The area is outside Tofino town limits, but Mayor Josie Osborne has met with Rainbow members and is watching the situation.
Residents say Rainbow campers have already cleaned up some of the mess left by others, she said. “Today, a B.C. Parks staffer went out and counted 11 cars and three tents, so there is not a lot of activity.”
The Ministry of Forests, Lands and Natural Resource Operations and B.C. Parks will monitor the situation, Osborne said.
“[They] will hopefully succeed in talking with the Rainbow Family about reducing their impacts, keeping wildlife attractants safely secured, complying with the campfire ban and appropriately dealing with waste,” she said. “The situation appears to be under control and, with the close monitoring by the province, any major issues will hopefully be avoided.”