Rainbow Family Book - Rainbow Gathering Ethnography


Rainbow Family of Living Light Ethnography
People of the Rainbow:
A Nomadic Utopia
2nd Edition

by Michael I. Niman

2011 University of Tennessee Press
ISBN: 1-57233-746-X / Library Catalog HX806.N555 1997

Contains a New Introduction, Two Extensive New Chapters
and an expanded Glossary.


Description of 2nd Edition (From Publisher)

Since 1972 the Rainbow Family of Living Light, a loosely organized and anarchistic nomadic community, has been holding large gatherings in remote forests to pray for world peace and create a model of a functioning utopian society. Michael I. Niman’s People of the Rainbow, originally published in 1997, was the first comprehensive study of this countercultural group and its eclectic philosophy of environmentalism, feminism, peace activism, group sharing, libertarianism, and consensus government. It is a book yet to be superseded.

This second edition of Niman’s compelling and insightful work brings the Rainbow story up to date with a new introduction and two extensive new epilogues. While the big annual Rainbow “Gatherings” have drawn fewer numbers in recent years, Niman notes, the Rainbow ethos has in many ways migrated to the mainstream, as Rainbow notions about alternative medicine and environmental sustainability, for example, have gathered wider acceptance and influenced the national dialogue. Meanwhile, Rainbow movements in other regions, from Eastern Europe and the Middle East to Asia and Australia, are thriving.

In addition to addressing changes within the Rainbow Family and its complex relationship to “Babylon” (what Rainbows call mainstream culture), the book’s new material explores the growing harassment Rainbows now face from U.S. law enforcement agencies— especially those associated with the National Forest Service. As Niman contends, this particular saga of a U.S. bureaucracy at war with its own citizens is a subplot in the larger—and disturbing—story of how the relationship between Americans and their government has changed during the first decade of the twenty-first century.

In its nuanced portrait of an intriguing subculture, its successes, and its limitations, People of the Rainbow remains a significant contribution to the study of utopian communities
in the United States and their ongoing legacy.


This books fits into the disciplines of American Studies; Sociology; Nonviolence; Native American Studies; Journalism; Ethnography; Anthropology; Cultural Studies; Anarchism and Religious Studies.


Niman's work is well documented and accurate, and offers a reading which stimulates deep reflection. The appendix, bibliography, ample glossary, original material of the Rainbow Family and photos are very useful. The book could be very interesting for ethnographers in primis, historians, and also (why not?) politicians. The book deserves more than a single reading due to the wealth of its content.

Giovanna Serenelli, Perugia University.

"Michael Niman has drawn on a wide range of documents and many years of participant observation to give us the fullest, most balanced picture of the Rainbows ever published. His book is an outstanding work of American social history."

-- Timothy Miller, University of Kansas.

"In this book, Michael Niman skillfully leads us through the alternate universe of the Rainbow Family, a group of millenarian anarchists whose moveable feast takes the form of large annual gatherings in remote forests across the nation -- events that have alarmed and then baffled law-enforcement officials and observers from the media . . . . A riveting case study in postmodern American utopianism, People of the Rainbow will be compelling reading for anyone interested in popular spirituality, social movements, and contemporary American culture."

-- Michael F. Brown, Williams College

"...Michael Niman examines what it is that holds [the Rainbows] together--drumming and sharing, hewing wood and drawing water, trying to deal peacefully with the drunks of `A-Camp' and belligerent Babylonian authorities, and building state of the art shitters to protect the assembled brothers and sisters from outbreaks of mass diarrhea. Niman tells it with love and perceptiveness; his exegesis on homemade technology makes a serious point about ecology and self-sufficiency. He rightly raps the Rainbows who rip off American Indian rituals, but makes it clear that the Gatherings are not an ossified `60s relic, but an attempt to create a different way of life in the real world--even if only for a week."

--Steven Wishnia, High Times

"...After 200 pages, Niman comes to the same conclusion I did almost the moment I arrived at my first Gathering. But his is backed up by an impressive amount of social science. Much of the final chapter focuses on a detailed analysis of the variables that caused past utopias to succeed or fail, including a detailed comparison with The Farm. With or without spiritual "vision" or a respectable foundation in Native mythology, he seems to conclude, the Family is here to stay.

...All in all, People of the Rainbow is a Herculean attempt at a Quixotic task. His freedom of Information Act research alone is worth the price of the book. In spite of its flaws--and its polish--Mike Niman's detailed examination and clear assessment of the Family is a contribution that would make any Rainbow Warrior proud."

Stephen Wing, Ho!, All Ways Free

"...The book rambles like a typical day at a gathering, wandering through history, the group's "policies" of decision-making by consensus, attitudes toward violence, crime, Native Americans, land, and the US government. The author knows utopian history and consistently hits the mark in placing the Family in the context of utopian thought. Whether readers agree with his evaluation of the meaning of the Rainbow Nation is almost irrelevant. The group is a living extension of a subculture that reigned when ideas were simpler and more positive; Niman's book suits it well. A set of scruffy, delightful appendixes enriches the understanding of Rainbow lifestyle even more."

E. J. Green, Choice

"...Niman was a most conscientious and sensitive fieldworker, obtaining much information from individuals with whom many researchers would have found it impossible to establish rapport. It is evident that he has a good background in the literature of utopian communitarian societies, both descriptive and theoretical.

This reviewer found the book to be well documented and very interesting. The Rainbow Family 'comes to life' from the very first page. The account is at once sympathetic and yet objective. There are, in this writer's opinion, too few descriptions of past and present communitarian societies by professionals. To this small library, Niman's work is a valuable addition."

Christina M. Lemieux, Nova Religio

Books Citing People of the Rainbow

People of the Rainbow; A Nomadic Utopia, is dedicated
to the memory of Evelyn and Hank Niman

Ordering Information

Try to buy local by ordering People of the Rainbow from your local independent bookstore!

"People of the Rainbow" is published by the University of Tennessee Press, a not-for-profit publisher. Order Direct from Publisher online ($24.95 plus shipping) or call 1-800-621-2736

bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Lowest Available Internet Price - Follow this link to see a comparative listing of internet bookstore prices for People of the Rainbow.  I am not familiar with all of these vendors so you are on your own. Prices change daily. Lowest new price as of Fall 2011 is $24.95(usd) plus shipping.

bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Books can also be ordered On-Line from Amazon.Com via a secure connection automatically by following this link> AMAZON ORDERING INFORMATION Always in stock 2-3 day delivery.  Recent listed price $24.95 (qualifies for supersaver free shipping)

First Edition (out of print)

Rainbow Family of Living Light Ethnography
People of the Rainbow:
A Nomadic Utopia

by Michael I. Niman

photos by GabeKirchheimer and Joseph Levy

©1997, 1999, 2003 University of Tennessee Press
ISBN 0-87049-989-0 / Library Catalog HX806.N555 1997

People of the Rainbow Online Appendix

A Research Data Archive hosted as a public service of S.U.N.Y. Buffalo State


Other Books About the Rainbow Family

bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Rainbow Gatherings: A Memior By Butterfly Bill. (Recommended Read! ) Muskogee, OK: Bliss Fire Press (2010)
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Welcome Home: A look into the Rainbow Family of Living Light by Mary Kohut. Self Published (LuLu) (2008)
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Judge David and the Rainbow People by David Sentelle. Washington, D.C.: Green Bag Press (2002)


Links to Related Sites

Don't Trust Interpretation of Culture to Ethnographers - See What the Rainbows Have to Say.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Unofficial Rainbow Family Homepage This page, maintained by Rob Savoye in Colorado, is an excellent source of Rainbow information and links to other sites. Start your exploration here
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) Rainbow Guide Rainbow White Pages plus Raps, Mini Manual, Photos etc.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) Northeast Rainbow Family (NERF) Northeast US. Mellow Annual Gathering usually in New England. Also Try this Link
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) New York City Rainbow Family - Info about events such as Coney Island Rainbow Circles
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Australia Rainbow Gatherings - Current Info and Archived Photos
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)German Rainbow Family
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) European Rainbow Info (Finland 2010) - Good Info on Recent and Upcoming EU Gatherings.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Iranian Rainbow Family - They live in Iran, Gather in Turkey and Maintain a Webpage in Virginia.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)French Rainbow Family -General Info, Calendar, contacts (English Language Page)
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Italy "Rainbow Warriors" - Placeholding Site.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)UK Rainbow Family
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) Ontario Rainbow Family - Info about events in Ontario and across Canada.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Great Lakes Rainbow Family - Info about events in the US side of the Western Great Lakes region.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Rainbow Guide - The Guide is Printed on Paper, but here is the website that tells how to get one.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)YouTube Videos of Police Attack on Kiddie Village - Wyoming, USA 2009
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Southern California Rainbow Family
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Los Angeles Rainbow Forum
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Russian Rainbow Family - Sometimes slow load. Photos of Russian Gatherings.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Alps (Germany Switzerland) Rainbow Family
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) Helvetian Rainbow -
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Joe Levy's Rainbow Photos (B&W) online.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)US Forest Service Report on the 1997 Rainbow Gathering released to prop1 activists in accordance with the Freedom of Information Act.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)US Forest Service Anti-Gathering Regulations
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Marc's Rainbow Homepage Useful information and lots of pictures from the 1996 Missouri Gathering
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Freelance Cyber-Journalist John Tarleton Journal from the 1999 Gathering in Pennsylvania.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Interview With Author (MNiman) - Conducted by John Tarleton
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)The Farm (Summertown TN) In the book, I compare the Rainbows, a nomadic "temporary" group, to the Farm, a landbased "permanent" group. This link connects to my 1995 article about the Farm (with pictures).
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Southern California Rainbow Family California Rainbow Calendar and Info.
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Rainbow Video Available Free On-Line from DC area Rainbows

Also check out the Rainbow Family Newsgroup, "alt.gathering.rainbow"

bullet.gif (1145 bytes)SEARCH the Web for Rainbow Family Photos
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)SEARCH the Web for Rainbow Family News Stories

Search The Entire Web Search mediastudy.com

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Rainbow Documentary Film
Three-time Academy Award®-Nominated Producer Steve Kalafer’s newest documentary
New Jersey Films presents We Love You!

bullet.gif (1145 bytes) We Love You! Film Website --
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Theatrical Trailer
bullet.gif (1145 bytes) Facebook Group

Sample Pages & Quotes

bullet.gif (1145 bytes) Look Inside "People of the Rainbow"
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)University of Tennessee Press Site - Sample Pages from People of the Rainbow
bullet.gif (1145 bytes)Selected Quotes Interspersed With an Extensive Review by Stephen Wing -- from the unofficial Rainbow Family Website.

People of the Rainbow is printed on archival quality low-acid recycled paper with a minimum life expectancy of 300 years. It contains 25 photos, a comprehensive index and a glossary.

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Site Updated July 2016