Legend of the Rainbow Warriors
Since the early 1970s, a legend of Rainbow Warriors has inspired some environmentalists in the United States with a belief that their movement is the fulfillment of a Native American prophecy. Usually the story is claimed to be Hopi or Cree. However, the origin of the "prophecy" is not Native American at all, but rather from a 1962 book titled Warriors of the Rainbow by William Willoya and Vinson Brown from Naturegraph Publishers. Brown, who is attributed with research into Hopi prophecies, is the founder and owner of Naturegraph Publishers.
The roots of that myth go back to a book called Warriors of the Rainbow. It was basically an evangelical Christian tract which was published in 1962. If anything, it was an attack on Native culture. It was an attempt to evangelize within the Native American community.
The modern story, misrepresented as ancient prophecy, is an example of "fakelore." While there are variations on the theme, especially as it has become popularized in Internet memes, the common thread in all versions of the story is that a time of crisis will come to the Earth, that people of many races will come together to save the planet, and it is always falsely credited as being a Native American or First Nations prophecy: "It is said there will be a time when the trees are dying, blah, blah, blah. There will be a tribe of people who come and save the Earth and they will be called the Rainbows." Some versions of the story specifically state that this new tribe will inherit the ways of the Native Americans, or that Native ways will die out to be replaced by the new ways of the "Rainbow" people.
The legend said [the Native Americans] would also be joined by many of their light-skinned brothers and sisters, who would in fact be the reincarnate souls of the Indians who were killed or enslaved by the first light-skinned settlers. It was said that the dead souls of these first people would return in bodies of all different colours: red, white, yellow and black. Together and unified, like the colours of the rainbow, these people would teach all of the peoples of the world how to have love and reverence for Mother Earth, of whose very stuff we human beings are also made.
Warriors of the Rainbow relates these fictitious "Indian" prophecies to the Second Coming of Christ and has been described as purveying "a covert anti-Semitism throughout, while evangelizing against traditional Native American spirituality."
The book The Greenpeace Story, states that Greenpeace co-founder Bob Hunter was given a copy of Warriors of the Rainbow by a wandering dulcimer maker in 1969 and passing it around on the first expedition of the Don't Make a Wave Committee, the precursor of Greenpeace. The legend inspired the 1978 name of (the third) Greenpeace ship, Rainbow Warrior, that is used in environmental-protection protests as well as the name of the hippie group, the Rainbow Family.
Native American author and poet Sherman Alexie has addressed this belief in the "inner Indian" and the ways "American whites have co-opted Indian culture," notably in his poem, "How to Write the Great American Indian Novel":
White people must carry an Indian deep inside themselves.
If the interior Indian is male then he must be a warrior, especially if he is inside a white man.all of the white people will be Indians and all of the Indians will be ghosts.
In the Great American Indian novel, when it is finally written,
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- Interview with Michael Niman
- About Naturegraph
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- Aull, Felice (2009)Alexie, Sherman "How to Write the Great American Indian Novel". New York University, Literature, Arts, and Medicine Database.
- Alexie, Sherman (1996) “How to Write the Great American Indian Novel” from The Summer of Black Widows. Hanging Loose Press.
- Willoya, William, and Vinson Brown. Warriors of the Rainbow: Strange and Prophetic Indian Dreams. Healdsburg, California: Naturegraph, 1962.
- Dahl, Arthur. "Brown, Vinson." In Encyclopedia of Religion and Nature, edited by Bron Taylor, 227. London & New York: Continuum International, 2005.
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- Niman, Michael I. People of the Rainbow: A Nomadic Utopia. Nashville: University of Tennessee Press, 1997.