Who are the Twelve Tribes? Colorado fires allegedly started on land of fringe ‘cult’

Video footage of a burning shed made investigators wonder whether the fire originated on land belonging to the Twelve Tribes


                            Who are the Twelve Tribes? Colorado fires allegedly started on land of fringe ‘cult’
A ceremonial dance during a Twelve Tribes wedding (Wikimedia Commons/B Gibson Barkley)
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Investigators were probing the cause of the wildfires last week that burned across 6,200 acres northwest of Denver when they came across a specific site that is home to members of a 'fundamentalist' fringe group called The Twelve Tribes.

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Initial reports claimed that downed power lines had sparked the blaze before it swept to the region due to high-pressure winds and dry conditions. Over the weekend, however, Colorado authorities said they found telecommunications lines and not power lines. Meanwhile, video footage of a burning shed made them wonder whether the fire originated on land belonging to the Twelve Tribes.

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Who are The Twelve Tribes?

The group describes itself on its website as “an emerging spiritual nation." “We are a confederation of twelve self-governing tribes, made up of self-governing communities,” the website declares. “By community, we mean families and single people who live together in homes and on farms. We are disciples of the Son of God, whom we call by His Hebrew name Yahshua. We follow the Old and New Testament Scriptures and live like the early disciples in Acts chapters 2 and 4. With all of our hearts, we want to do our Father’s will, which is to love one another and be a light to the nations; so that they could see our life of love and know how much their Creator loves them.”

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According to the Independent, the organization was founded in the early 1970s in Tennessee during Christian movements at the time. It has been called a variety of names including the Vine Christian Community Church, the Messianic Communities, Yellow Deli People, and the Community Apostolic Order. The Twelve Tribes has expanded to communities across the United States, South America, Europe, and Asia since its inception. In Boulder, Colorado, a few dozen members reportedly run a business called the Yellow Deli, inspired by a Tennessee restaurant started by the organization’s founder more than four decades ago.

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Common Sense Cafe and Yellow Deli in Island Pond, Vermont; owned and operated by Twelve Tribes (Wikimedia Commons)

The communities mostly focus on farming, with the website explaining how members “live together like an extended family, sharing all things in common, just as the disciples of Yahshua did in the first century... For the most part, our farms are small-scale operations." It continues, “we mainly grow food for ourselves but, sometimes sell our produce at our own farmstands or farmer’s markets. All of the income from our various endeavors goes into a common purse, from which all our needs are met. We don’t have our independent income or debts to carry by ourselves, except for the debt of love we owe to our Savior, which we repay by loving and caring for one another." The site adds, “our farms are sanctuaries… a safe haven… a peaceful refuge… an anchor for the soul in the midst of a society drifting dangerously off course.”

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According to the Independent, the group has previously sparked outrage over its teachings on race, homosexuality and its alleged treatment of children. A 2018 article in the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Intelligence Report describes the organization as “a Christian fundamentalist cult ... little-known to much of the country." Furthermore, the group has been probed for child labor violations and lost various contracts after speculation about its use of juvenile members at work, albeit no charges have been filed to date. Meanwhile, the Twelve Tribes has come under fire in Germany over its practices and homeschooling, which is reportedly illegal in the country.

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