The Black Is Back Coalition for Social Justice, Peace and Reparations stands united with the NJ Ramapough Lenape Tribe and supports their right to self determination and to govern their land as a sovereign nation for the welfare of their people. Integral to their sovereignty is their obligation to protect their land rights, water rights and rights to worship. (please sign petition below by the Ramaopugh Nation to show your support).
We condemn the brutal tactics of the township of Mahwah, New Jersey, it’s mayor, William C. Laforet, the Ramapo Hunt & Polo Club Homeowner’s Association, and the decision of Superior Court Judge Roy F. McGready to levy heavy fines against the Ramapough for praying on their ancestral land, to which they also own the deed. In what can only be described as a vendetta, the township issued 1,200 summonses against the tribe since March 2018 and is fining them $14,500 per day for using their own land. The summonses allege that tipis, tents, a sweat lodge made of small branches, trash cans, and even bicycles are not permitted on Ramapough private land without a zoning permit or zoning plan. They made these allegations in spite of the fact that the town granted zoning permits to the Ramapough in 2012 and in spite of the fact that the NJ Department of Environmental Protection surveyed the land and found the Ramapough prayer structures posed no hazards to the land .
The Township also demanded that a stone altar and a prayer circle of logs with masks be removed, and then attempted to prohibit prayer without any structures for religious use. It is quite clear that the Township and the court system are continuing the hundred years old tradition of using terror against the Indigenous people to steal their land. And even after the Lenape people agreed to remove the teepees, Mahwah and the Polo Club remain unrelenting in their attempt to bankrupt the tribe and steal their resources.
The Prayer Ground is named Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp. What has precipitated the grab for the land is the fact that the property sits at the entrance of a development of million dollar homes known as the Polo Club. Moreover, and just as importantly, within the last couple of years the Pilgrim Pipeline Company has expressed interest in building a pipeline that would run through their sacred land. The company offered to buy the land but the tribe refused, stating the dangerous environmental hazards that running such a pipeline would pose to their people and the community at large. As a way of organizing to fight back against building the pipeline, they designated the Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp for prayer circles, religious ceremonies, meetings, etc. This also became their way of standing in solidarity with the water protectors at Standing Rock.
Upon refusing to sell to the Pilgrim Energy Company, members of the Polo Club offered to buy the land, but the Tribe again refused. The Polo Club then enlisted the city, county and court system in a ruthless campaign of harassment to steal the land from the tribe. Members of the Lenape Nation say the Polo Club and the township have resorted to Jim Crow tactics of harassment, making false police reports, false imprisonment, vandalism, and using racially charged terms to describe them, such as “Jack Whites. Other racist comments by Polo Club members directed at the tribe and recounted in their lawsuit against the town include, “Nobody prays with stones and fire.” and “F-ck you, Mountain N*****s.”).” At a town council meeting on March 22, 2018, the president of the Town Council, Robert Hermansen referred to the alter as “rocks’ and threatened that they would go in and take the rocks down themselves”. And during court proceedings on November 30, 2018, the attorney for Mahwah township borrowed a script directly from the genocidal past of the US, stating that Mahwah doesn’t recognize the Lenape people as a tribe and that their tribe doesn’t exist!
Although the land in question was deeded to the Ramapough Lenape Nation in 1995, the Nation is a sovereign entity that predates the United States itself by thousands of years. And as the United States was built on the stolen land of the indigenous people due to genocide, The Black Is Back Coalition maintains that this land rightfully belongs to them. Moreover, we believe in self determination for all oppressed people and maintain that the United States has no authority in any way to invalidate another people’s existence.
We therefore support the Ramapough Lenape Nation in their fight for justice, self determination and their right to freely worship on their own land without municipal harassment. We support their lawsuit against the township of Mahwah and the Polo Club and demand that the fines levied against them be immediately revoked and that their rights to ownership of the land and to worship as they please be protected!
In October, 2017, the NJ Attorney General sued the Mahwah on behalf of it’s Orthodox Jewish Community, stating that the town’s ban on the building of eruvs (a ritual enclosure sacred to the faith of Orthodox Jews) was discriminatory and resembled 1950s era legislation to keep towns all white. We call upon the Attorney General’s Office to do the same on behalf of the Ramapough Lanape Nation and we call upon all New Jersey officials to condemn the actions of Mahwah Township and the Ramapo Hunt & Polo Club Homeowner’s Association.
Please click here to sign the petition.