The tribe will be honored at Stony Point Center’s Farm-to-Table Gala on September 18 for their land stewardship, as well as their advocacy for indigenous rights and environmental responsibility.
Photo by Andrew Courtney (see more pictures here)
The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center is pleased to announce that our third annual Living Traditions Award will be presented to the Ramapough Lunaape Nation. For decades, this Native American community has worked vigilantly to restore their traditional land after it was devastated by dumping. They are leaders in the environmental, indigenous rights, and racial justice movements.
The Living Traditions Award was established in 2014 to honor the work of an individual or group that exemplifies the values of the Community of Living Traditions: justice, peace, nonviolence, earth-consciousness and radical hospitality.
The Ramapough have been trailblazers for indigenous rights and environmental responsibility as they took on the task of healing their ancestral lands in the hills of Northern Bergen County, NJ and Southern Rockland County, NY. In the 1960's and 1970's, some of these lands were used by the Ford Motor Company as a dumping grounds for paint run-off from its factory in nearby Mahwah, NJ. When the factory closed, housing was built on those lands and made available to the Ramapough, especially of the Turtle Clan. This land proved to be so polluted that it was placed on the Superfund Site list, where it bears two distinctions: first, it is the only Superfund site with people residing on it, and second, it is the only Superfund site ever to have been declared clean, then subsequently returned to the list. The Ramapough have been ardent advocates for more clean-up — negotiating for removal of polluted soil, replanting with native species, and establishing a small herb garden. Asked once why they didn't just resettle in a less polluted area, their reply was: “The land is our relative. She is sick. Why would we abandon a sick relative?”
According to indigenous historian Evan T. Pritchard, the Ramapough are “the only actual non-foreigners to be found still living in community in and around New York's metropolitan region.” Native to these parts long before the arrival of Henry Hudson and subsequent European settlers, the Ramapough are part of what became known as the Delaware Nation. When the US Government forced that Nation to resettle in Oklahoma, the Ramapough “disappeared” into their beloved land in the hills around the Ramapo Pass, on what is now the border of New York and New Jersey. Their native heritage was largely forgotten by those around them over the following years. Exaggerated stories spread about their fierceness and wildness, so few disturbed the lands they continued to care for. In recent generations they have been working hard to reclaim their native identity and heritage.
The Ramapough’s activism is rooted in their relationship to the land and extends to issues of national and global significance. Just last month, over one hundred Ramapough Lunaape joined the March for a Clean Energy Revolution on the eve of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia. “To the Ramapough people, the global ecological crisis is now,” said Chief Dwaine Perry. “We don't see climate change as a warning, but more a ticking clock, and the time for action is late. That is why we will march in Philadelphia, and why we will continue building our movement into the future. We want everyone to survive and to thrive into future generations.” 
The tribe has also been active for decades in the racial justice movement. They played a pivotal role in a little-known precursor to the 1954 Brown vs. The Board of Education decision which is seen to have ended school desegregation nationally. Under census practices of the time, Native Americans were categorized as Negro. So, eleven years before Brown, Board members of the Brook School for Colored Children in the Village of Hillburn asked for assistance from the NAACP, and Thurgood Marshall took on the case. As a result, the New York State Commissioner of Education closed the Brook School, ending state supported segregated education in New York. Those Board members were women from the Ramapough Lunaape Nation.
The Community of Living Traditions will present the 3rd annual Living Traditions Award on September 18, 2016 at the Farm-to-Table Gala, a harvest festival and fundraiser to support the continued development and mission of Stony Point Center as a multifaith community dedicated to organizing in the areas of earth care, fair trade, peacemaking and social justice. As recipient of this award, the Ramapough Lunaape Nation will receive $1000 to support their continued work towards a more just and sustainable environment, as well as a voucher for complimentary day use of Stony Point Center’s conference facilities.
Stony Point Center is a national conference center of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) in Rockland County, that offers affordable accommodations and a welcoming environment for activists and visionaries of all stripes to convene, discern, learn and plan. The campus is also home to an intentional multifaith community called the Community of Living Traditions, which strives to put in practice the legacy of hospitality and strategic nonviolence that exists within each of the Abrahamic faith traditions.
For more information or to purchase tickets to the Farm-to-Table Gala, please visit stonypointcenter.org/gala.
For more information about the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, visit ramapoughlenapenation.org.