On May 18, CLT sent its second letter to the Town of Mawhah expressing support for the Ramapough Lenaape to use its ceremonial grounds as a place for religious gathering. For the past few months, the tribe has been under increasing criticism as its water protection work is drawing more and more people to the "Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp."
May 18, 2017
To the officials and residents of the Town of Mahwah, NJ:
We, the Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center, strongly support the activities of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation on their land at 95 Halifax Road in Mahwah, NJ, which we know as “Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp,” and we are very concerned to learn of efforts to impede these activities through zoning, fines and legal attacks. We are a multifaith group of Jews, Christians and Muslims committed to justice, peace, and hospitality across religious borders, and last fall we honored the Ramapough Lunaape Nation with our Living Tradition Award due to their exemplary work for environmental justice. We are grateful to have the opportunity to gather as neighbors and friends for prayer, fellowship and environmental education at the Prayer Camp, and we ask that the Town of Mahwah respect the Ramapough Lunaape Nation’s sovereignty over their land and allow them to coordinate these activities as they see fit.
Many of us have experienced traditional Ramapough Lunaape prayer ceremonies at the Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp, and their willingness to share these practices have been powerful and deeply meaningful to us. We have attended water ceremonies, drum ceremonies, tobacco ceremonies (all of which are prayer ceremonies). We especially appreciate their commitment to holding ceremonies in which we are all welcome to participate.
More recently, the presence of impermanent traditional and movable structures on the land has provided invaluable support for both the ceremonies themselves and for community education efforts aimed at helping us and others understand the Ramapough Lunaape Nation’s origins, and working together towards a deepening public understanding of the original cultures of this place, as well as our common responsibility for the care and preservation of the land.
We have also benefitted from the Ramapough Lunaape Nation’s initiative in educating about and advocating against the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline, which would bring toxic petroleum products through their land and other parts of Northern New Jersey, including Mahwah, thus jeopardizing the clean water and land throughout the area. We are grateful for the leadership of the Ramapough on this important regional issue because they have significant experience with environmental advocacy through their efforts to address the Ford Motor Company’s pollution of their traditional lands. It is our understanding that the Town of Mahwah also stands in opposition to the Pilgrim Pipeline proposal, and we hope that the Town and Nation can work together on this urgent issue.
We call upon the Town of Mahwah to recognize the sovereignty of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation and respect their right to gather for religious ceremonies, community fellowship, and environmental education on their land. These are practices that take place every day at churches, mosques and synagogues across the region, and the Ramapough Lunaape deserve the same freedoms. Furthermore, as a state-recognized tribe, they have sovereignty over this land and should therefore be allowed to coordinate these activities as they see fit. We believe the Town of Mahwah should be supporting the efforts of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation at Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp, instead of harassing them with fines and zoning violations.
Thank you for taking the time to hear our concerns.
The Community of Living Traditions at Stony Point Center