The club requested an injunction to prevent the Ramapoughs from using the land, which they consider sacred.
MAHWAH, NJ — A case against the Ramapough Mountain Indians has been dismissed from Bergen County Superior Court.
Judge Robert Wilson signed an order Friday dismissing the litigation the Ramapo Hunt & Polo Club Association filed against the Ramapough.
The association sought an injunction against the Ramapough that would have barred them from using the land at 95 Halifax Road.
“The case being dismissed against us today serves to embolden the power of the U.S. Constitution and goes along way to reinforce badly needed and missed good ole common sense,” said Aaron De Groat, media director for the Ramapough Lenape Nation. “As a people we have been wronged for hundreds of years and maybe just maybe we can begin to see justice for ourselves.”
The Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents the tribe in that federal court case, said in a statement the injunction was a “blatant attempt to force the Ramapough off sacred land they own and have used for religious practice and cultural assemblies for generations.
“The court correctly saw through this blatant attempt to use the legal process to target a specific group on the basis of race and religion,” the center said.
The tribe said it acquired the land through a private transaction in 1995. The tribe calls it the Sweet Water Prayer Site.
Native Americans have said the land is theirs and dates back 10,000 years. It used to be home to an ancestral villages and a burial ground.
The case is one of a series of legal proceedings involving the parties that date back years.
The Ramapoughs filed a federal lawsuit against in the town in May, alleging the officials illegally fined them hundreds of thousands of dollars for holding prayer and community ceremonies there. The tribe’s sacred prayer circle and a stone altar are on the site. Other structures were erected in protest of the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey and the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota. (See related: Ramapough Indians File Federal Lawsuit Against Town, Polo Club)
A Superior Court judge ruled in January the tribe violated local zoning laws when they erected tepees and other structures on the land.
The tribe argued that has a First Amendment right to assemble at the property and hold religious ceremonies on the Halifax Road property.
Judge Keith Bachmann, of the Bergen County Super Court Appeals Division, decided to uphold a 2017 ruling that Mahwah officials were correct in issuing more than 100 summonses for building the tepees and other structures without permission, NorthJersey.com previously reported.
A Superior Court judge denied an injunction in December 2017 filed by the Ramapo Hunt & Polo Club Association against the Ramapoughs. (See related: Judge Denies Ramapo Polo Club’s Injunction Against Ramapoughs)
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In anticipation of the Genealogy Office opening soon…
As of 2006 one of the requirements for enrollment and continued enrollment into the Ramapough Lenape Nation was that all applications must have a copy of the applicant’s certified birth certificate with their qualifying Ramapough parent(s) name on it. Also your application must be filled out to the three (3) generations with names and dates. If you do not know the dates then please write “unk” in the space
This is a requirement and the Genealogy Committee cannot process any applications that do not have a qualifying birth certificate attached. If the Committee receives any applications without a birth certificate, the applicant will be notified by U.S. Mail or Email if an email address is on the application. This will slow down your approval process because the application cannot be processed until a birth certificate is received, so please do not send applications without birth certificates.
The above also applies to current members and old members that were removed from the roll in 2006 because you did not send in a birth certificate or your paperwork was incomplete.
Old members that were removed from the roll in 2006 and are now requesting updated cards will not be put back on the roll until their paperwork is complete (a completely filled out application with a qualifying birth certificate is considered completed paperwork).
Old members requesting updated cards will receive a letter notifying them what information is required in order to be put back on the roll. It may require completing a new application or sending a qualifying birth certificate or both. The letter will state what is need.
MAHWAH — In separate but related rulings issued Monday, state and federal agencies have taken actions favoring the Ramapough Lenape Nation based in the township.
The U.S. Department of Justice filed a “statement of interest” Monday in U.S. District Court in New Jersey supporting a lawsuit by the Ramapough Mountain Indians saying the township violated the tribe’s rights under the Religious Land Use and Institutionalized Persons Act of 2000 by “interfering with religious assembly on property the tribe owns in the township.”
It said Mahwah “has imposed a substantial burden on the Ramapoughs’ religious exercise without adequate justification and has not treated its use of the land equally with nonreligious uses of the land.”
The township has been fighting installation of tepees, prayer poles and other religious objects on a 13.9-acre site owned by the Ramapough nation near Ramapo College.
Also on Monday, New Jersey Attorney General Gurbir Grewal announced a settlement with the Ramapough Lenape Nation acknowledging that it is one of two New Jersey tribes that have been officially recognized as American Indian tribes in the state since 1980. The recognition is “intended to qualify the tribes for all federal and state benefits and services for which state-recognized tribes are eligible.”
“It is absolutely wonderful that New Jersey decided to do the right thing and take the high road,” said Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry. “For ethics, morals, kindness and understanding.”
The Ramapoughs filed a suit against Mahwah last May claiming that the township had “burdened their religious exercise by rescinding a zoning permit that authorized religious worship” on their property, limited the number of people permitted on the property for religious gatherings, and demanded the removal of structures such as tepees and prayer poles “central to the Ramapoughs’ worship.”
The complaint was amended last September making claims under the Religious Land Use act. The Justice Department’s statement of interest says the claims under that act alleging that the township’s conduct has “significantly chilled” the Ramapoughs’ use of the land for religious purposes “are ripe for consideration by the court.”
The Department of Justice formed a Religious Liberty Task Force last July to coordinate its work on religious liberty litigation.
Mahwah Mayor John Roth declined to comment.
The state’s agreements are with two tribes: the Powhatan Renape Nation in southern New Jersey and the Ramapough Lenape Nation based in Mahwah.
The affirming of the two tribes as American Indians makes them eligible for federal and state services and benefits to which state-recognized tribes are entitled. Any past denials of recognition are being withdrawn.
The settlement is intended to extend to the two tribes the rights granted to the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation last November, primarily that they be allowed to label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made.” The Nanticoke also claimed that the lack of recognition caused it to lose federal grants, scholarships and contracts obtained by tribally owned businesses.
The settlement specifically “does not provide the tribes with federal casino gaming rights.”
State and federal agencies will be notified of the recognition status for the two tribes in the next month.