Court Dismisses Polo Club’s Case Against Ramapoughs

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)

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, 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)