Woodland Indians Forum

You are not logged in.

Announcement

#1 Jul-31-2017 08:12:am

tree hugger
Site Admin
Registered: May-12-2006
Posts: 10947

Ramapough tepee case transferred to county

Video of Dwaine Perry and Vincent Mann, additional links at:

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/b … 517444001/

Ramapough tepee case transferred to county
Tom Nobile, Staff Writer, @TomNobile Published 6:47 p.m. ET July 27, 2017 | Updated 12:32 p.m. ET July 28, 2017

MAHWAH — Bergen County's presiding municipal judge will hear allegations that the Ramapough Lenape Nation built tepees without permission, after Mahwah's municipal court judge agreed to recuse himself from the case Thursday.

Judge Dennis Harraka stepped down because he was the local prosecutor when the township first issued zoning violations against the tribe. The Ramapoughs' legal counsel claimed he had a conflict of interest in a motion filed last week.

The case is now in the hands of Superior Court Judge Roy F. McGeady, who will determine if the tribe violated Mahwah's zoning regulations by failing to obtain permits to use its property on Halifax Road as a campground and place of public assembly, and to build tepees and other structures.

A court date has not been determined, according to attorney Thomas Williams, who is representing the tribe on the zoning matter.

Ramapough leaders have refused to remove the tepees despite receiving what they claim are dozens of summonses amounting to more than $40,000 in fines.

The tribe has also been at odds with its neighbors at the Polo Club, an affluent community whose residents have for months filed noise and domestic disturbance complaints with police. Tensions reached a head in May with reports of vandalism in the neighborhood.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry and another Ramapough leader appeared in municipal court Thursday to answer charges of criminal mischief on Polo Club property.

Steven D. Smith, whose tribal name is Owl, is accused of tampering with a neighborhood surveillance camera by trying to turn the lens to a different view. Police allege he was driven to the scene by Perry.

Harraka granted an adjournment of the case Thursday to give the tribe's criminal lawyer, Mitchell Ignatoff, time to review surveillance footage at the scene. A new court date was scheduled for Aug. 10.

Email: nobile@northjersey.com

Offline

 

#2 Sep-26-2017 10:07:pm

sschkaak
Moderator
Registered: Sep-17-2007
Posts: 4047
Website

Re: Ramapough tepee case transferred to county

Ramapoughs are dealt blow in zoning dispute with Mahwah

Tom Nobile, Staff Writer, @TomNobile Published 5:43 p.m. ET Sept. 26, 2017 | Updated 7:49 p.m. ET Sept. 26, 2017

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/2 … 704486001/

HACKENSACK — A state Superior Court judge on Tuesday rejected the Ramapough Lenape Nation’s claim to sovereign and religious immunity from zoning laws in Mahwah, where the tribe is accused of building a tepee colony without local permission.

Judge Roy F. McGeady denied a motion on Tuesday that would have dismissed zoning summonses levied against the tribe by the township, instead calling for a trial to determine whether the tepees violate Mahwah’s zoning code.

Attorneys for the Ramapoughs had derided the summonses as discriminatory and had said they constituted harassment, claiming they were filed against a tribe that considers itself a sovereign nation. The summonses have also interfered with the tribe’s use of its Halifax Road property for prayer and worship, attorneys argued.

In his ruling on Tuesday, McGeady said the tribe has the same obligation to seek construction permits for houses of worship as do churches and synagogues. The judge also dismissed the tribe’s argument declaring its sovereign immunity against zoning laws, citing case law from the 1890s involving the Cherokee Nation. 

McGeady, however, did refer to a joint resolution from the state Legislature that declares the Ramapoughs an official tribe.

“There’s strong evidence that the state of New Jersey recognizes the Ramapough Mountain Indians as an Indian tribe," McGeady said. “What effect that recognition should have is in question."


A trial will begin on Oct. 3, McGeady said.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry said he was “disappointed" to see the dispute reach trial. Exiting the county courthouse in Hackensack on Tuesday, Perry gestured to an engraving over the building’s entrance that reads “From early Indian tribes – Through Dutch and English settlers – History was made here."

For nearly a year, Mahwah officials have issued violations to the tribe for allegedly using its 14-acre property as a place of public assembly and campground, complete with tepees, tents, a canvas cabin and a yurt, all without obtaining permits.

The Ramapough Lenape Nation held a four-day prayer in support of their religious right to have tepees at Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp in Mahwah. The town recently filed a lawsuit ordering the removal of the tepees. Michael Karas/NorthJersey.com

The Ramapoughs began building a colony of tepees last fall in protest of an oil pipeline expected to run through North Jersey, including Mahwah, and also to show solidarity with Native Americans in North Dakota challenging a similar project through the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation.

Township officials first became aware of the tepees in November, after complaints from residents of the Polo Club, an affluent neighborhood adjacent to the tribe's property whose residents have filed multiple noise and domestic disturbance complaints against the tribe.

Ramapough attorneys have argued that the tribe had already received a zoning permit to use its property for prayer and cultural assembly in 2012, when the tribe sought to build a longhouse.

Legal counsel for the township, however, had said the tribe never obtained a building permit or site plan approval for that project, and exceeded the permit’s scope when it erected tents and tepees.

McGeady acknowledged the 2012 permit on Tuesday.

“Clearly Mahwah accepts that there was going to be religious use on the property," he said.

The township’s summonses state that the tribe failed to obtain zoning permits for "structures and uses of land" on its property and moved soil without permission.
Ramapough attorneys dispute the township’s definition of “structures," arguing that tepees do not qualify.

The tribe currently faces 43 summonses in total, each carrying a maximum fine of $1,250, McGeady said.

Offline

 

#3 Nov-02-2017 11:15:am

sschkaak
Moderator
Registered: Sep-17-2007
Posts: 4047
Website

Re: Ramapough tepee case transferred to county

HACKENSACK — Attorneys for the Ramapough Lenape Nation invoked the First Amendment protections to religion during final summations in state Superior Court on Tuesday, arguing that the tribe’s right to assemble for religious purposes, and build tepees, is constitutionally protected.

In closing remarks, the Mahwah tribe's attorneys responded that its charges against the tribe are driven by adherence to the law, not religious enmity.

“This case has been, and continues to be, about zoning compliance. Nothing more and nothing less," said Mahwah Municipal Prosecutor Joseph DeMarco. “They must follow proper procedures in connection with the site."

The tribe is in court fighting more than 40 township summonses for allegedly using its scenic, 14-acre property in Mahwah as a place of public assembly and campground, complete with tepees, tents, a canvas cabin and a yurt, without receiving the necessary permits.

The four-week trial saw a number of arguments raised by the Ramapoughs' legal team, from questioning the classification of tepees as "structures" — as cited in the summonses — to asserting the tribe’s religious immunity from Mahwah's ordinances.

In court Tuesday, attorney Thomas Williams said "the tribe's custom to pray outdoors is essential to their religion."

“They don’t have a temple, they don’t have a mosque, they don’t have a church. But they in fact do have a house of worship," Williams said. "The ceiling is the sky and the floor is the ground. That’s the way they worship and that’s the nature of their religion."

The tents and tepees accommodate the religious use, he said, and are removed when not needed.

In response, legal counsel for the township have pointed to the property’s status as a conservation zone, which only permits agricultural uses, single-family homes and municipal facilities.

Judge Roy F. McGeady will issue a decision Nov. 17.

Last year, Ramapough tribal leaders built a collection of tepees on the property to protest a proposed natural gas pipeline that is expected to run through Mahwah. The encampment was also erected in sympathy with the Standing Rock tribe, which was fighting to block construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline through its reservation in North Dakota.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry had testified that the site open to tribe members and the public for overnight camping. Those who occupy the property refer to themselves as “water protectors" against the potential for an oil spill into the area's aquifers.

The tepees, which have been removed, were primarily used for teaching, the largest of which could have fit up to 50 people. Multiple tents, however, still remain on the property.

“There is no question that these uses are not permitted on the property," DeMarco said on Tuesday.

Ramapough attorneys have argued that the tribe had already received a zoning permit to use its property for prayer and cultural assembly in 2012, when the tribe sought to build a longhouse.

Legal counsel for the township, however, had said the tribe never obtained a building permit or site plan approval for that project, and exceeded the permit’s scope when it erected tents and tepees.

The Ramapough tribe can trace its roots in the area to pre-colonial times, when tribal lands once reached from western Pennsylvania to eastern Connecticut and north to Albany, New York.

"Mahwah" is a word in the Ramapough language, meaning "meeting place."

“They have historically practiced there. They have a deep connection and reverence with the natural environment," said attorney Aaron Kleinbaum on Tuesday.

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/b … 819549001/

Email: nobile@northjersey.com

Offline

 

#4 Nov-17-2017 09:05:pm

sschkaak
Moderator
Registered: Sep-17-2007
Posts: 4047
Website

Re: Ramapough tepee case transferred to county

http://www.northjersey.com/story/news/b … 873510001/

[Pictures and video at the link.]

HACKENSACK — The Ramapough Lenape Nation violated local zoning law when it erected tepees on its Mahwah property, a Superior Court judge ruled Friday.
In his decision, Judge Roy F. McGeady rejected the tribe's arguments that they had a constitutional right to the tepees, which are used in religious ceremonies.
“There’s a big difference between praying on the property or conducting religious ceremonies, and creating a structure to do a religious ceremony – a church, a cathedral," McGeady said on Friday.

McGeady ordered the tribe to pay more than $13,000 in fines for summonses issued on the tepee violations. However, he threw out additional summonses accusing the tribe of moving soil and erecting a renewable energy system without permission.

McGeady's ruling ends a year-long saga that began with a small colony of tepees placed on the tribe's Halifax Road property last fall. Tribe members built the encampment to protest a crude oil pipeline project in North Dakota and the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey.

The property soon became home to other structures, such as a yurt and sweat lodge. Tribe members also invited the public to camp overnight, and people who occupied the property came to refer to themselves as “water protectors" tasked with guarding against a potential oil spill into the area's aquifers.

Township officials argued that all those activities violated local zoning codes and required permits. Failure to obtain those permits earned the tribe dozens of summonses that could have resulted in nearly $40,000 in fines.

During a trial held over four weeks in October, however, attorneys for the Ramapoughs invoked First Amendment protections, arguing that the tribe’s right to assemble for religious purposes and build tepees was constitutionally protected. They also argued that tepees are not "structures" as defined in zoning codes due to their temporary nature.

McGeady ruled Friday that several objects on the tribe's property that were built using a "combination of materials" – including the tepees, a cook shack and yurt – are all structures that required a permit.

The tribe’s arguments that Mahwah’s zoning ordinances are arbitrary, and that the definition of a structure is vague, are best left to the appellate courts, McGeady said.

McGeady had previously ruled that the tribe does not have sovereign immunity from compliance with the law, despite its status as a state-recognized Native American tribe.

Friday's decision earned grumbles from dozens of tribe supporters, many of whom wore red to court.

But tribe attorney Aaron Kleinbaum said he was heartened that McGeady ruled that the Ramapoughs' religious use of the property for prayer and assembly is permitted.

“I think that’s a very important decision by the judge," he said.

Perry said the decision "wasn't totally unexpected," and was happy to see the fines reduced.

But, he said, "We're still going to appeal."

Sitting across from the tribe supporters were residents of the Polo Club, a wealthy housing development next to the tribe's property. For months, residents of the development have complained of noise and other disturbances coming from the Ramapough site. Prior to trial, the group had filed a lawsuit calling on the township to enforce its zoning laws.

“Our goal was for the town to enforce the zoning on this property. That’s all we ever wanted," Polo Club attorney John Lamb said following the verdict.

Mayor Bill Laforet, who did not attend the hearing, said the township was simply following the law, despite Perry's claims of discrimination.

“From the beginning this has been about seeking the appropriate permits as any other resident would do," Laforet said. "Hopefully now there can be some resolution for this issue."

The Ramapough tribe has roots in the area dating to pre-colonial times, when their tribal lands once reached from western Pennsylvania to eastern Connecticut and north to Albany, New York. The modern Ramapoughs primarily reside within a 7-mile radius in New York and New Jersey. Their numbers are about 3,700 locally and an additional 1,200 nationally, according to Perry.

Today, the Halifax Road property is the last sliver of Ramapough land where tribe members can gather for traditional worship and cultural ceremonies.

The tribe acquired the parcel in 1995, but has hosted powwows there as far back as the 1980s with consent from the Polo Club's developer. At those gatherings, Native Americans from across the country performed traditional dances, sold crafts, played music and cooked traditional food. Attendance often ranged from hundreds to possibly thousands.

McGeady said he allowed for extensive testimony on Ramapough history during the trial to help foster a better cultural understanding between the tribe and township, whose name – Mahwah – is a Rampough word meaning "meeting place."

Email: nobile@northjersey.com

Offline

 

Board footer

Powered by PunBB
© Copyright 2002–2005 Rickard Andersson