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Ramapough Chief Perry Engages In Fear Mongering: Letter
One local Ramapough says the tribe has not been better off since Dwain Perry was elected chief.
By Daniel Hubbard, Patch Staff | Jan 31, 2018 8:38 am ET
https://patch.com/new-jersey/mahwah/ram … ing-letter
Editor's note: The following is an open letter to Ramapough Chief Dwain Perry.
I want to express my concerns over the zoning and site plan violations alleged on the tribe's Halifax property. The continued contretemps and legal battles over what constitutes a "structure" will, once again, put the tribe in a financial burden and potential property loss, starting at the end of business Friday.
As you are aware, the property is located in a conservation (C-200) zone and a floodplain-flood hazard zone, each with its own requirements, allowing permitted structures and requiring site plan approval.
Here are my two cents:
There are three parties involved in the Halifax property squabble, each with its own "stake" in said property: The Ramapoughs, the Polo Association and Township of Mahwah.
1) We have owned the Halifax property since 1995. Prior to that the current location known as 95 Halifax Road was not of significant historic value, besides the fact that all land is sacred and that it's located on the sacred Ramapo River.
The property is near a fish weir and native American archaeological dig site. The Green Mountain Valley Settlement to the north and the Crossroads property to the east, site of our original powwow grounds and future site of a mall has more historical value as significant sacred Ramapough property. I believe the current dispute is deep-rooted.
Historically we have been treated reprehensibly. Modern racism and bigotry is now more discreet and still exist, however I do not believe, overall, connecting the Halifax issues with its an "us-versus-them" attitude is the best impactable strategy. It may attract individual environmental activists and organizations to the cause, but it will not have a long term effect on the overall impact of our tribes success. The possibility of losing our property for non-compliance of the township code is very real. It should not be an option and is avoidable.
2) The Polo Association has 29 homeowners living on or near Halifax, Polo and Bridal Path roads. When Walt was chief, he worked with the NJEPA to restore the Native plant population, bringing the property back to its original riparian state. At the time we had issues with, "who will take care of the property?"
We also had issues with the bridge. Overall, most of the Polo residents did not have an issue with the tribe. Some were extremely supportive, volunteering and donating thousands of dollars for property upgrades, not to mention having access to their resources.
What happened? We are a long, long way from that well needed viable relationship. I personally believe the increase in structures on the property, someone shooting out the lights and altering cameras, the increase in negative publicity and population over flow in the "Polo Private Community" has altered the Ramapough and Polo Association's current and future relationship.
I do believe we can work towards getting that good, neighborly relationship back. It should start with you. You should take personal responsibility and figure out a way to move forward with the parties involved. I personally feel overall you want what's best for the tribe, you have fought for tribal issues and civil rights most of your life and thank you. However, you have a unique ability to turn friend into foe, in the name of tribal sovereignty and "controlitis." You also do a lot of fear mongering. You are in a unique position of power as our elected chief. At some point you have to wonder why the tribe is not in a better position.
No sir, we are not better off since you have been chief. That is a fact, based on what we had per tribal programming, resources, capital, unity and viable relationships. I would love to work with you to help change this around.
3) When you first became chief we have personally dealt with the township regarding having structures in a flood zone. We submitted engineered drawings to the township. We new then there were steps we had to go through to comply with local zoning laws and building codes. We submitted a building application, however we did not follow through with the process, including following the state permit by rule exemptions.
Site plan approval is still a requirement. The tribe, historically and individually, has had negative experiences with township representatives and institutions. Complying with its permitted use demands may seem overbearing because of a sometimes volatile relationship, however without compliance we jeopardize losing our property.
Losing our property is the reason I'm writing this letter. I'm very fearful non permitted uses will continue on the property. I believe the demand for removing all structures and materials on the property by Friday will not be met. The big disconnect is that Mahwah has to enforce its land use-zoning ordinances, the said ordinances may interfere with tribal religious structures and practices, however we are not federally recognized and do not have the luxury of complete sovereignty and to govern ourselves and our resources thoroughly. As a nonprofit and state-recognized tribe, we are not exempt from local zoning ordinances or building codes, even if they interfere with our religious beliefs and practices.
At this time our only course of action should be compliance. I humbly ask you reevaluate your actions and decisions so we do not lose the Halifax property.
Wallace E. Dennison, concerned Ramapough
The Ramapough Are Not Welcome In Today's Mahwah: Letter
One member of the Ramapough Lenapes is defending Chief Dwain Perry.
By Daniel Hubbard, Patch Staff | Feb 1, 2018 11:20 pm ET | Updated Feb 1, 2018 11:46 pm ET
https://patch.com/new-jersey/wayne/rama … hah-letter
Editor's note: The following is response to an open letter to Ramapough Lenape Chief Dwain Perry written by Wallace E. Dennison published Wednesday.
I read your open letter to chief Perry with great interest and share your concern that the Town of Mahwah will once again try and take Ramapough land in the Halifax area. I say once again because, as you note, our Green Mountain Valley Settlement in that general area was removed in the 1920s and, through bad zoning practice, many of our members have been forced into moving away from our traditional homes even in recent years.
The purpose of zoning laws is to protect the health, safety and welfare of the property owners. This is what Chief Perry and the Ramapough Lenape Nation council want. However, certain members of the Mahwah political leadership and Polo Club trustees want us removed from our land at 95 Halifax. Ramapoughs have been offered money to move but, as Chief Perry says, Ramapoughs should not, cannot and will not negotiate under duress.
The New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection investigated the prayer site, saw that the tipis and other structures were either temporary or not a threat in the flood plain/zone. The Town of Mahwah did not like the conclusions of the DEP and has simply ignored them.
One of our leading opponents in the Polo Club, who wants us removed, actually said to Mayor William Laforet, "when I called the town during the summer I was told there are no restrictions on tents. ... If, in fact, there are no laws being broken, then we need to write some new laws."
As someone involved in negotiations and litigation on our nation's behalf, I want to believe that the current leadership of the Town of Mahwah has our best interests in mind and heart in this conflict. However, the actions and threats to prevent prayer, physically remove our sacred altars and items and to once again forcibly take our land on behalf of the Polo Club tells me that the Ramapough are not welcome in today's Mahwah. The latest ultimatum is to stop praying and removing everything, including items there for decades, by this Friday at 4 p.m.
Your letter downplays the significance of the prayer camp. People from all over the world, other indigenous nation and many many religions have come to our lands in peace and prayer. With global climate change and poisons to our waters and air, our planet as a healthy place for humanity and life is in danger.
We want to work with the Town of Mahwah and the Polo Club to allow our home to be open to people of good conscience and faith to meet and act for our environment and future generations.
Even in the past year, Rampough have been threatened, cursed and attacked at our prayer site. I know that you accuse Chief Perry of being a suspect in the carved swastikas in our prayer circle, but that is simply ridiculous and I have personally witnessed so many other incidents from the people opposing us who want to remove us to believe you.
Chief Perry is not fear mongering. As you yourself say, there is a real danger that this situation will be used to take our property. This is not zoning enforcement. This is theft.
This very publication that you published your letter in had a very important article on July 26, 2017 entitled "Mahwah Has Harmful Pollutants In Drinking Water" that identified eleven harmful pollutants in Mahwah's water.
Mahwah is spending hundreds of thousands of dollars on religious conflicts over eruvs and tipis plus potential liability of millions of dollars more that could be better spent on improving the environment for all of us.
Chief Perry is leading our Ramapough Lenape Nation, and is a strong voice in our state of New Jersey and New York and country, for not only our rights to live on our ancestral land but also for clean healthy water.
Steven Dennison Smith, concerned Ramapough