Since October 17, 2016 a small group of Ramapough and local supporters have lived in a prayer camp on a Ramapough tribal land called Sweet Water. The camp was formed to stand in solidarity with Standing Rock and also stand against the AIM, Pilgrim and Algonquin pipelines that threaten the Ramapough.
The Algonquin pipeline has been running through Ramapough land for many years. The AIM pipeline, which is the latest to be routed through lands, is adjacent to their tribal homelands in northern New Jersey.
Since the first week the prayer camp was started, the tribe claims there has been constant harassment from neighbors and local police, who say a town ordinance forbids the erecting of tipis or any other permanent structure on the land.
The Sweet Water camp is a 13-acre tract nestled below a community of multimillion-dollar homes, and some of those residents have been less than welcoming to the Ramapough. Two years ago, the town halted the tribes’ attempt to build a ceremonial long house, and there have been numerous acts of vandalism on what the Ramapough consider sacred ceremonial land.
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The tribe has to appear in Mahwah municipal court on January 26, 2017 to answer to the town’s claims that tipis are permanent structures — and thus, banned for that land — and to contest fines for such activities as individuals using wood-burning stoves and placing mulch on a dirt path.
Ramapough Tribal Chief Dawine Perry is hoping thousands of the tribe’s supporters will stand in solidarity with the Ramapough. “We feel this is all part of a plan by the town to stack fines on top of fines until the fees become so astronomical we would have to forfeit the land,” he said. “We are calling on all those who would like to set up tipis on our land and help us grow the camp to come and stand in solidarity with us.”
Chief Perry says, “What started as a prayer camp to peacefully protest these pipelines has now turned into a fight for survival on our own land.”
Sweet Water camp has received support from many Native and non-Native communities, including representatives from the U.N. forum on Indigenous People; Black Lives Matter; Red Warrior Camp, Mauna Kea in Hawaii and elders and spiritual leaders from various nations across the hemisphere.
The camp is organized with porta-johns and a full kitchen. Each weekend there have been ceremonies that are open to the public. A town resident who wished to remain anonymous said to ICMN, “They are not bothering anyone. Geez, this was their land before this place was even called Mahawa. If that camp ends up being as big as Standing Rock, the town will have no one to blame but themselves. I wish them luck.”
Whatever the outcome of the January 23rd court date, it seems the Ramapough are prepared to stand firm in peace and prayer against both the intolerance from the town and the pipelines that they feel are a threat to their tribes existence.
For more information, or a list of helpful needed items, reach out to the Ramapough on their Split Rock Sweet Water Prayer Camp Facebook page.