NLG Supports Ramapough Lenape Nation Resistance Against Pilgrim Pipeline at Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp

Contact: King Downing, NLG Director of Mass Defense | 212-679-5100, ext. 14

Tasha Moro, NLG Director of Communications | 212-679-5100, ext. 15


June 1, 2017

MAHWAH, NJ—The National Lawyers Guild (NLG) has joined forces with the Ramapough Lenape Nation in Mahwah, NJ, to support their efforts to hold religious ceremonies, protest the proposed Pilgrim Pipeline to be built on tribal lands, and challenge litigation that threatens their rights. The NLG, through its Environmental Committee, New Jersey Chapter, and Mass Defense Program, are working to support to the Ramapough’s efforts, serving as part of the litigation team, advising on environmental issues, and providing Legal Observers and representation for protestors.

The Rampough Lenape Nation created the Split Rock Prayer Camp in October 2016 in solidarity with the  Standing Rock Sioux Tribe’s resistance against the Dakota Access Pipeline, and the Nation’s own campaign against the Pilgrim Pipeline in New Jersey and New York. The camp is located on Ramapough land in a rural private development of exclusive mansions and the prayer ceremonies triggered harassment by wealthy homeowners and their association, backed by local police.

Mahwah Township issued a series of summonses against the Nation for the erection of tipis, small camping tents, and a yurt, built for the ceremonies alleging land use violations. The township claims the right to fine the Ramapoughs up to $5,000 per week. Other alleged violations carry fines of up to $1,500 and 90 days in jail.

The Ramapoughs, while in discussion with the city, continued their prayer ceremonies, claiming sovereign and constitutional rights to religious practice. They also asserted that as temporary structures, the tipis, tents, and yurt fall outside the ordinances. Nevertheless, as the summonses proceeded through municipal court, Mahwah Township obtained a temporary restraining order against the Ramapough in superior court.

Last weekend, the prayer ceremonies continued, attended by over 100 tribal members and supporters. Following reports that a police raid was planned for the camp, the NLG provided around-the-clock Legal Observers and standby lawyers.

“ ‘Camp’ is synonymous with the word ‘pray’- it’s a prayer camp,” said Chief Dwaine Perry of the Ramapough Lenape Nation. “The interesting thing is that the Pilgrim Pipeline [in New Jersey] is carrying the same Bakken [environmentally disastrous shale oil] crude as it is in the Dakotas.”

Planned to run along the Ramapo River and through Ramapough tribal lands, the Pilgrim Pipeline is to consist of two 170-mile parallel pipelines, between Albany, NY and Linden, NJ, with 12 additional miles of lateral single-pipe lines. Daily, 17 million gallons would flow through the pipeline – Bakken shale oil southward and refined fuels (including kerosene) northward, threatening to damage Ramapough sacred sites and contaminate the drinking water supply of millions in both states.

The Ramapough Lenape Nation claims a 10,000-year connection to the region, and views the actions of Mahwah and the homeowners’ association as continuing a centuries-old tradition of attacks on their sovereignty—one even evident in the pipeline’s “Pilgrim” name.

To support this effort:

Image: Grandmother Nancy Andry from the Algonquin-Metis Heritage and Ramapough Deer Clan Chief Clara Soaring Hawk, lead a water ceremony and teachings at Split Rock Sweetwater Prayer Camp, May 7, 2017.

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