This exhibit traverses a contested terrain in telling the environmental justice story of the Ramapough Lunaape Turtle Clan and the Ringwood Mines Superfund Site. It tackles two highly debated issues: the politics of Native American identity and recognition, and the controversy surrounding the pollution and remediation of their lands. Journalists and authors have speculated about the origin of the Ramapough since the early 1800s, and in more recent years historians and politicians have questioned their Indigenous ancestry. These doubts and misgivings are an important part of this environmental justice story because they have direct implications for this community’s experience with contamination and remediation.
We believe the oral and written histories of the Ramapough that establish their Native American heritage. We recognize that this is contested by some historians and some New Jersey residents. We offer here evidence that supports the Ramapough's oral and written histories. We believe that all Indigenous people did not leave New Jersey after the Treaty of Easton in 1758. We believe that every single Lenape individual did not leave New Jersey after the Treaty of Easton in 1758. We believe some stayed behind, that some couldn’t bear to leave their homelands. We ask you, the reader, to reflect on when and why you didn’t choose to leave your home, and the cost that you may have been willing to pay to stay in the place that you loved most in the world, the place where your relations and obligations were grounded.
We believe the historians and archeologists and environmental scientists who support the Ramapough. We believe those who are working directly with the people, those who have relationships with the people, those who see them as people, not as remnants of documents in colonial archives. We believe them over those who claim expertise from afar. We believe the Ramapough’s oral and written histories. We know that histories are contested and that there are multiple ways of patching together archival documents.
This short video Preface pairs narration with images from the Our Land, Our Stories book and with video clips.
We have created representations and visualizations of the Ramapough’s history and present environmental justice struggles to create resources for teaching. This is just a small part of a much larger project, led by the Ramapough, for cultural restoration, knowledge recovery, and food sovereignty. We understand that there is controversy. We only ask that you look and draw your own understandings from the more complete array of evidence presented here. We ask that you engage with the broader picture sketched here about how Indian Land was acquired and distributed; about how connections to Native traditions were deliberately eroded, and about how many Native Americans today live with environmental contamination. We ask that you listen to the oral and written histories of these full and present human beings about their connections to their land and histories