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New Jersey Officially Recognizes Ramapoughs, Powhatan As American Indian Tribes

The settlement allows both tribes to legally label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made” and apply for particular state, federal and private contracts.
The settlement allows both tribes to legally label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made” and apply for particular state, federal and private contracts. Photo Credit: COURTESY: Ramapough Mountain Indians

State officials announced Monday that they are officially recognizing the Ramapough Mountain Indians as an American Indian tribe since 1980.

In a separate settlement, state authorities acknowledged that New Jersey also officially recognizes the Powhatan Renape Nation, from South Jersey, during that same time period.

The move allows both tribes to qualify for various federal and state benefits, including “all privileges provided by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990,” state Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal said.

That means now being able to legally label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made” and apply for particular state, federal and private contracts.

As part of the deal, the state agrees “going forward that it will not deny the status of the Powhatan Renape and Ramapough Lenape nations as state-recognized American Indian tribes, and revokes any past denials of recognition,” the attorney general said.

At the same time, he said, “both tribes specifically disclaim any interest in casino gaming rights under the settlement, and the parties agree that official state recognition does not provide the tribes with federal casino gaming rights.

“Let there be no ambiguity,” Grewal said. “Tribal rights are significant rights, and we are glad that, through good faith negotiation, we’ve been able to reach an accord with both the Powhatan and Ramapough nations.

“These two tribes can now move forward without concern that state-level recognition issues will in any way impede their progress.”

Last November, the state entered into a similar state-recognition settlement with the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.

It was the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation that filed state and federal lawsuits in 2015 alleging that New Jersey’s refusal to recognize its status cost it the right to label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made.”

The tribe said it also lost access to federal grants and scholarships, as well as contracts previously obtained by tribally-owned businesses.

Under the settlements, the state will notify all relevant state and federal agencies of the newly-formalized recognition status of the two tribes within 30 days.

These include the Indian Arts & Crafts Board, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Small Business Association and the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development.

There are nearly 5,000 Ramapo Mountain Indians, also known as the Ramapough Lenape Nation, living around the Ramapo Mountains of Bergen, Passaic and Rockland counties.

The Powhatans, although primarily from Virginia, have a reservation in Burlington County.

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