by Bill Magargal
We are excited to announce that Vincent Mann, Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation, will be a key presenter at the US Servas 2023 National Conference this October 6-8, at Frost Valley YMCA Camp in Claryville, NY. Most of us know very little about the indigenous peoples of New York and New Jersey as they were decimated by disease, slaughtered by colonial forces, and relocated to remote areas of Oklahoma and Wisconsin by the federal government.
The Ramapough are the descendants of the Munsee speaking people who once lived from Western Connecticut to Eastern Pennsylvania, and from the northern bank of the Raritan River north to Albany N.Y. (See map.) Somehow, they survived the French and Indian War, and managed to stay in the region protecting their homelands and rights to hunt, to fish, to gather, and to strip bark from trees on this land – as rights reserved in the Treaty of Easton in 1758. They are the Munsee band who "stayed behind," maintaining a presence in northern New Jersey and southern New York for over 11,000 years.
Today, the Ramapough Lunaape Nation encompasses present-day Passaic and Sussex Counties in New Jersey, as well as Warwick County and surrounding areas in New York. Since 2008, Chief Mann has worked tirelessly to help his community survive and fight back against the Ford Motor Company, which dumped highly toxic paint sludge from the 1960s to the ’70s on what is now the Ringwood Mines Superfund Site. He is also currently co-creating the United Lunaapeewak to restore Lunaape culture and to provide educational opportunities across the region about Munsee language, history, and traditions.
Chief Mann is a Trustee of the Highlands Coalition and a former member of the Ringwood Mines Superfund Site’s Citizen Advisory Group (CAG). He recently co-founded the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm with Michaeline Picaro to create local jobs but more importantly to bring back food sovereignty to his Clan. He works with many universities on projects related to his people, including the NYU and Ramapo College Environmental Science programs, the Price Institute at Rutgers Newark, and the Design Program at Rutgers New Brunswick.
In 2016 the Russ Berry Foundation awarded Chief Mann their highest honor for his life-long service to the citizens of the Turtle Clan. (See video.). Chief Mann regularly lectures on environmental justice and the importance of indigenous knowledge. Chief Mann gives land acknowledgments across New Jersey and New York in honor of his ancestors and offers up prayers for humanity and for our natural world.