Ramapough Lenape Chief Discusses History of Tribe

Parts of New York and New Jersey have been home to the Ramapough Lenape Nation for more than 300 years. The tribe that resides in surrounding towns of Mahwah is specifically known as The Ramapough Munsee Tribe, but due to modest documentation, the tribe has little recognition.

Through the ignorance of the non-native people who were responsible for documenting the tribe’s history, information was seldom accurate. Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Indians, “Sachem Maqua,” or Dwaine Perry, discussed the real history of the native land and his native people in the Trustees Pavilion on Monday.

The Munsee Tribe is part of the Lenape Nation, which is a general tribe that accommodates over 10,000 members in New Jersey, Canada and Oklahoma.

The Ramapough Lenape Indians are in efforts to try and revitalize the Munsee language, which was spoken amongst ancestors in the New York and New Jersey areas. Members of the Munsee tribe pride themselves on their traditional native life and their language.

At the beginning of the event, Chief Perry introduced himself in his native language and then translated it into English for the audience. Then, he said much of American history is a result of the Ramapough Lenape Indians.

“Our ancestors worked with some of the people who came here with King George to sort of prevent the Dutch from moving forward,” said Chief Perry.

The ancestors of Chief Perry, along with others, were able to show the people of King George where the first iron mines were in America.

“They were founded in Ringwood, and out of those mines with the help of my ancestors and some others, they were able to produce the first 900 cannonballs fired in the Civil War,” said Chief Perry.

Perry continued to discuss the history of the Ramapough Lenape people, including their impact on modern America.

“There were so many things that I didn’t know about the Ramapough Lenape Indians,” said Brittany Hart, a senior. “I am glad I got a chance to understand the history of the community.”

The Ramapo audience thanked Chief Perry-also known as “Anúshiik” in the Munsee language-for bringing light to the history of the Ramapough Indian community.

Chief Perry resides in his childhood home in the community of Hillburn, N.Y., stating that he was discriminated against in high school. During the event he discussed how due to the beliefs of the administrators, he and other students of color were encouraged to drop out. He was told that students of color lacked the capacity to succeed.

Upon arriving back to the U.S. from serving in the Vietnam War, Chief Perry entered Rockland County Community College where he received his associate’s degree. He now holds a bachelor’s degree from Pace University and a Master of Science degree in community economic development from Southern New Hampshire University.

Chief Perry is persistent in developing programs to assure equal service delivery for the Ramapough Lenape people.