From the Associated Press
MAHWAH, N.J. – A Native American tribe from New Jersey and Rockland County that was thwarted from becoming federally recognized decades ago by presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is still seething.
Vincent Mann, a sub-chief of the Ramapough tribe, told The Record newspaper that many are still angry with Trump because of a campaign he waged to block federal recognition of the group in 1993.
Federal recognition could have led to casinos in northern New Jersey, which would have been potential competition for Trump’s properties in Atlantic City.
A spokeswoman for the Trump campaign didn’t immediately return a message seeking comment.
The Ramapough Lenape Nation of about 5,000 American Indians lives around the Ramapo Mountains of Bergen and Passaic counties in New Jersey and Rockland County. The tribe has been able to trace its heritage to the Leni-Lenape, who mostly moved west after Europeans arrived on the continent. It’s recognized by New Jersey and New York.
The tribe says federal recognition would have also provided additional social services for their low-income community and given them a voice in the federal Environmental Protection Agency’s plan to keep tons of contaminated soil under a barrier at the Ford Superfund site in Ringwood, New Jersey.
The Ramapoughs formally sought federal recognition in 1990, several years after the passage of the Indian Gaming Regulatory Act, which helped establish tribal casinos in Connecticut.
Trump sued in 1993, challenging the constitutionality of the law. The suit, which targeted tribes in Connecticut and mentioned the Ramapoughs, said the law encouraged unfair competition.
The federal Bureau of Indian Affairs denied the Ramapoughs’ application in 1993 after Trump made remarks questioning the legitimacy of the tribe’s lineage and associating Native American communities with organized crime.
“I think I might have more Indian blood than a lot of the so-called Indians that are trying to open up the reservations,” Trump said on a radio show at the time.
The Ramapoughs reapplied and were denied again in 1996.
“That man is never far from our minds.” Mann said. “There are a lot of Ramapoughs who feel anger towards him. He personally affected their lives and the lives of generations to come.”