TRENTON – Attorney General Gurbir S. Grewal announced today that New Jersey has entered into separate settlement agreements with the Powhatan Renape Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation by which the State acknowledges it has officially recognized the two tribes as American Indian Tribes since 1980.
Under the settlements, the State agrees that New Jersey’s recognition is intended to qualify the tribes for all federal and state benefits and services for which State-recognized tribes are eligible. Among those benefits and services are “all privileges provided by the Indian Arts and Crafts Act of 1990.”
The State also 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. In addition, 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. Through this settlement, New Jersey affirms the status of both the Powhatan Renape Nation and the Ramapough Lenape Nation as American Indian Tribes recognized by the State,” said Attorney General Grewal. “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.”
Under the settlements announced today, the State has agreed to notify all relevant state and federal agencies of the newly-formalized recognition status of Powhatan and Ramapough nations within 30 days. Among the federal agencies to be notified are the Indian Arts & Crafts Board, U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Dept. of Housing & Urban Development.
With the agreements announced today, state-recognition issues pertaining to all three “New Jersey tribes of American Indians” referenced in statutes passed by the New Jersey Legislature in the 1990s are resolved.
In November 2018, Attorney General Grewal announced that New Jersey had entered into a similar state-recognition settlement with the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Tribal Nation.
While neither the Powhatan nor Ramapough pursued litigation, the Nanticoke Lenni-Lenape Nation had filed state and federal lawsuits in 2015.
Those lawsuits alleged, in part, that ambiguity regarding the Lenni-Lenape’s recognition status in New Jersey had caused it to be denied the right to label and sell traditional arts and crafts as “American Indian-made,” lose access to federal grants and scholarships, and lose contracts previously obtained by tribally-owned businesses.