Members of Ramapough Tribe Sue 'Out of the Furnace' Producers for $50 Million

Seventeen plaintiffs say the movie presents them in a false light.

Credit: Relativity Media.
Credit: Relativity Media.

Seventeen members of the Ramapough Lenape Indian tribe have sued the creators of the film, Out of the Furnace, for $50 million, their lawyer, Lydia Cotz, told Patch Monday afternoon. In the complaint, which Cotz said was filed in federal court in Newark Monday morning, the members say that the film misrepresents them and presents members of the tribe in a false light.

“The movie Out of the Furnace directed by Scott Cooper constitutes major misrepresentations of the plaintiffs’ character, history, and beliefs,” Cotz said in a statement.

“After the movie was released they were exposed to ridicule, hatred, and shame, and as a result, suffer emotionally. The movie has no true artistic value and offends the sensibilities of any reasonable person.”

Six of the 17 plaintiffs are listed as living in Mahwah, and many have the last names DeGroat and VanDunk, last names of characters that appear in the film.

Neither Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry nor any of the tribe’s sub-chiefs are part of the suit, Cotz said. The tribal members are suing Cooper, the film’s production company, Relativity Media, and other creators.

A representative from Relativity Media declined to comment, noting that the company had not yet seen the complaint. 

Other members of the tribe previously held press conferences denouncing the film. Relativity has previously said the movie is not based on anyone in particular. 

transylvania57 December 24, 2013 at 02:17 PM
Robert, you're saying that you don't care whether people make movies and TV shows that show your people in a negative light, and so I shouldn't care either? Well, I do care. I haven't seen the movie, and I don't intend to, but the trailer for the Sundance TV series looks terrible.
Robert De Groat December 24, 2013 at 03:48 PM
transylvania57, you started off saying, good for the ramapoughs ., maybe I'm taking it the wrong way and if I am I opologize. We,ve been hearing a lot of negative things said pertaining to our people. We didn't start this action, the ny post did and all we are doing is , defending ourselves . And no I wouldn't want my people talked about in a negative way and appreciate those who say positive things and do care. The series. The red road from what you say seems to be referencing the ramapough Indians. When we say that out of the furnace is a reference to our people we have so many saying that we're wrong. I would only hope that the red road movie will not dump more crap on us. Again if I misread your comment I opologize
Ramapough Indian Concerned December 24, 2013 at 04:27 PM
Any negative portrayal of Ramapoughs makes me sick! Suing Relativity Media is a personal choice each individual Ramapough chose and it is their right to be part of a lawsuit! More importantly I would like to know where is the outcry over the upcoming Series "The Red Road" from the current Ramapough leadership? , I have heard words like "Hate Crime", "Racist", "Stereotype" etc., The Red Road Specifically mentions folks as Ramapough Indians living in the Ramapo Mountains, Jason Mamoma and Tom Sizemore play a Ramapough Indian Drug dealer, and Drug czar. I also would like to know why was the Cast of The Red Road invited to the Tribal office yes, welcomed with open arms.! Why did The Ramapough Leadership weep about out of the Furnance portrayal of Ramapoughs yet ask Tribal members to be in The Red Road series and play an active role in marketing The Red Road! Yes Ramapoughs the current leadership knows about the Racist, Stereotyping Series The Red Road, yet their is no outcry from the Current Chief or Council! Why? For the Ramapoughs who read this please understand I love my people, I want the best for all Ramapoughs, however I have a Big concern with the current Tribal corruption that e in our tribe! Unfortunately not many Ramapoughs know the truth! The fact is The Current administration new about the Red Road, knew it was a racist movie and even wanted Ramapough to be in it, I'm not trying to hate, but you cannot have it both ways! Sincerely, Wallace Dennison, past Wolf Clan Chief and Banned Tribal Member since 2011! pidderdennison@yahoo.com
transylvania57 December 25, 2013 at 02:54 PM
Wallace, I was shocked to read your message that the Ramapoughs knew about The Red Road and apparently didn't object. I wonder how it was presented to them. Were they aware how clearly they were identified? The trailer starts, "25 miles from New York City," then shows the PowWow with a voice-over saying things like, "Playing cowboys and Indians...pretending to be Indians...that's just what the old people say to make themselves feel important." And in the teaser, "You come from whores and slaves, same as me...and "It's good coming from rejects; nobody expects nothin' from you. That's how you win." Perhaps the trailer and teaser are misleading, but I can't imagine that the series will show the Ramapoughs in a good light. . . Robert, I guess my first message wasn't clear. I meant "Good for the Ramapoughs" for taking a stand against the movie. I'm afraid the TV series, The Red Road, really will "dump more crap" on the Ramapoughs, and I just don't understand why this small community has suddenly become the subject of nationwide "entertainment."
Sayshi December 25, 2013 at 04:18 PM
Trans, can't you figure it out. You're a big boy from Transylvania. Take the new mall as an example. The construction industry is owned by organized crime, a few connected construction companies want to develop the Ramapo Mountains. What stands in their way? The people already living in the Ramapo's. The Ramapough are right with their lawsuit. The movie is slanderous and an inaccurate portrayal. The slander is not in general terms. This movie specifically targets a specific people in a pattern of discriminatory rhetoric. In doing so it has infringed on the rights of the Ramapo families involved and they should sue the movie and the other documentaries that defame them. It is also a slander on the image of the entire town and region. It damages residents in their careers, job market, and in other aspects of life. It would be interesting to speak with the writers of the movie script to see who gave them the information on the Ramapo's and who influenced their writing of the script?? There is one concern. Justice is not always served in court on a fair basis. The town residents could begin a voluntary collection to help cover court costs in case of a negative decision. The Ramapo's are right to sue, but the courts are not always fair. (Bashers have some respect, the movie could have been about your family.)
Judith Sullivan December 25, 2013 at 09:17 PM
Please note the tribe has not sued; only a few members of the 5,000 have sued. The tribe has not yet formulated its legal position on the movie. Tribal leadership is completed devoted to protecting the children of the tribe who are suffering at school due to bullying and teasing about the movie, and until that situation is settled, tribal leadership will continue on its educational campaign in order for the public to understand the situation. Tribal leadership is working with national organizations to assist it in its endeavors. Sayshi is right - there is an awful lot to consider before rushing into court, including the vigorous defense the defendants will orchestrate which will include an examination of all defendants, the entire town and region. It is for these reasons, tribal leadership is being very careful and prioritizing each and every day where they should put their attention.
Sayshi December 26, 2013 at 12:20 AM
Judith, Thank you for your post. 1) Good clarification that "members of the Ramapough ..." means specific members of the tribe, not the entire tribe, at the present time. 2) Stopping bullying in the schools is a top priority, and should have always have been top priority in the local schools. 3) The discovery process in a major lawsuit may take years and be very expensive. Appeals may go back and forth and court costs must be covered with each appeal. Part of the game is to bankrupt the other side to prevent appeals. a) Some lawyers will help to cover court costs if they feel they have a good case. b) angel investors sometimes have an interest, in this case the residents and businesses of the region are impacted and may be a potential source of financing. c) there are insurance companies who will pay court costs in the event of a loss, for a percentage of winnings, but these companies may be expensive. d) civil rights organizations may be willing to help in this case as it involves civil rights issues. These are issues the attorneys involved will know more about. Regardless, stopping bullying in the schools is an immediate priority for the schools as that may have long-term and immediate effects on the children.
mercedes December 26, 2013 at 10:09 AM
I have children that go to the Ridge and the highschool. There is no bullying or teasing going on about the movie! Stop using it as an excuse!
Andy Schmidt December 26, 2013 at 06:09 PM
Currently front-page news on CNN: http://www.cnn.com/2013/12/26/showbiz/native-americans-sues-filmmaker/index.html
Robert De Groat December 27, 2013 at 10:21 AM
Transylvania 57. I have gone back and read your comment and I do owe you an opology. The day I read your comment was after I had read some of the other comments. By the time I read your comment I was a little upset, and completely miss read it. I hope you,ll forgive me. I thank you for your compassion to the ramapoughs, and concerns. Having to do with, The Red Road series, I had no idea that this movie was coming out until you brought it to my attention. Shame on those who are responsible for the making of this film including the then, chief and anyone else who had anything to do with it. You know, it's come right down to not trusting outsiders or even insiders. When will our children ever stand a chance?
Carolyn Suffern December 27, 2013 at 10:24 AM
Robert, I believe trust has been betrayed.
Robert De Groat December 27, 2013 at 10:34 AM
Bergan watcher. You are pathetic , it's because of folks like you with no compassion for others that makes me sick. I can't imagine there are people who enjoy putting other groups of people down when you don't know anything about them. If the ramapoughs win or lose the lawsuit, it's nothing out of your pocket so don't worry about it. Try to mind your own business
Robert De Groat December 27, 2013 at 05:14 PM
I couldn't agree more Carolyn. It just makes you wonder if this nonsense will ever end. It's pretty bad when you can't trust your own. You know Carolyn, those of us that have been around a while have developed a thick skin for this bull--- but I would really hate to see our children and grandchildren go through it. It's no fun. Though it's hard to believe that our own people can allow these kinds of movies that we now see is mind boggling to me, especially when all they do is relive old stigmas. I for one, would like to know more about how this movie The Red Road was basically ok,d by whom ever. If these kinds of movies aren't stopped, some butthole will run a movie on hbo about us. Incredible.
Robert De Groat December 28, 2013 at 07:10 AM
JP I'm getting a little tired of you . Perhaps you are not aware of the stigma our people have been carrying around for years. I see what people like you and others are saying, but how can you even begin to know what it's like? You can't so until you do you should have nothing to say. I personally would like an opology from the film makers but don't believe for one second I would get it. They,d say they did nothing wrong. They would have us believe that just because the movie mentions ramapough mountains, inbreeds, violence and de groats, has nothing to do with us but we know they do. You couldn't know what our people have been through, and it's things like this that I refer to. We,re not trying to make folks upset with us but we have a right to protect ourselves like anyone else. This isn't the first time that a movie has used the slur Jackson white. The soprano movie did a couple of years ago. No one ran to a lawyer for a couple of bucks, it was a movie that did not use surnames of people living in a specific place. I just think that you and others are being a little too personal. It's not about you or your family. If you can't say something positive, please don't say anything.
Robert De Groat December 28, 2013 at 07:45 AM
Chief Dwayne Perry, with due respect, I would really like to know if you know who is responsible for this on coming movie, the red road series. It comes to my attention as well as others that it seems the current leadership of our people have knowledge as to who gave permission to make this film and use ramapough mountain Indians in it. I for one had no idea this movie was being made. Reach out Chief and let us know what happend here.
Robert De Groat December 28, 2013 at 11:24 AM
I would like to take the time to say thank you to all that have had positive things to say for the ramapo Indians .this despicable movie ( out of the furnace ) is a movie that should not have aired in my opinion .if I were a.man with intelligents and the resources that Scott cooper has, I would do everything in my power to avoid making a movie that steps on the lives of innocent people. I've read a lot of comments in this site and have to say, even though I have been angered by some of the commenters, I can't hold them responcipal for there opinions. To do so wouldn't be fair to them. Having said that, it's too bad that they can't see what this movie and others to come will do to us as a people. We didn't name ourselves Jackson whites, inbreeds or even ramapough Indians . I still wonder who did. All we want in life is what every other American citizen wants and that's to be left alone and out of movies that cast us in a bad light. I will be leaving this site, I've had enough but thanks again to all that have been very compassionate.
Carolyn Suffern December 28, 2013 at 12:12 PM
Robert, It is Ramapough Steve Burton who has figured out the most probable origin of the pejorative "Jackson White" label that first came into use in the 1870's. As you write, "We didn't name ourselves Jackson White." This term first was published in the "Bergen Record" circa 1870, as I remember off the top of my head, but no one knew where/how the term had cropped up. In 1936, John C. Storms, who was known to be a yellow journalist who wrote anything to sell papers, published his "Origin of the Jackson-Whites of the Ramapo Mountains," in which he contended that during the Revolutionary War, the British War Office had contracted with a "Captain Jackson" to secure 3,500 prostitutes to be brought to New York City to "become the intimate property of the army quartered in New York City, thus relieving the tension now felt that at any moment these soldiers might take to themselves such of the residents as temporarily pleased themselves." ( p. 10) Storms continues that Captain Jackson did secure 3,500 British prostitutes, but that some were lost at sea in storms as he sailed back to America; that he diverted to the West Indies where he fulfilled his quota. Thus he had "Jackson's Whites" and "Jackson's Blacks." Storms bases this legend on a story he contends was published in "Rivington's Gazette" during the Revolutionary War. He also contends that at War's end, these prostitutes were turned loose into the Ramapo Mountains. The problem with this "legend" is nothing like this ever was published in Rivington's Gazette, as corroborated to me by a researcher at the Library of Congress last spring. Storms fabricated all. Sadly, in 1974, David Cohen greatly twisted the truth many times in his book, "The Ramapo People," even distorting the words of Louis West, son of the manager of the Hewitt Estate in Ringwood, so that he too, could continue this libelous myth. Steve Burton was the first to realize that about the same time this "JW" term came into use, a new potato was developed - the "Jackson White" that was much more resistant to the rot that destroyed so much of the potato crop in years past. It also is known since the first colonizers came to America, the Lenape/Munsee Indians grew crops, including potatoes. It also is known the Ramapough Indians grew crops in their rocky hillside garden patches, coming down to public market places to sell some of their crops to raise money to pay taxes. The Erie Railroad first opened in 1841, leading to an upsurge of jobs in all the industries that supported the railroad. By 1870, it is known many Irish immigrants had moved to Ramapo to take advantage of these jobs - my own great-great grandfather Edward Suffern wrote in his journal of how poorly the Irish were treated on the docks of New York. They were at the "bottom of the barrel." It is my belief these Irish immigrants, themselves so mistreated, viewed the Ramapough as a class of people lower than themselves, labeling them the "Jackson Whites" as a slur. In 1885, Vincent Van Gogh painted his painting "The Potato Eaters." In a letter to his brother Theo, he wrote, ""You see, I really have wanted to make it so that people get the idea that these folk, who are eating their potatoes by the light of their little lamp, have tilled the earth themselves with these hands they are putting in the dish, and so it speaks of manual labor and — that they have thus honestly earned their food. I wanted it to give the idea of a wholly different way of life from ours." I say, and so it was with the Ramapough who grew, ate and sold their Jackson White potatoes. As far as this film, "Out of the Furnace" goes, it is a cruel blow to the Ramapough, but I am of the belief, "everything happens for a reason." I believe in good time, the "reason" will be made known and all might not seem so bad.
Judith Sullivan December 28, 2013 at 12:57 PM
The movie, in my opinion, is entirely about the Ramapo mountains from beginning to end. It depicts citizens of our mountains as "inbred" "mountain people" dealing in their "own brand of justice". People who go to the "Ramapo" Mountains risk "coming back home in a body bag". The star of the movie, a drug dealer who assaults his girlfriend with a lit cigar in the opening scene, arranges indiscriminate beatings, administers illegal drugs to himself with a needle in a filthy mountain shack, is a sociopath named Harlan DeGroat. As you know, DeGroat is a family name for the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation and is currently the last name of one of the leaders of a clan (which leader, Richard DeGroat, is a Columbia trained architect). There are seven characters in the movie named Jackson Whites and another named "Van Dunk". As you also likely know, Van Dunk is a common family name amongst the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation and is the last name of the former chief of the tribe, a Vietnam veteran. Visual references to the Native American community abound. The Bergen County police name is also used. I have been in touch with the National Congress of American Indians and they are fully supportive. The movie has also been denounced by Edward Lenik, a prominent archaeologist (who also serves as my charity's (Ramapough Conservancy) consulting archaeologist). Several senior professors at Ramapo College have also publicly criticized the movie as has the president of Ramapo College (who added the movie besmirches the word "Ramapo"). The mayor and school superintendent in Mahwah have also given a press conference expressing their disapproval of the movie. Several families who had children bullied at school will appear in news segment for Al Jazeera today.
Sayshi December 28, 2013 at 04:28 PM
Judith, when will the news segment on bullying in the schools be on Al Jazeera? It sounds interesting and is a very important issue for Mahwah and all schools. The movie takes place in two locations the Ramapo Mountains; and also in Braddock, Pa. You have already summarized very nicely the negative stereotypes the movie uses toward those from this region (Ramapo). The movie also uses negative stereotypes toward those from Braddock portraying them as poor [white-omitted terminology]. Demographically, the Braddock population has declined from over 20,000 in the 1920's to about 2,000 today. Even if there is anyone there who may want to complain, they may have very limited resources. I Googled Braddock, and there are some nice things about the town. The Carnegie Free Library (a National Landmark) is located in Braddock. Here is the Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Braddock,_Pennsylvania The Ramapo case may have national importance. If it is successful it may finally set a standard of decency on the film industry.
Andy Schmidt December 28, 2013 at 07:12 PM
JP, asking for an apology will not make people think twice next time around - but if businesses take notice that this group will aggressively protect their good names and how accurately they portrayed, then their ultimate goal has been accomplished. Lawyers, interrogatories, motions, responses, expert witnesses etc. are expensive. They need to ask for tons of money to be able to take this to court. Look, it won't cost YOU any money. At worst some Hollywood Nouveau Rich will have to share some of their spoils for having made the choices they made (assuming they plaintiffs can make their claims stick.)
Andy Schmidt December 28, 2013 at 07:28 PM
PS: It grossed 10 Mio in 3 wks incl 5 Mio on opening weekend. Fairly dismal. Maybe all this publicity may raise couriosity. http://www.boxofficemojo.com/movies/alphabetical.htm?letter=O&page=4&p=.htm
Ramapough Indian Concerned December 29, 2013 at 12:20 PM
I still do not see any response from The Tribal leadership on their role in how Ramapoughs are depicted in the upcoming series "The Red Road" , and why Tribal leadership solicited Ramapoughs to be in a movie which portrays us as Drug Dealers and descendents of Whores and Slaves! One would think if they knew nothing about the series they would say " We had nothing to do with the Film, and we are Outraged! Not commenting to me means their will be an attempt to cover it up! By Contacting the Makers of "The Red Road" seems to be the Start of a Cover up! Remember Ramapoughs the Chief and Council are elected positions, so be it they decided not to have an election this year. Why? as Dictated by the By Laws and Constitution.
Judith Sullivan December 29, 2013 at 01:11 PM
I will look into this as soon as possible. Until we have evidence, is it useful to air these concerns in a public forum at this time? You can be sure the lawyers for the film are watching your comments and will use it against the tribe and all the members of the tribe.
Ramapough Indian Concerned December 30, 2013 at 11:32 AM
Judith, You get paid to represent Dwaines Views! Come on! sounds like the Fox guarding the Hen House! Evidence? The original RLN webpage solicited Ramapoughs to be in the Series? Photos taken with cast members? Tribal members being approached ? Meeting at the lodge with cast members? Where you there? Counselor Sullivan You ask is it useful to air these concerns in a public forum at this time? YES! Ramapoughs have a RIGHT TO KNOW both sides. Ramapoughs have a right know if Their elected Chief and Most Tribal Council had prior knowledge of "The Red Road" a Sundance Film series which depicts Ramapoughs as Drug Dealers/Czars ,Descendents of Whores, and sadly disrespects our elders. You have mislead Tribal members to gain support in a public venue. It's deceiving! It's Wrong! It's Hypocritical! As sure you are that the lawyers from the film are watching my comments, you can be sure I will continue to speak out against the current Tribal Corruption!
Carolyn Suffern December 30, 2013 at 12:01 PM
Ramapough Native Concerned, I am sure you clearly remember, as do I, that it was ONE tribal member who put out the casting call for "Red Road." This call came through social media, not through official tribal channels. Personally, I find your endless rant tiresome and that is an understatement!!
Ramapough Indian Concerned December 31, 2013 at 11:39 AM
I clearly remember many, many things! To say the current Chief and Administration did not know or play a role in advocating "The Red Road" is simply false. Their was a link on the Ramapough Lunaape Nation Facebook page a couple of days ago for "The Red Road", Yes I copied it! The Tribal website is not an official Tribal channel? If you Personally don't want to read my comments, Don't ! My so called rants are about awareness,Ramapoughs have a right to know how their Tribe is being corruptly ran ! So yes I remember Many, Many, things! And I will continue to let Ramapoughs know what I remember!
Carol De Groat January 02, 2014 at 01:00 PM
To the so-called concerned whatever, do you also remember that you were banned from the Tribe over a year ago for your crimes against the Tribe, or have you forgotten? Please do not feed into this person's rants, because that is just what he wants us to do. He is a disgruntle former member that pretends he loves his Tribe, but does nothing but seek to destroy us. Did you tell all the people that you are one of those that filed the lawsuit for nothing more than to get your piece of the pie? Your last name is not De Groat or Van Dunk so why are you suing? You call yourself a Ramapough, but are you really a Ramapough? So continue your ranting if you choose, no one cares, we have heard it all from you before. Get a job and a life and maybe you will not be so miserable. This is all that I will say to you, so continue ranting if you choose because I am done and will not respond again.
Ramapough Indian Concerned January 07, 2014 at 04:21 PM
Reading the above Comments, one starts to wonder who the Real Bully is! 1) I have not committed any Crime against the Tribe. 2) I have never been charged with any Crime by the Past or current Tribal Council or Chief(s). 3) I'm not part of the Relativity Media Lawsuit. 4) I am a Ramapough! I'm a proud Ramapough Indian, my Tribal is #1104. I have been Elected to the Tribal Council , I have Served as Wolf Clan Chief, Ive been involved in Tribal Politics since 2003, I worked as the Current Chief's Assistant from 2009-2011 I'm the Founder of the Ramapough Family Genealogical and Historical Society (2003) I find the Comments By Carol Degroat The Tribes Secretary and Genealogist disgraceful! Carol is part of the current Ramapough Administration her comments are Slanderous , Libelous and False!
Ramapough Indian Concerned January 13, 2014 at 07:33 AM
transylvania57 February 09, 2014 at 04:45 PM
The Record has a front-page article on The Red Road. http://www.northjersey.com/arts_entertainment/ramapough_out_of_the_furnance_the_red_road_sundance.html


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