Ramapough, Mahwah Community Speak Out Against 'Racist' Movie Review

The Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation held a press conference with Mahwah's Mayor and Superintendent objecting to a NY Post review of the film 'Out of the Furnace' that they say negatively stereotypes members of the tribe.

Chief Perry, Mayor Laforet, and Dr. Schoen at the press conference Wednesday.
Chief Perry, Mayor Laforet, and Dr. Schoen at the press conference Wednesday.

A New York Post review of the new movie Out of the Furnace that refers to the Ramapough Indian tribe as “New Jersey hillbillies” has sparked outrage amongst local community leaders who say it wrongly depicts the diverse, unified nature of Mahwah.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry joined Mahwah Mayor Bill Laforet and Mahwah Schools Superintendent Lauren Schoen at a press conference in town hall Wednesday afternoon speaking out against the language used in the review.

In its review, the Post refers to the “Ramapough Mountain Indians” as “hillbillies who live in a self-contained world of drugs, violence and trailer homes…The impoverished Ramapoughs have long been ridiculed for their unsophisticated ways, including feasting on squirrel. They get around their mostly unpaved roads on ATVs. Tribe members are known to largely marry among themselves.”

The review also states that the film is based on the tribe, and depicts members as “violent.”

Laforet said Wednesday that he is “deeply concerned” about the content of the review.

“The article wrongly characterizes the residents of Stag Hill,” Laforet said in his statement.

“This type of stereotype only serves to foster hostility, intimidation, and bullying.”

Schoen added that diversity is embraced throughout the Mahwah community, and the spread of negative stereotypes affects the entire township.

“We are embracing the Ramapough Indian nation together…These are our children, our parents, and our employees. A movie like this goes against everything we believe in, in our township and in our schools. When a movie deals in negative stereotypes…we are all diminished.”

Perry spoke out against the article and the film, which he said “appears to be a racist paradigm that has been forced upon my people for so many years.”

The three said Wednesday that they have not yet seen the film, which opens Friday. They said they were not contacted during its production, and have not been able to get in touch with either the producers or the film, or with the NY Post.

“If indeed what the Post has reported is a true [interpretation of the movie]…why?" Perry asked. "Why the hatred? Why the reliving of what is obviously racism and bigotry throughout history toward the [Ramapough] people.”

Official publications from the movie’s distributors do not echo the language used in the movie review.

Relativity Media, the company producing the film, officially describes the plot of the film as centering around Casey Affleck’s character getting, “lured into one of the most ruthless crime rings in the Northeast,” and his brother’s (played by Christian Bale) quest to retrieve him.

A review in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette refers to the action of the film taking place in New Jersey’s Ramapo Mountains, but does not reference the Ramapough Lenape nation.

However, Woody Harrelson’s character in the film, who runs an underground fighting ring in the mountains, does reportedly have the last name “DeGroat,” a popular surname in the Ramapough community.

"It is [unforgivable] to use anyone's name, or anyone's child...and portray them in that negative light," Perry said.

Relativity did not respond to a request for comment about the film, and spokespeople for the Post did not respond to a request for comment about the review.

In Mahwah, officials are asking residents to reject the characterization made in the review, and embrace an attitude of unity.

“This is a time that citizens should welcome and embrace the culture of the Ramapough Mountain Lenape Indians so they have a better understanding of what they have contributed to our culture,” Laforet said. 

Gottardo DiGiacopo December 06, 2013 at 08:21 AM
The people of the Ramapo Mountains have exclusive rights to those most passionate feelings of hurt, betrayal and outrage. Historical names of the Ramapo region used in this movie are still in fact sir names today, and the prevalence of the term "Jackson Whites” is a shocking assault. Our neighbors have been unfairly cast as a subclass and subrace for many generations. That continues in the NY Post review and this movie. The nature of racism/classism is pervasive and systemic. I’m sure to most people involved in working on (and viewing) this movie, these fictional characters seem roguishly exciting and sheikh in their challenged loyalties (the stuff of great fiction). But somewhere in the upper echelon of this movie's and/or the Post reviewer’s players, someone knew specifics about our ‘Ramapo’ region and the unfair legacy pressed upon it. These crippling stereotypes were used callously at the expense of our neighbors! And this is the mainstream cultural cancer that is racism. It interfaces with everything including business, commercial consumption and even law. Here in America it increasingly goes that if you can’t be convicted of a crime then you didn't do anything wrong. Morality and ethical behavior are seen as a business model’s weakness; opportunism is viewed a strength. That also needs to be exposed and changed. Still I feel much good can come of this while we attempt to hold people to account. To our Ramapo families, friends and neighbors “I’m sorry your trauma continues”.
Jennifer Hathaway December 06, 2013 at 01:07 PM
Using quotes around the word "racist" in the title of this article trivializes the word for your readers and is an old spin-doctors' trick used to subtly influence opinions. In this case, the "quote trick" renders the claims of the Ramapough tribe regarding this insult to be petty or at best questionable. If the movie had been about Italian immigrants behaving in an egregious manner, and the Post had been discussing "WOPs" living in "Italian Palaces"- stereotypes which my many Italian friends have told me harrowing tales about over the years- I wonder whether this publication would have put the word "racist" into quotes?
Gottardo DiGiacopo December 06, 2013 at 02:32 PM
Jennifer respectfully, my dad was 33 and my mom 25 when they arrived penniless in America. In Italy they went one to the 2nd & one the 3rd grade before leaving school to watch siblings and help their parents sharecrop difficult land. As one of nine children I was soon aware of hunger, class and race. My parents couldn't or wouldn't pursue food stamps even though our family doctor urged them to. At 7 or 8 I remember stealing a stick of butter from a neighbor and hiding under their table til I finished it. Increasingly thru grade school we were made aware of our lower class status, mostly by parents of peers. We acquainted ourselves with people of color and lesser means much more than the 'Americans' did. We were well aware of the pecking order… us poor less assimilated Ghinnies were low, but Puerto-Ricans and Blacks were considerably lower. We were empathetic to their struggle while also grateful to not be at their bottom (sad as that is). When you say "many italian friends' harrowing tales" i can't help but feel a bit uneasy. "Harrowing" in comparison to what?this? You gave the Ramapough tribe credit for "petty or at best questionable" while your friends of italian ancestry have been "harrowed" for their decorating taste. i ask you, is this really about the quotation marks around the word racist, or is it about a destructive lack of sensitivity and brotherhood?
Mahwah Rules! December 06, 2013 at 03:52 PM
@Gottardo DiGiacopo, wow. I sincerely applaud your eloquence, as well as your obvious appreciation for and sensitivity towards others. Thank you very much for elevating the conversation a little bit, and for providing some insight and perspective towards what has become a truly disappointing and sad situation. Were I a member of the tribe, I'm sure I would be feeling emotions much more intense than just disappointment and sadness. That being said, I think there is enough to be upset about without misinterpreting the title. I think the furnace reference is a stretch, bigtime. Let's stay focused on the true offenses, and not get thrown off track about the title. IMHO, this has nothing to do with the Jewish people, and everything to do with the RMI.
Pete Malvasi December 06, 2013 at 06:31 PM
I heard two raving professional reviews of this movie today which blew right past any issue of impact on the group here. Perhaps someone knowledgeable in PR can help to get wider exposure to the concerns.
Mike Hamilton December 06, 2013 at 07:43 PM
first of all its RAMAPO secondly they are hillbillies they are Jackson whites , all named Milligan and DeGroat because most are inbred they should be honored that they think the movie is about them
Sayshi December 06, 2013 at 08:15 PM
Mike, your comment is quite offensive and shows a lack of class. You owe some people an apology. There is no need for your racist insults. I thought you would like to meet some real "hillbillies" from some people who know how to answer. This was made by West Virginia State University in Charleston, WV. The first part shows the stereotype, the second the truth. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M9oYUKjXUCg
Gavrilo Princip December 06, 2013 at 11:34 PM
Jennifer, you do realize that this is a news item and not an opinion piece, right? The quotes are referring directly to a quote used in the article from Chief Perry. The purpose of the story is to report on the position of a few community leaders, not to present the position of the publication. It's pretty standard journalism.
Brwneyes December 07, 2013 at 12:25 AM
It's so typical...the RMI tries and defends themselves, their families and their ancestors and they are battered by stones with ignorance,made up stories, over exaggerated happenings, and twisted lies by people that don't have a clue what they're talking about. They're repeating old urban legends ghost stories or just hiding behind a computer screen entertaining their self addiction to drama. In the 60's 70's and 80's it was a way of living for families to send away the baby with Down Syndrome, the unwed teenage pregnant girl, the alcoholic uncle ... Anything that wasn't "normal" was hidden away, not spoken about and to keep it that way stories were made up to get the point across. When a family moved in a neighborhood, and they didn't "fit the crowd" parents told children to stay away from the new people in that house, followed by a made up, off the hook story to keep the kids afraid to go near the house. The unkept house with an old man living there was the haunted house with ghosts living there. The Indians on the mountain were called Jackson Whites, hill people and any other hurtful horrible names people can think of to keep them kept from being part of the community. Little does everyone know that wasn't associated with or familiar with the RMI is they never turned away any of their family members. Their life revolves around their families, their children, their elderly, "normal" or not no one was sent away. They are hard working, artistic, very musically inclined, dedicated families that have faced these hurtful, judgmental, prejudice statements for years! They have the blood line showing that the majority of their ancestors were pushed out of the area and a few but strong stayed and faced and dealt with everything thrown their way and still woke up everyday, went to work and took care of their families! You are going to sit and judge them in your cozy little lives and throw stones at these families and then talk about how "unfriendly", "unsociable" and how they "stayed to themselves" ... How else would you expect someone to act? If they were and are such horrible, criminals that hide in the hills then why have so many of them worked and still work for the local townships, the college, perform at Mahwah Day and volunteer at the fire dept risking their lives to save yours? Stop being so judgmental, afraid of the unknown. Stop repeating the stories you heard when you where a child or exaggerating on your experience coming on the mountain. NEVER in 25 years that I've been part of the DeGroat family and lived here have I ever seen a sign "turn around or you will be shot" (to the person who said came up here to buy property) the ONLY time I've ever seen a sign like that was down in Toms River after Sandy storm. Stop ridiculing these families and then expect to come up and be welcomed with open arms. Stop being bullies for your own self-fulfillment and educate yourself before speaking words that you obviously know nothing about...
Leaking Ink December 07, 2013 at 01:01 AM
When I began at Mahwah High School in the 1960's, there was definitely division and prejudice against Ramapough Mountain Lenape Indian students and the rest of the student population. Hostilities between the two populations often led to physical and verbal fights and school suspensions. Often, neither party was innocent. By the time I graduated, both groups had forged some "school" friendships with members of the opposite group. I say "school" friendships because at that time, Caucasian and RMLIs (as well as black students) did not intermingle in the other's home. To begin with, neither one's parents at that time would allow it. For the students involved, it was a fragile, new first step. The 60's baby boomers in each of these groups were just starting to wake up. We challenged our parents' and authority's thinking. We opened new doors, and we allowed new and different friends and experiences into our lives. Yes, ugly things happened during that time, but wonderful changes occurred also. Bill Laforet was right there at Mahwah High School with me back then. To the "Unknown" writer above, this is why I believe that he is genuine in his support of the RMLIs. He does care. It's not a put-on for his job or reputation. He gets it. He's not a one-man show though. As the saying goes, and as you well know, "it takes a village." Mahwah is that "village." As Rodney Van Dunk says, "This is 2013, not 1960." Your time has come. It's way overdue. May Nelson Mandela's legacy inspire us, unite us, and spur us on to take this challenge, and get it done.
Jennifer Hathaway December 07, 2013 at 04:48 AM
Gavrilo, with "respect", my post was about a trick that publicists and news people use to belittle and twist things. Notice how disrespectful the word respect becomes when it's put into quotation marks? That is what this little quotation trick that I was complaining about does. It used to be the sole province of tabloids to play such games, but unfortunately it's become a standard operating procedure. I have spent many long evenings with beloved friends with similar tales to yours about their family and their hardships, who, with their next breath, would malign other people whose hardships had been similar- but were the wrong color. Kudos to you for not falling into that same trap. The reason I picked on Italians [and please forgive me for it] was that the author/editor, Ms Mazzola, has an Italian name and I was hoping that my illustration might open some eyes. Evidently the point was lost. And, alas, all measure of "sensitivity" and "brotherhood" seems to have been lost with it. [oh, look, quotes!]
Jennifer Hathaway December 07, 2013 at 05:31 AM
PS. but you don't have to take my word for it: http://www.batesline.com/archives/2004/03/scare-quotes-as.html
Gottardo DiGiacopo December 07, 2013 at 10:04 AM
Wonderful comments streaming in by many bolstering spirits. Jennifer, because you chose a semi-semantic argument to enter the conversation, and your words (to me) seemed to deflate the outraged position of the RMI most affected, your subsequent words about Italians left me cynical... only because you described their trials as "harrowing" in relation. For the record 'APOSTROPHE' marks were used in place of "Formal Quotation" marks which i think asks each reader to approach the encapsulated term with individual scrutiny.
Gottardo DiGiacopo December 07, 2013 at 10:44 AM
The Connotations of punctuation evolve with each user and each generation. Jessica is at least 25 years younger than me and my kids are 35 years younger. They have each grown and acclimated within progressive cultural changes, and each bring nuance to their uses of language and its conventions. i certainly noticed the marks by 'racist' headlining this article, but only as a convention with immediate (and even new) nuance. It's seldom my political interpretations of punctuation that rattle me, nor is it any harmless or incidental uses of analogy... for me, it's the tone of content that often stirs my response, tho it's certainly not for me to decide what that 'tone' is for others.
Leaking Ink December 07, 2013 at 11:52 AM
On December 3, 2013, Wikipedia added the following last sentence to their article on the Ramapough Mountain Indians: "The 2013 film OUT OF THE FURNACE deals with the communities living in the Ramapough Mountains." I believe it should be re-worded FALSELY DEALS. Perhaps some Mahwah community contact with Wikipedia can get this revised.
John Santaella December 07, 2013 at 12:13 PM
Maybe the tribe can start providing bus tours of their nation so we can see what is really up there.
Gottardo DiGiacopo December 07, 2013 at 12:28 PM
John, i think it would be much better on foot, and with lunch!!!... hunger remains for me an overwhelming distraction.
BothWays December 07, 2013 at 11:04 PM
This movie no doubt is racist and is portraying a horrible picture of the RMIs. The fact that they use a common name among RMI's is extremely wrong and unfair and could make things worse for the people. And while racism needs to end between the group and others in society, it starts on both ends. Growing up in Mahwah myself, many of the RMI children I went to school with were actually the biggest bullies at the school, they would make fun of the weaker kids at school, slap their necks and use obscenities often. The RMI can not deflect all blame on to others without also looking in the mirror and realizing they need to also teach their children to show respect too. Even one poster above is named "brwneye" while protesting about this film's ignorance, which the film definitely is ignorant. However, the username of "brwneye" is also ignorant and degrading as it refers to a persons rectum. So it requires work from both sides of this issue to truly be resolved.... until both sides work at showing respect the issue will never end.
Gottardo DiGiacopo December 08, 2013 at 08:19 AM
BothWays, i truly never went there with Brwneyes (plural unlike an anus) however with "Mona Lot" who posts regularly from down in what you might consider Mahwah Proper, i have at times thought the pen-name was vulgar. (of course if i met her and she was beautiful and young that would probably change but i digress). Did you ever think to call Mona ignorant and suggest publicly why and which parts are making her moan a lot? PS Brwneyes post was essential and revealing!
Andy Schmidt December 11, 2013 at 06:33 PM
Seems the NY Post silently took down the offensive "article" - the link is now invalid and a search on that site will no longer find it. Would have shown integrity if the publisher had the writer and its editor issue formal apologies for falsely pretending to report on the "real ... life" of these neighbors and publish/distribute it with a full retraction.
Gottardo DiGiacopo December 11, 2013 at 08:09 PM
Andy, i guess that would be a confession of responsibility they're not willing to make... not if they don't have too.
rodney van dunk December 14, 2013 at 12:27 AM
I would like to think our great lawyer LYDIA COTZ who had gotten the NY POST to take down there nasty article about our people.We are human and not ainmals and this sterotyping our people has to stop.she is working with the Degroats and Van dunks not the RMI RVD
rodney van dunk December 14, 2013 at 12:29 AM
So who ever is flaging me get a life KM
Ynot December 14, 2013 at 12:44 AM
I didn't flag you. Must be a basher on the site. Maybe it is that RMG guy who kept bashing us. I agree with you, and happy you won. What does the RMI RVD stand for? RVD your initials? (Be careful of the ladies names on the internet.) Didn't flag you, someone else.
Leaking Ink December 14, 2013 at 02:24 AM
I certainly didn't flag you either, Rodney, but the thought popped into my head that perhaps whoever did might have done so in error--like when you're on your iPad and your finger inadvertently hits in the wrong area.
Robert De Groat December 18, 2013 at 07:18 PM
Mike Hamilton, I've worked all my life, I have a wonderful, beautiful family and grandchildren that don't come better. I've never been incarcerated. I raised my children to be polite, helpful and respectful. I thank god that they listened to me because none of them behave like you! Your just a discusting, bored man with nothing to do but bash ramapough mountain indians. What makes you that way? Why don't you turn your attention to some of the people who go to schools to shoot innocent people or find something to say about some of the teachers that misuse children. Our people mind our business and don't pass judgement on others. It's time you start leaving the surnames alone.
Robert De Groat December 22, 2013 at 04:55 PM
Robert De Groat Hi Rodney, I just wanted to throw something out there because there are, as you know people that are commenting on this movie that have no business at all. I was I big fan of the sopranos and watched every episode. I really enjoyed it. Having said that, my condolences to James Candolfini and his family. I recall an episode where tony sent Chris and bobby to wack a Russian in the pine barrens. Bobby at some point in the movie says, let's get out of here, I'm afraid we,ll run into some Jackson whites. You might remember it. No one of our people mentioned this to the producers. And I'll also say that I don't believe the filming took place in the pine barrens. It makes me wonder where it was actually filmed. This turned my attention to Out Of The Furnace. It brings back memories of when ringwood was using blast furnaces and mahwah used a furnace off 202. You know it just makes me wonder why, when these movie producers use surnames that pretty much fit certain locations why we as a people , aren't suppose to assume that it's us there referring to. That said, if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, it more than likely is a duck.
Ynot December 22, 2013 at 05:37 PM
I watched the movie last night. There are obvious references throughout the movie. Some may also remember the furnaces that were visible in the American Brake Shoe, the heavy industry of the Ford Plant, and the Suffern train yards. In short, the movie involves two locations. One the Braddock region and the other the Ramapo region in and near Mahwah. The movie is distasteful in its stereotyping of people from the entire region(s).
transylvania57 December 23, 2013 at 02:55 PM
The movie is not the only thing targeting the Ramapoughs. The Sundance channel is producing a series, starting in February, that appears to reference the Ramapough people as well. Scenes in the trailer seem to show a Ramapough Pow Wow and remarks about pretending to be Indians. Worst of all is a line in the teaser, "You come from whores and slaves." The Red Road http://www.imdb.com/title/tt2505072/plotsummary?ref_=tt_ov_pl Promo video http://www.sundancechannel.com/videos/the-red-road-trailer I don't understand why this community has suddenly become the focus of "entertainment," and why these decent people can't just be left alone.
Mike Hamilton January 17, 2014 at 11:02 AM
Robert degroat , the Jackson white you must be ignorant ...its James Gandolfini you people should be happy with any attention good or bad


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