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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. 

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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