Ramapo Tribal Nation Regains Control of Sacred Mountain Overlooking New York City

Kevin A. Thompson
June 23, 2023

The Ramapo-Munsee Tribe recently regained control of Split-Rock Mountain in northern New Jersey. The Tribe now has a commanding view of the New York City skyline and several square miles of suburban development.

The New Jersey Land Conservancy raised over $300,000 to purchase the 54 acres of forested mountainside, and then handed the land over to the Tribe, which is recognized by the state of New Jersey. 

Split-Rock Mountain is a Sacred site, and the Ramapo people have been limited, by Mahwah town ordinance, from having more than two people at a time pray at the site. Prayerfully, this will soon change.

The Ramapo-Munsee People reside in several semi-rural communities in the Ramapough mountains, on both sides of the nearby New Jersey-New York state line, but are recognized only by New Jersey. 

Encroaching suburban development in recent decades has raised property values, making it more difficult for Ramapo people to remain in the mountains. A future challenge will be for the Ramapo Nation to pay the property taxes on the new re-acquisition 

At one time, the Ramapo controlled not only the mountain but the pass beside it, which was needed by George Washington as a transport route when he was fighting the British.  The Ramapo-Munsee sided with Washington, as did the Naragansett Indians who fought in the Rhode Island Colored militia and helped General Washington take New York City from the British. Interstate 87 now runs through the Ramapo Pass.

Currently, the Ramapo-Munsee nation is the closest land-based tribe to the City of New York. They are survivors of the larger Lenape confederation which controlled the entire New Jersey-New York City region, originally named Lenape Hoking.

Sources: “Ownership of Ancestral Site Returned to Ramapough Lenape,” March 22, 2023; PBS.org

Ramapo Munsee Lenape Network, Ramapomunsee.net