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Indian Teepees Invade Conservation Site, Court Order Barring Them Struck Down

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Joshua Gill Religion Reporter

American Indians successfully sued to continue constructing teepees in a New Jersey conservation site Tuesday despite complaints from surrounding residents.

Superior Court Judge Charles Powers Jr. overruled a recent court order forbidding the Ramapough Lenape Nation from erecting teepees in the town of Mahwah, the Associated Press reported  Tuesday. Powers did not accept the tribe’s argument that they had a right to build teepees in the area because of their religious beliefs, but Mahwah failed to prove that the tribe’s actions demonstrated “imminent and irreparable harm.”

The tribe received a summons in December of 2016 for erecting teepees on property that Mahwah had designated as a conservation zone, according to The Record. The tribe began using the land as a place of permanent residence without a permit, which township engineer Mike Kelly said violated local zoning law, according to the local report.

The tribe refused to comply with a Dec. 9 deadline to remove the teepees, and continued to violate the conservation site not only as a campground, but also used it to protest an oil pipeline that would pass through the town.

Members of a private community called the Polo Club, whose property overlooks the area in which the tribe set up camp, were the first to notify town officials of the tribe’s activities in 2016. The wealthy enclave has not influenced the legal action taken against the tribe, according to Mayor Bill Laforet.

“It’s only ever been about the zoning violations,” Laforet told the Associated press.

The tribe is still required to obtain zoning permits, which according to Laforet will also need approval from the EPA because of the property’s conservation status.

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