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Automotive Toxic Wastes On Native American Reservations Near New York City

Updated on December 27, 2012

US History, Industrialization, and Results

The Ramapough Nation is dying on their New Jersey lands from toxic pollutant related dumps made by the automotive sector of industry. The toxins raise the risk of cancers among these Native Americans by thousands of percent.

Consider tobacco smoking. Not every one that smokes contracts cancer. In fact, most peope that smoke do not contract cancer, but smoking in the presence of smog or diesel or gasoline engine fumes long-term increases the smoker's risk of cancer by 8,000%(NIH, 1993). The toxic wastes dumped onto the lands of the Rampoughs are consistently more powerful than that figure and have been dumped long-term. Eventually, the toxins seep down into the water supply. They are ingested, cause diseases and conditions, and result in death.

During the rise of Industrialism in Europe and America in the 1800s, writers (e.g. Franz Kafka, The Metamorphosis; film Metropolis) warned the public about the dangers of increasing work-related stress and the dehumanization of people in the quest for industrial superiority, power, and money. Work-related illnesses soon became evident in diseases other than mental illnesses that were predicted by literature.

Examples of recent films targeting the problem is Erin Brockovich and A Civil Action , with another more recent film being Mann Vs. Ford , an HBO documentary. Wayne Mann is the Director of the Edison Wetlands Association outside New York in Plainfield NJ and is concerned that the native lands and possibly some others are affected by the toxic wastes dumped on Ramapough Mountain Tribe's reservation. This is the most current of a long line of events dating back to 1955 and the Eisenhower Administration.

Ramapough Mountain

Ramapough Mountain:
Ramapo Mountain, Wanaque, NJ 07465, USA

get directions

Ringwood State Park, NJ:
Ringwood Manor State Park, Sloatsburg Rd, Ringwood, NJ 07456, USA

get directions

Mahwah NJ:
Mahwah, NJ 07430, USA

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New York City:
New York, NY, USA

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Cancer Incidence for Ramapo, Rockland County, 2004-2008


IN RAMAPO NY 2004 - 2008

Colon, rectal, and pulmonary cancers for males and females are high in incidence rates (number of cases per 100,000 people). Breast cancer in females and prostate cancer in males are even higher than these, but both near the national average. Thyroid cancer in females and Kidney/Urinary cancers in both males and female are high. Non-Hodgkin lymphomas are also high, but significantly higher in males than females.


In 2008, the incidence rates for all cancers nationally were based on sample cities of (San Francisco, Connecticut, Detroit, Hawaii, Iowa, New Mexico, Seattle, Utah, and Atlanta).


For All Cancers:

  • All Males: 553.28 per 100K compared to 506.9 per 100K (avg 2004-08) for Ramapo Males (Higher on average across the nation rather than in Ramapo)
  • All Females: 405.99 per 100K compared to 438.8 per 100K (avg 2004 -08) for Ramapo Females (significantly higher in Ramapo)

Thyroid Cancers at Ramapo among females was much higher than the nation, at 34.3 per 100K compared to 19.39 per 100K. For males, the incidence was only 2 more per 100K.

Non-Hodgsons Lymphomas were also significantly different from national to Ramapo figures.

  • All Males: 24.66 per 100K, Ramapo Males: 34.1 per 100K
  • All Females: 16.58 per 100K, Ramapo Females: 19.7 per 100K.

The case can be made that some cancers occur with higher incidence in Ramapo than on national average, attributable to the toxic paint sludge that remains in the lands and water table use dby the Native Americans that live there.

Toxic Waste in A Civil Action

Media Coverage

While Erin Brockovich was a worthwhile film, A Civil Action perhaps did more to ingrain a hard hitting urgency to the matter of toxic waste poisons on people. I think it also accomplished more in presenting real frustrations - even depression - among attorneys attempting to fight big corporate polluters. Yet, both an effective films and believable.

Only a hint is given in either film that a small part of the American pubic may wish for toxic pollution to continue in certain areas in order to eradicate sectors of society against they are prejudiced. Just as we have newspaper editorials today loudly blaming "old people" and their Social Security Retirement for ruining the finances of America, we have other voices decrying Blacks, Hispanics, and "Indians" for even existing - still, in the 2010s. It is little wonder that some of our numbers are becoming urban hermits, just wishing to be left alone in a room with a hobby.

Some of the current pollution problems affecting the Ramapoughs come from a Ford assembly factory in Wahwah NJ that dumped thousands of tons of paint sludge into 900 acres of land and ground water for 25 years from 1955 to 1980, with more cleanup needed in the 2010s (see links above).

The Native American group is known by racial slurs, rather than their name, are not federally recognized. They have little success gaining help to prevent dying early from painful cancers. Unfortunately, some voices simply want to let them die. They are sneeringly called Jackson Whites, referring perhaps to intermarriage with Caucasians and Andrew Jackson's Indian Removal Act, accompanied by the fact that this Ramapough group was finally not forced to go west. Another Jackson was reportedly a sea captain and a pimp that provided Ramapough women to British soldiers and officers in Manhattan during the Colonial Era. The name is derrogatory in both senses and a good portion of the group's 5,000 people are affected still by the toxic paint dump.

Mahwah NJ

Township of Mahwah, home of closed Ford Assembly Plant; NYC in the background.
Township of Mahwah, home of closed Ford Assembly Plant; NYC in the background. | Source

The Ramapough Mountain Indians, actually part of a larger Lenape Nation, are affected by past and possibly future toxic waste dumping, but are not recognized by the US Federal Government, thus receive no benefits. This is the case with their neighbors, the Traditional Mohawk Nation. Between two Mohawk groups, only the smaller is recognized by the national government, receives benefits, and operates a ca$ino near the NY/Ontario border. Conflict between Mohawk groups, reservation law enforcement, and state police is fairly constant. The Ramapoughs are similarly not recognized by the national government, but were both recognized by New Jersey and New York by 1980.

The Ramapough did receive a payout settlement from Ford after 2006, but the largest amount any one person received was about $34,000 and not enough to pay medical bills for cancer. The auto company may win a case to continue to use native lands for paint dumping in the 2010s and this is a tragedy to both the people and the scenic countryside. Native animals and native plants are also harmed by the toxic pain sludge. Ford continues to work on sludge removal.

This entire toxic exposure situation is one of ingratitude and disrespect to the descendants of some of the Native Americans that fought in the Continental Army against the British during the American Revolution. Some call it genocide. Clean, non-poisoned water and food is a right of all people in America.


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    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      Thankyou for a real eye-opener, Patty. Wonderful job. By the looks of it nothing had changed only the methods. It stinks to high heaven. I am sure they could prevent it by some method in the process but that could and would cost money and lower their profit. That is the root of it. It won't do them any good in the long run because it bound to backfire.

      An old Indian chief said, right at the beginning of the 20th century, They burning the forests, poison the water and then they find out that they can't money. That is how it will be.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Perhaps we can also findout where cars are painted, etc. and where waste is dumped before we buy cars.

      Thanks pamela99!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I always find it so hard to understand how people can hate those that are different enough allow them to suffer from a disease like cancer. Payouts are nice but they certainly don't bring back quality health.

      Your hub is well documented and remember watching "A Civil Action" very well. Your hub is so well organized with a great deal of important information. Statistics don't lie. It would seem to me that people are going to have to group together and complain loudly to the politicians in order to get the situation changed.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Angie - And one paint mfg place in my city had several employees die of paint-related cancer, a big tragedy. If safe production costs more money, then it costs more money. You're right about greed.

      EA - At one time in the 1990s, garbage from New Jersey was trucked into Ohio, who was paid to accept it, to be dumped at sites too near the Lake Erie Circle Tour route to be safe. We in Central Ohio had a trash burning power plant that worked well when fumes were recylced back into the system instead of the air, but it closed down.

      Waste is a problem of large proportions and toxins quadruply so.

      Thanks for comments and your insights, Earth Angel!

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      8 years ago

      Good Morning Again,

      What is so outrageous about all the dumping and polluting is that large corporations like FORD (and others) spend billions of dollars on lobbyists in Washington, DC protecting their abilities to dump and pollute! If the billions were spent instead on eliminating pollution to begin with and recycling as much as possible we'd be much better off!

      Blessings again on a GREAT Hub Patty! Earth Angel!

    • Angie Jardine profile image

      Angie Jardine 

      8 years ago from Cornwall, land of the eternally youthful mind ...

      Powerful hub, Patty ... there is a reason why you are the number one hubber. I voted it up and 'awesome' (sorry, poor word for brilliant work but there wasn't a button for exceptional).

      There are many places in the world where rich, vested interests hide and/or dump waste - and sadly their greed means that they simply do not care whose health they ruin. I find it very sad that there are still WASP Americans who are still trying to eradicate the true owners of the USA - the Native Americans - simply because of the colour of their skin.

      You are obviously a crusading soul, Patty and you have my total support and best wishes. Keep up the good work.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      alekhuse - Thanks very much! It's a problem in more places than I knew.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      Many thanks for your comments, Gus and Cardisa. If the National Deficit and Mission to Mars could cure pollution, wouldn't that be wonderful?

    • alekhouse profile image

      Nancy Hinchliff 

      8 years ago from Essex Junction, Vermont

      Wow...really well thought out, written, and researched site. Thanks, Patty

    • Cardisa profile image

      Carolee Samuda 

      8 years ago from Jamaica

      This reminds me of that movie with Julia Roberts, "Erin Brockovich", where a whole community was dying from the effects of toxic waste.

      Just in the news this week a community here in Jamaica is suffering form the effects of Bauxite mining. The Bauxite plants have closed but the effects are still there in the illnesses caused form the waste.

    • GusTheRedneck profile image

      Gustave Kilthau 

      8 years ago from USA

      Hi Patty - Pollution is bad no matter where it exists. The American Indian descendants have lots of things pestering their overall health, problems that may even be related to their having ceased following their traditional diets and getting involved in "white man's food." For example, the Pima Indians (Arizona) on their reservation in Sacaton had an extremely high incidence of diabetes and kidney problems. It was definitely not caused by their ancient diets of sajauro cactus fruits and broiled rabbit. Those were long gone from the scene.

      Gus :-)))

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish MS 

      8 years ago from USA and Asgardia, the First Space Nation

      lord de cross - Thanks so much. I dislike seeing people suffer from toxic waste. I bought a can of coffee the beans of which had been proceesed on equipment using petroleum instead of vegetable oil for lubricants. I was very very sick from it. I caanot imagine the agony of the people exposed to heavier toxins.

      Earth Angel - A Big Thank You for sending me the link to the petition. I am praying that the remainder of the [aint sludge is removed more quickly than the timeline states. I hate poison.

    • Earth Angel profile image

      Earth Angel 

      8 years ago

      Dearest Number One Hubber Patty!

      GREAT Hub! The more exposure of long-term large corporate toxic dumping on sites belonging to Mother Nature and used by our First Nations the better!

      This nasty corporate practice has got to stop! Thank you so very much for shining a spotlight on this little known ~ but too common ~ practice!

      Blessings always, Earth Angel!

    • Lord De Cross profile image

      Joseph De Cross 

      8 years ago from New York

      Very well documented Patty. Is a shame that slurs and racial stigmas are still en vogue in this millenium. Thanks for the information!



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