Food sovereignty and food justice are at the forefront of our efforts to help heal and to rebuild the sense of community that has almost all but vanished from mainstream life in America, especially in indigenous and people of color community’s.
In 2019 myself and Michaeline co-created the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm which is a for profit business that does non profit work.
When we created the farm we did so with the intent to be able to realize food sovereignty in our Turtle Clan community who for the last 56 years has lived and still does in a toxic federal superfund site known now as the Ringwood Mines “Community” Superfund Site.
Our goals were to provide clean healthy traditionally grown food that we then would distribute throughout our community at no cost to them. We also looked at this as a means to create funding to bring justice to our people in the form of holding those accountable for their actions, as well as their inactions.
The Turtle Clan has endured untold deaths from cancers, and live with a plethora of health ailments as well as loss of culture due to the lack of clean land in which to farm, hunt, fish, and gather upon.
This has also led us to create a non profit called The Ramapough Culture and Land Foundation, which through a partnership with Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm could take on multiple challenges at the same time.
From food sovereignty to the creation of jobs for the community to healing of the spirit and the physical through medicinal foods and rebuilding of our culture and traditional ways.
This then led us to reach out to and to partner with land conservancy’s to protect our ceremonial stone landscapes, burial grounds, village sites, and to also eventually acquire these sacred lands to hunt clean deer, and forage for wild edibles as well as medicinal plants.
All of these things also led us to realize that food justice for underprivileged communities should also be a high priority for us as we understand that most if not all of these community’s are people of color, which in turn they are also indigenous people as well.
We also are fighting to protect the waters of the Wanaque Reservoir from the toxic waste disposed on and in our community allowed by the municipality of Ringwood NJ, to the permitting of dumping the industrial waste by the State of New Jersey. This reservoir delivers sacred water to 4 to 6 million people a day. We are also lifting those people up by creating Food Justice as well, we realize this is also our inherent responsibility as the original inhabitants of this land.
Though all of these endeavors are important in the here and now the lack of financial support slows our progress, but we are never disappointed or discouraged by this as we also understand that our prayers are always answered and a way forward is always provided to us as long as we keep our focus and stay on our paths.
Thank you for this opportunity to share with you all, who, where, and what we are, and to possibly open a pathway to yet another great partnership in healing and lifting up all our relations…..
Chief Mann & Miss Mikie
Vincent Mann is the Turtle Clan Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, which encompasses Passaic and Sussex Counties in New Jersey, as well as Warwick and surrounding areas in New York. Since 2008, Chief Mann has tirelessly worked to help his community survive and fight back in light of the Ford Motor Company’s toxic dumping on the Ringwood Mines superfund site. He is also currently co-creating the United Lunaapeewak to restore Lunaape culture and provide educational opportunities across the region. Chief Mann is a Trustee of the Highlands Coalition and a former member of the Ringwood Mines superfund site’s Citizen Advisory Group (CAG). He recently co-founded the Munsee Three Sisters Medicinal Farm with Michaeline Picaro to create local jobs but more importantly to bring back food sovereignty to his Clan. He works with many universities on projects related to his people, including the NYU and Ramapo College Environmental Science programs, the Price Institute at Rutgers Newark, and Design program at Rutgers New Brunswick. The Russ Berry Foundations awarded Chief Mann their highest honor for being an Unsung Hero for his efforts, even though he maintains that the true Unsung Hero’s are the citizens of the Turtle Clan. Chief Mann regularly lectures on environmental justice and the importance of indigenous knowledge. Chief Mann gives land acknowledgments across New Jersey and New York in honor of his ancestors and offers up prayers for humanity and for our natural world.
Michaeline Picaro is a member of the Turtle Clan of the Ramapough Lunaape Nation and has recently organized a new community garden space in Northern New Jersey with her community. She is a mother, artist, nurse, and healer. Her concern for the effects of industry and the depletion of farming fields on the environment has forwarded her interest in plants in terms of whole systems approaches to community farming as well as holistic health, wellness, and spiritual connectivity. Picaro’s nursing, holistic/energy healing, and art backgrounds have allowed her to experience different modes of thinking in terms of healing and education and encouraged her continuing journey with natural medicine for healing and food foraging. Her work stems from early native medicinal teachings from her father combined with spiritual teachings from being and sitting with nature at an early age. These teachings became a way of life, including the daily connection of listening, watching and practice of all that Mother Earth teaches.