Akuy Eenda Maawehlaang: The Place Where People Gather
By Brooklyn Demme
This is a film about the Ramapough Lenape Nation, and their homeland struggle in Mahwah, NJ.
Prior to European colonization, the Ramapough Lenape Nation welcomed neighboring peoples from across the region to join them at Akuy Eenda Maawehlaang, their sacred gathering space, at pivotal moments in history in order to reach important political decisions together.
Akuy Eenda Maawehlaang means “The Place Where People Gather” in the Munsee language, spoken by Lenape people from present-day Long Island to New Jersey, and beyond. Today, in Mahwah, New Jersey, a Sheraton Hotel stands in the place where people gathered.
In recent decades, Ramapough people have gathered elsewhere in Mahwah: specifically on a 14 Acre plot of their ancestral land, returned to them in 1995. However, since they put up Tipis in support of Standing Rock, the township of Mahwah has made it illegal for Ramapough Lenape people to use their land — specifically for prayer.
After several hundred years of genocide, the Ramapough Lenape people remain, and their struggle for survival continues. I have been doing my best to document this story, and to share it far and wide. The government is attempting to out the indigenous people whom we should be listening to — as is the case in so many other places in the world today.
The movement against the Dakota Access Pipeline at Standing Rock was not solely grounded in efforts to protect the land against poisonous oil leakage.
Ladonna Brave Bull Allard, founder of Standing Rock’s Sacred Stone Camp explains:
The U.S. government is wiping out our most important cultural and spiritual areas. And as it erases our footprint from the world, it erases us as a people. These sites must be protected, or our world will end, it is that simple. Our young people have a right to know who they are. They have a right to language, to culture, to tradition. The way they learn these things is through connection to our lands and our history.
This is what is happening to the Ramapough Lenape Nation of Akuy Eenda Maawehlaang (The Place Where People Gather), also known as Mahwah, NJ.
In December of 2016, I accompanied my father Jonathan Demme (JD) to Standing Rock in order to document the work of the water protectors defending life on earth.
Our intention is for this film to raise awareness of the Ramapough Lenape Nation so that we as a society can listen to and support them in their spiritual, cultural, and linguistic practice and preservation.
Distribution for this film remains unclear, and will likely be a challenge that we face.
YOUR SUPPORT FOR THIS FILM WILL BE INVALUABLE TO MANY WHO HAVE SUFFERED AT THE HANDS OF COLONIZATION. OUR FIGHT CONTINUES, AND THIS FILM SHINES A SPOTLIGHT ON ISSUES THE INDIGENOUS PEOPLE OF NORTH AMERICA AND THE WORLD FACE ON A DAY TO DAY BASIS.