AbstractsMedical & Health Science

Ramapough/Ford The Impact and Survival of an Indigenous Community in the Shadow of Ford Motor Company’s Toxic Legacy

by Chuck Stead

Institution: Antioch University
Department: Antioch New England: Environmental Studies
Degree: PhD
Year: 2015
Keywords: American History; Animals; Ecology; Environmental Justice; Environmental Health; Environmental Science; Environmental Studies; Ethics; Native Americans; Native Studies; Toxicology; Wildlife Conservation; Ramapough; Ford; Paint sludge; Lead; Fordism; Saltbox house; Medicine garden; Toxic Legacy; Wounded Storytellers; Animal Speak; Ramapo Ironworks;
Record ID: 2059992
Full text PDF: http://rave.ohiolink.edu/etdc/view?acc_num=antioch1426460126


The purpose of this study was to examine the history of the Ford Motor Company’s impact upon the Ramapo Watershed of New York and New Jersey, as well as upon the Ramapough Munsi Nation, an indigenous population living there. In a 25 year span the automaker produced a record number of vehicles and dumped a massive amount of lead paint, leaving behind a toxic legacy that continues to plaque the area and its residents. The Ramapough people are not unlike many native nations living in the United States who have experienced industrial excess. This study examines the mindset that allows for marginalizing portions of society as a part of standard business protocol and considers the dynamic of the `Wounded Storyteller’ as a tool of survival engaged by the native community. Just as in ecological restoration the ecologist must work within an adaptive environment, narratives of recovery adapt to the wounding of tradition and emerge anew to a place of recovery. The Ramapough Nation has become the proverbial `canary in the mine shaft’ being on the front line of lead paint sludge contamination. Their struggle to survive and to remake their lives can offer modeling for other communities beset with similar environmental contamination. This is an environmental justice issue that knows no racial boundary and will find its way into the general public. The author having grown up among this community is well versed in the history of discrimination as well as the dismissal of their native heritage on the part of academic institutions. He is also a person of the land and from his childhood witnessed Ford dumping in the watershed as well as the years of illness among the people. This study looks to dispel some of the myth around the community and shed light on the level of exploitation by industry, regulators, and politicians. While this is primarily an historical account there is an element of participatory research engaged here, as the author has worked with the community and students in the building of an Environmental Research Center designed to focus on recovery in the watershed and community. The electronic version of this Dissertation is at OhioLink ETD Center, www.ohiolink.edu/etd.