A New Jersey town is going to court to ask a judge to order a Native American tribe to remove teepees from a conservation zone.
In court papers filed this week, Mahwah demanded the Ramapough Lenape Nation "cease and desist all use of the property'' in violation of the township's zoning ordinance.
The Ramapoughs on Thursday issued a statement defending their right to free speech and assembly and the tribe erected the teepees to protest an oil pipeline that is expected to run through northern New Jersey, the Record reported. Chief Dwaine Perry says he does not consider the teepees "structures''. Perry and others maintain that they will not remove the teepees.
"They're denying people the right to assembly,'' Perry said. "We've been on this land for a quarter century and now it's an issue?''
The Ramapoughs say they are also standing in solidarity with Native Americans challenging the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota.
Township officials say the tribe's 14-acre property is being used as a place of public assembly and as a campground. The town says the only permitted uses are open space, agricultural, single-family homes and municipal facilities.
Teepees, tents and the canvas cabin on the property all violate local zoning law.
The structures were discovered after township officials responded to parking and noise complaints from a nearby upscale housing development called the Polo Club. In December, Mahwah officials issued two summons that claimed the tribe failed to obtain permits for their structures.
Since then, township officials say the tribe has continued to build, even after receiving denials for zoning requests.