- Associated Press - Sunday, February 9, 2014

MAHWAH, N.J. (AP) - The Ramapough Lenape Indian Nation will again provide the backdrop for a Hollywood script when a television series premiering this month wraps its story line around a Native American community that is similar to the tribe.

But outreach to the community from the show’s creative team and cast may help soften opposition to the project - a stark contrast to the outrage that a recent film incited from both tribe members and local officials in Mahwah.

Tribe members - who live in enclaves in Mahwah, Ringwood and neighboring New York State towns - say they have historically been portrayed as substance abusers who live outside the law. And they routinely have been stigmatized as poor and uneducated.

The Sundance Channel’s fictional program, “The Red Road,” comes on the heels of the movie, “Out of the Furnace,” that prompted two lawsuits protesting the tribe’s portrayal - one a $50 million civil complaint from 17 members of the Ramapough community - and a public outcry from local officials about the December film.

Several tribe members said they are reserving judgment about “The Red Road” until its Feb. 27 premiere on the cable network, which will soon be renamed SundanceTV.

Ramapough Chief Dwaine Perry told The Record of Woodland Park (http://bit.ly/1jnZPtZ) that having a tribe member as a consultant on the production of “The Red Road” is one positive.

“I was pleased that they would ask our consideration, but if it has racial overtones, I would find it offensive,” said Perry, who spoke with the show’s creators.

Autumn Wind Scott, a Ramapough living in Toms River who worked as the consultant on the series, said the six episodes will leave viewers wanting more.

“It just shows, in terms of contemporary native culture, the love and tenderness and traditions that survive and how they have been modified in a modern society . (which) is admirable given what the tribe is up against,” she said.

Wind said the series’ writers were “generous enough” to include as a “sub, sub, subplot” the toxic pollution caused by an old industrial plant’s contamination of the tribal land - an event that mirrors what occurred in the mountains of Upper Ringwood when Ford Motor Co. dumped paint sludge from its Mahwah factory, which the Ramapoughs have called environmental racism.

The 17 tribe members who filed the civil lawsuit about “Out of the Furnace” - Perry is not among them - were primarily concerned with being portrayed in a false light;the movie uses DeGroat and Mann, two common last names among the Ramapoughs, for characters who are depicted as violent, drug abusers and lawbreakers.

“The Red Road” centers on a police officer who struggles to keep his family (a recovering alcoholic wife and two teenage daughters) together while policing Walpole, a town outside New York City where he grew up that includes a mountain area that is home to a federally unrecognized Native American tribe.

The tribe and the rest of the town folks are divided. And the police officer, played by Martin Henderson, must deal with several issues: finding a New York University student who took a cab to the mountains and went missing; his teenage daughter and her unapproved relationship with a “Lenape” boy; his wife’s emotional problems that are in part caused by her brother’s death as a teenager when he was hanging in the mountains with tribe members; and a former high school classmate and ex-con, played by Jason Momoa, who mysteriously returns to his mountain neighborhood - and with whom Henderson’s character forms an uneasy partnership.

The story line will unravel over six, one-hour episodes, but the trailer has begun airing and is available on the Sundance Channel’s website.

Lydia Cotz, the attorney who filed the civil suit about “Out of the Furnace,” said some of her clients “have communicated to her that they have seen the trailer” and they feel it’s “offensive.”

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