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Chuck Stead, PhD, is a 2015 graduate of the PhD Program in Environmental Studies at Antioch University, New England

Dissertation Chair : Alesia Maltz, PhD

  • Committee Member: Charlene DeFreese, Sub-Chief, Ramapough Lenape Nation
  • Committee Member: Michael Edelstein, PhD
  • Committee Member: Tania Schusler, PhD

Document Type

Dissertation

Publication Date

2015

Abstract

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.

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Chuck Stead

ORCID® Identifier

http://orcid.org/0000-0002-3482-8135