Buttonhook Forest , home to towering trees, sacred sites, and breathtaking wildlife. Nestled within Chappaqua, Buttonhook Forest is composed of 20.3 acres of untouched land. The forest is a safe haven for wild animals and plants native to the Northeast; wild bobcats, turtles, and owls can all be found residing in the forest as well as 676 mature trees. Aside from the astounding wildlife, the forest holds Native American sacred ceremonial stones.
Currently, the Chappaqua Central School District (CCSD) maintains ownership over the property. In 1973, the district purchased the land for $125,000 in anticipation of a demand for additional property to build schools. However, in 2010, the CCSD decided to place the property on the market where the land would be subdivided into six lots to be developed into multi-million dollar homes.
In response to the CCSD’s push to sell the property to developers, the Friends of Buttonhook (FoB) formed. The group’s main goal is to preserve the land which is home to abundant wildlife and sacred to First Nations communities.
On April 25, 2023, FoB held an Earth Day Celebration to fundraise to fight against the development of the property and shed light on a key climate issue occurring in Chappaqua. Starting at 6:30 PM and continuing well into the night, the FoB alongside the Brothertown Indian Nation celebrated Native American culture and honored the current fight to protect sacred indigenous land from development. In a moving presentation, a myriad of musicians, filmmakers, artists, and indigenous leaders spoke and shared their efforts to protect the Buttonhook property in honor of Earth Day.
Flutist Stephen Leonard teleported the audience with his arrangements played on a traditional Native American flute. His serene music underscored the importance of protecting the existing environment within Chappaqua and the beauty of the natural world. Likewise, filmmaker Tyler Chase presented a moving PSA about protecting the forest and the ancient ceremonial site which had been a part of Native American culture for thousands of years.
Despite the joy surrounding the event and the festive tone from many of the performers, there was an underlying sense of urgency and demand for action from all of the speakers. Poignantly, Chief Dwaine Perry, the elected Chief of the Ramapough Lenape Nation, highlighted the importance of saving the Buttonhook Forest. He cited that the first enslaved people in America were the Ramapough Lunaape people. Now, another genocide has been invoked upon them: through zoning and development of land, they are once again forced out of sacred land. Chief Perry discussed the importance of fighting for this land to be free from development and ruin – citing the preservation of Split Rock. Split Rock stretches 54.9 acres and is a sacred spiritual site for the Ramapough Lenape Nation. After centuries of being pushed off of this sacred land, in 2021, the Rockland County Legislature created a law that would protect this historical site. Chief Perry deeply emphasized the importance of continuing the fight to preserve Buttonhook Forest and protect this sacred space from undergoing another quiet genocide.