Trump’s Border Wall Blasting Through Burial Site for Tohono O’odham Nation in Arizona

The Trump Administration has begun blasting through a Native American cultural site called Monument Hill in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southern Arizona “in preparation for new border wall system construction within the Roosevelt Reservation,” USA Today reported on Friday And Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who is the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and whose district contains the reservation and shares 400 miles of border with Mexico, told CBS News that the Administration had begun the construction without any consultation with the Tribe about the impact it would have on this sacred burial site.

Why This Matters:  Congressman Grijalva said it best.  “This administration is basically trampling on the tribe’s history — and to put it poignantly, it’s ancestry.”  It is, sadly, an all too familiar pattern of disrespecting Native American culture — last week it was oil and gas drilling and other destructive development in former national monument areas they shrunk, and now it’s the border wall.  Not to mention that the area has been designated a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in order to conserve its unique and precious ecosystem. And it goes without saying that once these areas are permanently desecrated — you can’t “repair” them and you can’t undo the damage to the ancestors of those Americans whose families had been laid to rest there.  This is truly shameful.  To use our national security laws to destroy native burial grounds without warning or due process is a new low.

Why Can They Do It?

A little known law passed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks called the REAL ID Act of 2005 gives the federal government the nearly unchallengeable right to waive other laws IF they are harming our national security.  Using the REAL ID law authority, the Trump administration has gone beyond its intended scope and has waived dozens of laws including the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, the Endangered Species Act, and the Environmental Protection Act in order to construct the border wall. CBS reported that construction of this segment of the border wall has been expedited in Arizona due to an abundance of public land on which to build it, as contrasted to Texas where the border wall must be built on private land, which is harder to acquire.  U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement, “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.”

What They’re Destroying

The Roosevelt Reservation is a 60-foot-wide swath of federally owned land along the border in Arizona — and the Monument Hill site straddles the reservation and Mexico.  Construction began on clearing the 60-foot swath for the border wall last August.  To clear the site the contractor is moving certain plants such as the saguaro cactus that are endemic to the Sonoran desert to other parts of the monument.  The tribe has documented its use of the area going back hundreds of years. According to one expert, “This hill, from the information we’ve been able to gather, was used by Hia-C’ed O’odham for religious ceremonies…This is also a place when the Apache were raiding out here — if the Apache warrior was killed, his body was placed on this hill.”  Monument Hill is one of several sites of archaeological and cultural significance to the O’odham people that will be destroyed by the border wall construction, according to azcentral.com.

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