Tohono O’odham Nation leaders are calling the “controlled blasting” that Donald Trump’s Department of Homeland Security is conducting along the border adjacent to tribal land a violation. This follows reports that contractors hired by Customs and Border Patrol were blasting away at sections of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. The bombing area, while not a part of the Tohono O’odham Nation’s lands, is a site that has been identified as “a burial ground for Apache warriors.” This is all being done in order to build a 30-foot, 63-mile-long wall to separate the boundary between Arizona and Mexico. Tohono O’odham Nation officials says they have not been consulted in any way on this change in tactics by the Trump administration.
The effects on the environment and to the land in general are being “monitored,” according to Customs and Border Protection. But this means little considering that the Trump administration has used waiver rights, allowing DHS to quickly move ahead with zero need to follow any regulations or rules put in place by our government.
Waiving environmental oversight has become the norm for this administration. Laiken Jordahl, an environmental activist, called the Trump administration’s actions “a total desecration of Native land.”
Over the years, a tense negotiation has taken place between the Tohono O’odham Nation and the government over border security on their land. At every step, Tohono O’odham Nation has fought for less of a border patrol presence, while always being dead set against the actual construction of a border wall. However, Tohono O’odham Nation land is a place where “illegal trafficking” exists, something tribal chairman Edward Manuel said was also a threat to his nation’s autonomy. In May, the Nation agreed to allow a “virtual wall” to be built, consisting of monitoring towers with infrared video feeds that border patrol agents could view remotely.
Mother Jones reports that U.S. Customs and Border Protection says the demolition will continue “intermittently” until the end of February.
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