President Donald Trump wants to build a wall across tribal lands? “Over my dead body,” the Tohono O’odham Nation’s Vice ChairmanVerlon Jose told Tucson.Com back in July.
His colleague, Tribal Chairman Edward Manuel added:
“We have animals that migrate back and forth, and when you start affecting one animal, it’s going to change the entire ecological system. The plants that grow here rely on some of those animals, the animals rely on each other and we have to rely on all those in order to survive in our way of life.”
Another Standing Rock-style resistance against our encroachments on Native American land may be brewing.
Plus, the border wall issue isn’t just about the flora and fauna. The U.S.-designated Tohono O’odham Nation is located in the Sonoran Desert in south central Arizona. But the actual tribe — with its members and historic lands — extends south into what is now Sonora, Mexico as well.
In 1854, Mexico sold parts of what we now call Arizona and New Mexico to the US in a treaty known as the Gadsden Purchase. But no one ever bothered to consult the Tohono O’odham before cleaving their territory it in half.
Former Tohono O’odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Junior told Congress back in 2008, when the Secure Fence Act of 2006 sought to replace the barbed-wire border fence with metal posts:
“We are older than the international boundary with Mexico and had no role in creating the border. But our land is now cut in half, with O’odham communities, sacred sites, salt pilgrimage routes and families divided.”
Even the waist-high metal posts and added border patrol agents have caused major hassles that interfere with hunting, ceremonies, and visiting fellow tribe members in Mexico. Then, on Weds. the non-popular-vote-winning President Donald Trump signed an executive order to begin building that wall.
On Thursday, the Tohono O’odham Nation declared there’s no way in hell they’ll let Donald Trump build a border wall across the 75 miles that lie on their land. In their statement, they wrote:
The executive order signed yesterday was done without consultation with the Nation or many other border communities. As a first responder on the border, the Nation invites the new President to visit so that in depth discussions can be held on the impacts of such actions.
They closed by assuring that the Tohono O’odham Nation takes border issues “very seriously” and will keep working closely with U.S. agencies as they have for decades. But they won’t allow a border wall to be built.
The Independent adds members of the 28,000-member tribe object to the “militarization” along the border.
[They] have said they are frequently assaulted or threatened by border guards and impeded in visiting relatives south of the border…
…in practice people living there say they are afraid to hunt on their own land or even let their children ride the bus to school because of harassment by security agents.
Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-Ariz.) warns that the Tohono O’odham Nation will mount a stiff legal challenge against Donald Trump’s White House.
“He is going to have a very serious and prolonged battle with the O’odham people. They know what’s at stake is their sovereignty.”
Other Native American tribes along the U.S.-Mexico border — including the Kumeyaay (Calif.), the Kickapoo (Texas), and the Cocopah (Arizona) — report similar issues and may resist further militarization and occupation of their lands.
Audra Antone, vice chair for the Arizona Democratic Party’s Native American Caucus and organizer with Arizona’s Gila River Indian Community added:
“It’s divide and conquer again. We need to stand our ground as Native American people. We’re going backward if we do not stand up and fight.”
Watch: Tohono O’odham Nation challenges Donald Trump’s wall along the Mexican border.
Andrew Gordon, an Arizona attorney who worked as counsel for the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security during the Obama administration also told NBC Donald Trump’s basically walking into a legal quagmire.
While the U.S. owns the actual border, the rest is sovereign tribal land.
“These are Native lands and the president doesn’t have the unilateral power to take those lands away. That dispute is either going to get resolved in the courts or in congress.”
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