Destruction of a Native American burial site and a UNESCO recognised natural reserve began this week, in order to make way for President Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall. The site is home to rare species, and sacred burial grounds of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who were not consulted before demolition and blasting began. In order to construct the wall on burial grounds, Trump waived the Native American Graves Protection Act. Concern has also been raised over the damage being done to the underwater aquifer and desert wildlife.
Congressman Raúl Grijalva, Chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources, whose district includes the reservation, states that “there has been no consultation with the nation,” as reported by CBS News. Grijalva goes on to say, “This administration is basically trampling on the tribe’s history — and to put it poignantly, it’s ancestry.” Laiken Jordahl, who works with the Centre for Biological Diversities, has said that construction crews “butchered” Monument Hill, by clearing “a large swath of land.” A report from the National Park Service states that the creation of the wall will destroy over 20 archaeological sites within the Organ Pipe region, says the BBC.
The Trump administration is bypassing Native American protection laws, by enacting the REAL ID act of 2005. The act allows the government to ignore certain laws in the interest of national security. Grijalva has noted that the current administration has invoked the act a total of 16 times. On the 15th of February, activists and Native American tribes protested the construction of the wall and destruction of sacred land. Tohono O’odham tribe member, Aundre Cipriano, told Phoenix News he felt disrespected, and that his elders who are buried on Monument Hill were being disrespected too.
The construction of the border wall was a significant selling point of Trump’s election campaign. The wall is believed to halt illegal immigration into the United States, a core principle of his election and government. In 2019, a construction crew working on the border wall at Organ Pipe found human bones, thought to belong to the Tohono O’odham Nation. Leaders of the O’odham Nation have struggled to fight against construction as the land no longer belongs to the tribe. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) have dismissed claims that construction is having a damaging effect on the desert ecosystem, named a biosphere in 1976. CBP have stated that an “environmental monitor” will monitor the clearing.
While the land of Organ Pipe no longer belongs to the O’odham Nation, it remains an important site to Native Americans. The final resting place of Native Americans is being blasted and destroyed to make way for Trump’s election promise. Acknowledgement needs to be made by the Trump administration of the significance of the land, that is making way for the wall.