Washington, D.C. – Chair Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.) sent a letter to Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad Wolf expressing concern that the agency’s failure to consult with the Tohono O’odham Nation on the construction of the border wall is disrespectful and threatens tribal lands and sacred sites.
Among other sites at risk, the Trump administration’s planned border wall runs close to Quitobaquito Spring in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, which is of great cultural and historical importance for the Tohono O’odham. Current border wall construction in the monument has unearthed ancient human remains that would otherwise be protected by the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act.
The Tohono O’odham Nation traditional homelands run from west of Tucson, Ariz., south to the Gulf of Mexico. By sidestepping legally required tribal consultation to build the border wall, the construction drastically impacts Tohono O’odham territory and is an extreme example of the Trump administration’s failing its federal trust responsibility.
The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has the highly controversial, broadly sweeping authority to waive environmental and tribal consultation laws as part of its overreaching border security program. Trump’s DHS has used this waiver authority a shocking 16 times over the course of the last two-and-a-half years, more than three times the amount it has been used in all other administrations combined.
“Imagine how we’d react if a hostile government dug up Revolutionary War soldiers’ remains without consequence or stole our groundwater while they thought we weren’t looking,” Grijalva said today. “The Trump administration is treating the Tohono O’odham Nation like a speed bump instead of a sovereign nation, just as it does with Native American communities across the country, in order to bulldoze opposition and get what it wants – a wall to create division. Their strategy is to ignore legally mandated tribal consultation and destroy sacred sites if they’re in the way, and that strategy has to be challenged.”
The Tohono O’odham Nation has been outspoken against Trump’s efforts to build a border wall through their traditional homelands and has worked hard to maintain a good relationship with local agency staff.
“Tribal members have told me during visits on their land, ‘Congressman, we don’t want a wall,’ and sending this letter is the first step to holding this administration accountable for actions that should not be occurring on sacred land,” Grijalva stated.
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