Column: The Tohono O'odham nation needs to fight the wall

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Donna Burton | Public Domain

The U.S.-Mexico southwest border fence line in Arizona in January 2011. New border wall construction would split the Tohono O'odham nation even further. 

When President Donald Trump announced his plans for the border wall, the Tohono O’odham tribe was outraged. The border wall that Trump wants to build would be a physical wall travelling through 75 miles of the Tohono O’odham reservation, which would split their land in two, leaving some of the tribe’s land in Mexico. The tribe criticized the government’s lack of communication before President Trump signed the executive order.

In the Tohono O’odham language, there are no words for “citizenship” or “wall.” The tribe calls themselves the “desert people.” The tribe has about 34,000 enrolled tribal members with an estimated 2,000 of them living in Mexico. They currently control 2.8 million acres of land in Arizona and a smaller portion of land in Sonora, Mexico.

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The Nation provides care for sick immigrants, and they have paid more than $2,500 for autopsies of dead immigrants that were found. The deaths were mostly from dehydration. The reservation has somewhat of a wall now, but it still is considered one of the busiest drug smuggling corridor. It is also a popular place for immigrants to travel through.

Since Trump became president, he’s been in headlines every single day because his actions haven’t been the greatest. Along with his border wall proposal, he attempted—and failed, thanks to Congress—to put in effect a travel ban.

The Tohono O’odham tribe isn’t the first Native American group trying to protect their land. The Sioux tribe in North Dakota, to this day, is still fighting to protect their sacred land at Standing Rock. They’ve been protecting their ancestral land against the controversial Dakota Access Pipeline.

Every action that Trump takes makes me question if he really is pushing for white supremacy. It sure does seem like it. He has attacked almost every racial group and has had seemingly no regrets. He wonders why the media criticizes and condemns him, and yet, he makes these decisions that he must know will put him in the spotlight.

The Tohono O’odham Nation recently released a video highlighting their opposition against the wall. Chairman Edward D. Manuel is featured with other members of the tribe. They focused on important topics, such as how the wall will have impacts on the environment, their culture and how it will split their nation further apart. Right now, they can walk to a well to get water and go to ceremonies in an efficient time. Adding a border wall will only complicate things more.

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The current border wall on their reservation has three gates, which are opened for family reunions, ceremonial purposes and religious pilgrimages into Mexico.

Monte Mills, co-director of the Margery Hunter Brown Indian Law Clinic at the University of Montana, told the New York Times that, in order for a wall to be built on the tribal land, it must be an act from Congress. He also said that, in order for Congress to partake in a “detailed consideration of tribal interests,” the Supreme Court has to consider whether it’s appropriate to act in ways that will impact the Native Americans. 

As Americans, we should support the Tohono O’odham Nation. As Americans, we should be taking a stand with the Native American community.

Before the United States existed, the Americas belonged to the Native Americans. They were forced to give up their land and be colonized. They were abused by the Europeans, and to this day, they are still being abused by the power of the government.


Follow Aurora Begay on Twitter.



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