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Tohono O’odham Nation: ‘All These Areas Can Collapse’

September 15, 2019

Tohono O’odham Nation Members voice their objections to Trump's border wall and the disruption of the lives of the people and animals that have lived there for centuries

Tohono O’odham Nation Members voice their objections to Trump's border wall and the disruption of the lives of the people and animals that have lived there for centuries


Tohono O’odham Nation: 'All These Areas Can Collapse'

Story Transcript

VO: President Trump’s border wall appears to be moving forward, at a great cost to many. One group that is bearing this cost are the members of O’odham Nation. They are calling attention to the disruption of their lives, of their sacred places, and of animal migration routes that have been in use for centuries.
According to a Federal Government’s lawsuit to oppose delays in the completion of the border barrier, 44 miles of the 30-foot high border wall will be constructed in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, and San Pedro Riparian conservation area, which are Unesco-recognized biosphere reserves.
To find out how this project will affect native border communities and the ecosystem, we visited the town of Ajo, South Arizona. From there, a group of local native activists guided us to a small pond called Quitobaquito, inside the Tohono O’odham Nation in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, an area where the border wall is currently being upgraded and expanded.
Oscar Leon
TRNN
“This is the Quitobaquito area in Ajo Arizona. That right there, it’s Mexico.
And this right here is the old wall. They have, as we can see, it’s just a vehicle barrier. So trucks and cars can’t cross. But it does allow for animals to go under, across the border, for example to that water source we saw over there.”
VO: Quitobaquito is an oasis in the middle of the Sonoran desert, where people and animals have stopped, to drink from the pond and refresh in the shade, for centuries. It is a place where temperatures easily average 110 degrees Fahrenheit or more during the day, and as we later measured, 100 degrees Fahrenheit at night.
Amber Ortega
Tohono O’odham Nation
“Right here is where we have the border, the border barrier between the United States and Mexico, and right here is Quitobaquito.
So, this is 150 yards, this land that you see, the space you see is what they want to clear, in order to create this renovated wall and it would interrupt the life of the spring.
And it also like, the fear that we Hia Ced people have, is that it would not only interrupt the natural spring, but it would deplete, the drilling of… the drilling for the wells to complete the wall, would definitely interrupt the natural flow and life of this spring.
And us as Hia Ced people, we will not be alive we would not be here, if it had I’ve been for this spring, this spring is what provided the people, [with] water to irrigate their crops.
It’s what provided the people with water to build.”
VO: That could be a reason why, in this area, the border wall was just a small fence that allowed for people and animals to cross the border. The local wildlife includes javelina, coyotes, mountain lions, pronghorn sheep, owls, hawks, and 270 other species of birds and plants, including the magnificent Saguaros cactus.
Ortega and David both contend that to bulldoze a 150-foot corridor next to the wall, could irreparably affect the ecosystem of the area.
Nellie Jo David
O’odham Anti-Border Collective, Juris Doctorate
“This particular body of water is a sacred spring, for Hia Ced O’odham water is life and this spring has been the life, for plants, animals, all desert life and Hia Ced O’odham people.
It’s how our people survived out here and you know this very dry land, this is the one source of water that we would have.
But even drilling anywhere near Quitobaquito springs, it is a desecration to us, as Hia Ced O’odham people and to the land.”
VO: In fact, in this map provided by the Center for Biological Diversity, we can see the importance of Quitobaquito.
It is the only source in the area not only for water, but also for fish and potential hunting grounds, catching animals that are trying to drink.
For a nomadic group this would be the center of daily life. Now the area will be literally cut in half and all the animals in the southern area may face dire consequences.
Nellie Jo David
O’odham Anti-Border Collective, Juris Doctorate
“We saw, you know, before we came here, we saw plenty of footprints of animals.
And so it’s still very apparent that all of this all of the animals around here depend on this spring as as its life source.
And with Trump’s imminent wall, they started over in Lukeille and they’re working their way down here as we speak. And they’re not you know, though they’re not there yet.
But even drilling anywhere near Quitobaquito springs, it is a desecration to us, as Hia Ced O’odham people and to the land.”
Amber Ortega
Tohono O’Odham Nation
“It is frustrating to know that this is part of colonization and the classification part of genocide. This is part of corporate America.
You know, for us here, it is not about the next president. It’s not about policies, it’s about the land, it’s about the people. It’s about the history. It’s about the future, our future generations.”
VO: Ofelia Rivas is an elder of the Tohono O’odham Nation. She lives a couple hundred yards from the border, so she has seen the buildup of border enforcement up close.
Ofelia Rivas
Tohono O’odham Elder
“you know, the, because of Trump and really fast tracking the border, putting up the wall, and his all the funds that’s been diverted to build this wall. It affected us in a way that all these areas can collapse.
In part 2 of this story, we’ll review the ultra modern surveillance system being used at the border. Stay with The Real News for more on this issue.