In the United States, teams responsible for building the Trump Wall have begun destroying sites of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in the Sonoran Desert. An operation denounced by the Tohono O’odham tribe who considers these sites to be sacred.
While the justice system recently authorized President Donald Trump to use $ 3.6 billion (around 3.2 billion euros) to build his wall on the border with Mexico, the project is at the heart of a new controversy . In Arizona , valuable sites are currently being destroyed to allow the construction of a new portion of the barrier.
It was a congressman, Raul M. Grijalva, who sounded the alarm in a video posted on social media a few days ago. He explained that he had recently visited the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a park which borders the border, and that he had found that the teams had started to attack several sites, including one known as Monument Hill.
The problem is that the Organ Pipe Cactus region, located in the Sonoran desert, contains a double treasure. Since 1976, it has constituted a biosphere reserve known worldwide for hosting rare plant and animal species. But the National Monument is also reputed to house sites considered sacred by the neighboring tribe of Tohono O’odham.
However, it is precisely some of these sites that the construction teams began to destroy with explosives. Among them is Monument Hill, a hill where the O’odhams ” buried with respect ” the members of other tribes they fought, including Apache warriors.
A barrier across 70 km of the park
Interviewed by The Washington Post , authorities confirmed the work. ” The construction company has started controlled blasting in preparation for the construction of the new border wall system within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain, ” said a spokesperson for US Customs and Border Protection (CBP – Customs and Border Protection).
” Controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently throughout the month, ” he said. According to project officials, the objective is to erect a 9-meter-high barrier that will cross almost 70 kilometers of the national park. If the CBP ensured carrying out an ” environmental surveillance ” during the works, the tribe of Tohono O’odham it would not have been consulted, denounces Raúl Grijalva.
The congressman said he sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in early January to express ” serious concerns ” about the construction project. He called for urgent consultation with the Tohono O’odham Nation. ” I have no response to any request, ” he told CBS News .
” There has been no consultation involving the nation. This government is simply trampling on the history of the tribe – and to put it bluntly, its ancestors, ” he continued, calling the destruction in ” sacrilege ” course ” course. In addition to the burial sites present on the site, archaeologists have recently identified places sheltering artifacts and bones dating back up to 10,000 years.
Partly “massacred” landscapes
According to a report obtained by the Washington Post last year, the construction of the wall could affect up to 22 archaeological sites within the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. And not only, as specialists who worry about the impact that operations will have on the unique and preserved ecosystem of this region of Arizona have deplored.
Laiken Jordahl, specialist at the Center for Biological Diversity working on border issues, visited the site. He found himself faced with slaughtered cacti and bulldozers. Construction crews ” massacred ” parts of the mountain, he told the Washington Post . ” It has completely changed – a strip of land has disappeared in the middle .”
While this destruction has sparked protests, it is not illegal. The Trump administration is exploiting a little-known law, called the REAL ID Act of 2005, which allows the government to override certain laws if they are considered to impede national security. Including laws protecting Native American funeral sites, natural areas or endangered species .
This possibility has already been used several times for the construction of the wall. ” Of the 21 times that the waiver has been ordered since 2005, 16 have occurred in the past two and a half years ,” said Raúl Grijalva in his letter to DHS. In Arizona, the construction of the wall would have been all the easier if the state had many public lands, unlike Texas for example.
The elected democrat who is also president of the House Committee on Natural Resources, a committee of the House of Representatives dealing with issues related to natural resources and their exploitation, said that a meeting would be organized at the end of the month to assess the impact of the wall on indigenous communities.