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Trump's Border Wall Will Damage Sacred Indian Burial Grounds

by Countable | 8.8.17

President Trump’s proposed 2,200-mile border wall along the Mexican border would cut right through the reservation of the Tohono O’Odham Nation, including land that is sacred burial ground. It’s just one of many Trump administration policies that are affecting Native Americans.

The Tohono O’Odham Nation, which spreads out across 62 miles of the U.S.-Mexico border in Arizona, has hitherto tried to accommodate border security concerns: the tribe currently allows a fence, and border patrol agents, to operate on its land. However, as Tom Perez, the head of the Democratic National Party wrote in an L.A. Times op-ed, the tribe "adamantly opposes Trump’s barricade."

On August 1st, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that, in building prototypes for the wall, the DHS would use the broad authority granted to it by Congress to, as Countable reported, "waive a host of environmental and land management laws standing in the way of building the border wall."

Border security is joined by concerns about energy security: Native American reservations make up only 2% of the U.S., but contain almost a fifth of the nation’s oil and gas reserves, and vast swatches of coal.

Since Donald Trump’s election victory, his advisors have pushed for the privatization of Indian lands and resources. Currently, tribes have the right to use the land – drilling and collecting profits – but they do not own it. In December, a month before Trump took office, Rep. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), a Cherokee tribe member who co-chairs Trump’s Native American Affairs Coalition, proposed putting the 56 million acres of tribal lands into private ownership. "We should take tribal land away from public treatment. As long as we can do it without unintended consequences, I think we will have broad support around Indian country."

Broad support was not as forthcoming as Mullin predicted. Tom Goldtooth, a member of the Navajo and Dakota tribes, and head of the Indigenous Environmental Network, said, "Our spiritual leaders are opposed to the privatization of our lands, which means the commoditization of the nature, water, air we hold sacred. "Privatization has been the goal since colonization – to strip Native Nations of their sovereignty."

And in May, Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior, called for an "off-ramp" to current policy, saying that “If tribes would have a choice of leaving Indian trust lands and becoming a corporation, tribes would take it.”

Some see this as similar to the "Termination" policy of the Eisenhower-era, that lasted into the mid-1960s; as the L.A. Times explained, “Indians were paid to dismantle their sovereign governments and relinquish their lands.” Perez, wrote, “Every president since Nixon has embraced a policy of ‘self-determination without termination’ — the idea that Native Americans are best equipped to govern themselves. Trump is breaking with this position.”

Trump’s budget proposal also calls for around $300 million in federal cuts to the U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Indian Affairs. This number includes $64 million from education programs, $22 million from economic and community development initiatives, and $21 million from Indian country law enforcement. When Trump signed an appropriations bill in May, he questioned the legality of programs that provided "benefits on the basis of race, ethnicity, and gender."

What do you think? Should U.S. security concerns trump Native American tribal rights? Should Native American lands be put into private ownership? Are policy changes needed to boost energy production, as the Trump administration has claimed? Hit the Take Action button and make your thoughts known.

—Josh Herman

(Photo Credit: Steve Hillebrand / Creative Commons)

Countable

Written by Countable

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(96)
  • Joanne
    08/08/2017
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    I think the Native Americans and THEIR lands should be left alone. Haven't we done enough in our history to hurt them. We don't need a wall which won't do anything anyway. What we need is respect for America and ALL its people not only the rich and the white.

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  • Jo
    08/08/2017
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    It's wrong, plain and simple! This is and should always remain sacred land. This man has no conscience and doesn't give a hoot about anyone but himself and perhaps his numerous families. Shame on his being president. The president is supposed to represent the people of this country, which he does not.

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  • Linda
    08/09/2017
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    Why are we talking about spending 1.6 billion on a wall that won't even work?!? Does anyone really think this money will go anywhere other than into the back pockets of friends of politicians??? This is the biggest, grandest pork scheme ever conceived. Put this1.6 billion of OUR money towards health care! Create a path to citizenship for people who have been living here peacefully and contributing to our economy for years and years.

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  • Claude
    08/08/2017
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    Marco continues to claim that government should not waste tax payers money. Stand up and be counted VOTE NOT TO FUND THE WALL

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  • Chelle
    08/08/2017
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    Why is it that tipping over tombstones in a cemetery is DESECRATION but the TOTAL DESTRUCTION of indigenous cemeteries (burial grounds) is considered "progress" and not given a second thought!! How can this be viewed through a different lens? If there were "socially recognized" burial markers and a church nearby that would be so different...but why! Why is that different? Please explain it to me like I'm a 4 year old (140 characters or less!)

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  • Meghan
    08/08/2017
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    The solution is simple, we do not need a wall.

    Like (8)
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  • Elizabeth
    08/08/2017
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    Please do NOT let Trump build a wall and for sure not through sacred burial grounds. We have stolen enough from our Native Indians there is no need to add to it. I also personally feel strongly that building a wall is not the answer to illegal immigration "problem". Again I ask you to please do NOT support this wall for any reason!!

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  • Jackie
    08/09/2017
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    This whole wall business is one big joke. We do not need the wall. Trump just wants wall as shrine to himself

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  • Happyinvegas
    08/08/2017
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    Trump's proposed border wall should be put down faster than any of his other "promises" to his base which is dwindling despite his ongoing pep rallies (he seems to have no clue as how to speak to all Americans). His campaign promises are riddled with lies and deception. What happened to infrastructure? Americans (or anyone else for that matter) should not have to pay for such an ill conceived plan!!

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  • Holly
    08/08/2017
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    We don't need this wall. You know this.

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  • Tyson
    08/09/2017
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    The wall is a bad idea in many different ways.

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  • Pamela
    08/08/2017
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    Vote NO - we don't want a wall, we don't need a wall, and we will vote you out of office if you support it.

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  • Eileen
    08/08/2017
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    So when does the balancing the budget, creating jobs, and "I'm not taking a vacation" start? Most ridiculous, asinine, and bogus use of taxpayer money! Maybe shut down trump tV?! Looking a lot like RT Russia these days!

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  • Jacob
    08/09/2017
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    The border wall is a disgrace and we need you to oppose it with every fiber of your being.

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  • Marylynn
    08/09/2017
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    The Liar in Chief doesn't care about the Native Americans, he only cares about money. I bet if this wall went through one of his country clubs, he'd be raising the roof stopping it. He doesn't have a clue about what's sacred. He worships money, period, end of story. He'll never be presidential, he doesn't know how to be anything other than a bully, con-man and liar. Let him pay for the wall himself, after all he's always claiming he's a billionaire....

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  • Gary
    08/08/2017
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    Anyone who hAs ever seen this land , understands just how fake this scared burial ground bull is. The fence will protect the Indians just like everybody else, wanna bet that it will all turn out swell if the tribe gets some money for the access.

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  • Julie
    08/09/2017
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    This is ridiculous and you know it! The emperor has no clothes on. Put country over party and stop this blatant waste of resources.

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  • Katharine
    08/09/2017
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    This is completely unacceptable. Would you want someone building on top of a cemetery or church where your relatives were buried?

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  • Lillian
    08/08/2017
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    We have stolen native homelands enough already! The greed of the wealthy and the lack of concern about the environment inherent to their "drill baby drill!" attitude is beyond comprehension. Native Americans deserve reparations from the white people, not more cheating, lying and thievery. No wall, dammit!

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  • KansasTamale
    08/09/2017
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    The House should be ashamed & embarrassed that they actually sent a bill to the Senate to "pay" for this idiotic wall. The wall is going to do nothing except damage to our country & environment. IF MEXICO DOESN'T PAY FOR THD WALL. THERE MUST BE NO WALL.

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