Tohono O'odham Chairman: Graves destroyed by border wall construction


Photo Brenda Norrell
Photo Brenda Norrell

Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., testified during a Congressional hearing in Texas that border wall construction in Arizona plowed through graves. Previously, the Tohono O'odham Nation worked alongside Homeland Security and kept silent about the violations of federal law, including the plowing up of human remains. Still, Chairman Norris isn't revealing all about the removal of the ancestors' bodies by Homeland Security and the graves destroyed by the contractor Boeing on O'odham land.

Tohono O'odham Chairman testifies that border wall construction violates federal law, destroyed graves

By Brenda Norrell

BROWNSVILLE, TEXAS -- Tohono O'odham Chairman Ned Norris, Jr., testified at a Congressional hearing that the construction of the border wall has plowed through the graves of the Hohokam and fragments of human bone have been found in the contractor's heavy equipment tracks.
"Imagine a bulldozer in your family graveyard," Norris testified at the Congressional field hearing on April 28.
"In the words of the U.S. Supreme Court, Indian tribes predate the United States. We are older than the international boundary with Mexico, but our nation is now cut in half."
Norris said the Tohono O'odham Nation has repeatedly "partnered" with Border Patrol to construct border vehicle barriers in places instead of walls, and allowed federal spy towers and checkpoints. However, the federal government has failed to uphold the standard of federal law.
Norris said Homeland Security's desire to move forward with inflexible time guidelines has damaged the environment and cultural areas.
Norris testified that the contractor, Boeing, has destroyed graves, cultural sites and created a barrier of the Tohono O'odham ceremonial route.
When the Tohono O'odham Nation acted to delay construction of the border wall in endangered jaguar territory, the construction continued as planned, despite promises to the contrary.
"I am here to urge you to restore the rule of law," Norris said, adding that the price being paid is too high for the people and their ancestors for the border wall.
"Today it is as if Congress never passed NEPA," Norris said, referring to the National Environmental Policy Act. "We support border security, but not at the price that is now being paid."
Norris said the US/Mexico border crossed the Tohono O'odham people and their land. Today, the border construction has divided a salt pilgrimage route and Tohono O'odham families.
"We didn't cross the 75 miles of border on our reservation, the border crossed us."

Watch video from South Texas border wall hearing:
Includes: Representatives of the Department of Interior, the U.S. Border Patrol, the City of Eagle Pass, Texas, the Tohono O'odham Nation, and the University of Texas, Brownsville, remark on the merits and demerits of border fences and walls.

Photo: Construction of border vehicle barrier on Tohono O'odham land south of Sells, Arizona. Photo Brenda Norrell

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