(FamilyRetirementClub.com) – The Tohono O’odham Nation, a sovereign Native American tribe in southwestern Arizona, is not happy with U.S. Customs and Border Protection. That’s because the tribe claims the agency’s officials recently destroyed a sacred site of the tribe when they were blasting a mountain in preparation for the border wall construction.
But Border Protection officials say they did a survey of the region before the blasting that found “no biological, cultural or historical sites” near the mountain where the blasting took place. The tribe says otherwise, claiming the mountain has “significant cultural and historical value.”
The mountain in question is called Monument Hill, which is located just to the west of the port of entry of Lukeville in Arizona on what’s known as the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument. Construction crews started blasting parts of the hill last week because it’ll allow officials to construct the new 30-foot bollards in place of what’s currently there — either vehicle barriers or wire mesh.
Customs officials insist the blasting is targeted and controlled. The plan is for the blasting to continue through the rest of the month.
The O’odham tribe and other environmental groups have strongly criticized the Border Patrol’s continued plans for blasting, calling for the agency to freeze all construction on Monument Hill as well on other sites within Organ Pipe. The agency has defended their actions, though, saying they took all responsible precautions before blasting began.
That included conducting surveys in both Cochise and Pima counties at the sites were construction was slated for the fencing, which sought to uncover any concerns relating to biological, cultural or natural resources.
The agency’s statement regarding the matter read, in part:
“Based on the environmental surveys and stakeholder coordination completed, no biological, cultural or historical sites were identified within the project area, which consists of the 60-foot wide swath of land that extends from the international border north and is known as the Roosevelt Reservation.”
The Tohono O’odham tribe contradicts those findings. They say there are several cultural and archaeological sites either near or in the Roosevelt Reservation, both along the Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge and the Organ Pipe.
Despite that, work will continue, with blasting set to take place within five feet of Monument Hill next to the Mexican border. This will be done “for the purpose of loosening rock in order to allow for the construction of a footer for the new border wall.”
In addition, Customs and Border Protection officials say they have had an environment monitor that has been on site for all the work. If the monitor believes they find any “unidentified culturally sensitive artifacts” during the construction, then they are to halt the work immediately.
Hopefully, that will put the fears of the Tohono O’odham tribe at bay, because it doesn’t look like their words will do much to stop the blasting that will pave the way for the border wall.