In light of Trump’s presidential win, Tohono O’odham Nation tribal leaders said they would refuse to support building a border wall on their land.
“Over my dead body will a wall be built,” Verlon Jose, the tribe’s vice chairman, said in an interview with local radio station KJZZ. Jose said he invites Trump to visit the reservation to see why a physical border wall would not be a good idea for the tribe or the country.
Without the tribe’s support, Trump could be forced to accept a 75-mile-wide gap in his wall.
Federal law requires the Bureau of Land Management to consult with tribal governments before making any changes to land use, as the Huffington Post noted. Trump’s only option for building a wall on the land would be through a stand-alone bill in Congress that would have to condemn the land and remove it from the trust for the Tohono O’odham nation, which is recognized by law as an autonomous tribal government.
Amy Juan, an O’odham tribe member and co-founder of the Tohono O’odham Hemajkam Rights Network, said a border wall would be “devastating,” not only for the tribe but for the animals, wildlife and water that flows across the border. It would make it even harder for tribe members to visit and care for burial sites in Mexico.
“The effects would be bigger than ourselves,” Juan said in an interview with The Washington Post. “As a people, as a community, it would be a literal separation from our home. Half of the traditional lands of our people lie in Mexico.”
Today, 28,000 members occupy Tohono O’odham land in southwestern Arizona, according to the tribe’s website. Nine O’odham communities in Mexico lie directly south of the 2.8 million-acre Tohono O’odham Nation. Much of the land is separated only by the border.
And while it’s impossible to imagine Donald Trump cares about Native Americans in any conceivable way, trying to force the border wall down their throats would only add to the cacophony of protest already rising in the throats of millions of Americans.