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  • People in Mexico wave at U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback.

    People in Mexico wave at U.S. Border Patrol agents on horseback. | Photo: Reuters

Published 30 January 2017

The Tohono O'odham tribe has historically crossed freely between the two nations.

The second-largest Indigenous tribe in the United States has vowed to block President Donald Trump’s U.S.-Mexico border wall which, if constructed, would cross through its ancestral lands.

“It’s going to affect our sacred lands. It’s going to affect our ceremonial sites. It’s going to affect the environment. We have wildlife, and they have their own patterns of migration,” tribe member Bradley Moreno told the Guardian.

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“There are just so many things that are wrong with this. The whole idea behind it is just racist.”

The Tohono O’odham Nation is a federally recognized tribe with a 75-mile-long reservation that crosses the U.S.-Mexico border in present-day Arizona. Its members – of which there are currently over 28,000 – have historically and freely crossed between the two nations, as they recognize no artificial borders.

In a recent statement, the tribe blasted the White House for not consulting it before signing the executive order. The nation also warned that it would bring another Standing Rock to this administration’s doorstep if they went ahead with construction.

The tribe has historically crossed freely between the two nations, encountering nothing more than chicken-wire fence for ranching or a metal rod at the border, at most.

Ironically, only since the signing of the North American Free Trade Agreement in 1994 – whose neoliberal agenda purported to open up the borders for trade between the two countries – has the border been more strictly patrolled and regulated. Subsequent events, like the attacks of 9/11 and the entrenchment of neoliberal politics, has further militarized the border.

“So, hand in hand, these issues are impacting us that are not necessarily O’odham issues, but the global context is now pushing that militarization on our land," Moreno told Democracy Now! In 2014.

The result has been ongoing harassment for decades, which includes frequent assaults and threats by border guards, nightly helicopter patrols and military-style drone surveillance. People are therefore hesitant to hunt on their own land or even send their kids to school on the bus, in fear that they may be harassed by border agents.

That’s why the tribe is standing firmly against Trump’s plan to build a wall, whose financing he plans to extract from Mexico by imposing importation taxes on goods coming from there.

Other tribes along the border, including the Kumeyaay in California and the Kickapoo in Texas, as well as the Cocopah, also in Arizona, have all discussed in the past how to collectively oppose border security, which members have argued violate their economic, political, social and cultural backgrounds, the Independent reported.

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Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva has also warned of the consequences of Trump building the wall without the Tribe’s permission.

“He is going to have a very serious and prolonged battle with the O’odham people...They know what’s at stake is their sovereignty,” he told the Guardian.

According to Moreno, many tribe members are already planning “direct action” strategies to fight Trump either in courts or on-site.

Audra Antone, an O’odham member speaking with the Guardian, explained, “It’s divide and conquer again. We need to stand our ground as Native American people ... We’re going backward if we do not stand up and fight."

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