In addition to upending crucial wildlife protections, the Trump administration has been blowing up sacred Native American burial grounds to erect its border wall between the United States and Mexico.
According to a report by The Washington Post, the construction work has been taking place in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in southwestern Arizona, which as well as being a National Monument, has been a UNESCO biosphere reserve since 1976. It is the only place in the USA where the rare organ pipe cactus can be found growing in the wild and provides refuge for many other plants and animals adapted to its extreme desert environment.
In addition to being home to unique flora and fauna, grounds within the National Monument have connections to a number of Native American groups, and include sacred burial grounds of the Tohono O’odham Nation, who have lived in the Sonoran desert of southern Arizona and northern Mexico for centuries.
Despite this, controlled blasts are being carried out on Monument Hill, where the Tohono O’odham Nation have buried warriors, to make way for Trump’s divisive wall.
“Where they were blasting the other day on Monument Hill is the resting place for primarily Apache warriors that had been involved in battle with the O’odham. And then the O’odham people in a respectful way laid them to rest on Monument Hill,” said Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee and Representative for Arizona Raúl M. Grijalva in a video statement.
“That region has been inhabited by people and species for millennia.”
Grijalva told CBS News that he had contacted the Department of Homeland Security, imploring them to stage a consultation with the Tohono O’odham Nation about the matter, but they did not act upon his request. “This administration is basically trampling on the tribe’s history – and to put it poignantly, its ancestry,” he said.
The government’s actions may seem illegal, but they're not thanks to the 2005 REAL ID Act, which allows them to waive laws if they hinder national security policy. That means in the construction of their border wall, the Trump administration can ignore numerous laws put in place to protect America’s unique wildlife, natural environment, and native peoples.
"They're our ancestors. They're our remnants of who we are as a people, throughout this whole area. And it's our obligation, it's our duty to do what is necessary to protect that," said Ned Norris Jr, chairman of the Tohono O'odham Nation, BBC News reports.