Paulina Firozi, Washington Post, February 9, 2020
Construction crews began blasting sites within Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument as part of the construction of President Trump’s border barrier, and the affected areas include sites sacred to Native American groups, according to a congressman from Arizona and advocates.
The Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument is an internationally recognized biosphere reserve — meaning it has plants and animals so rare that the United Nations has given it a special designation. It includes about 330,000 acres of designated wilderness and is home to ancestral grounds sacred to the Tohono O’odham Nation, one of at least a dozen Native American groups that claim connections to grounds within the monument.
Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Ariz.), whose district includes the reservation, said crews this week began blasting through parts of Monument Hill, which includes a burial site for the Tohono O’odham Nation.
“The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain,” U.S. Customs and Border Protection said in a statement, according to the Associated Press. “The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month.”
Grijalva, chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, visited the location ahead of the construction and described the site in a video posted to social media. Monument Hill, where he said explosions are now occurring, is a site where members of the Tohono O’odham Nation have buried members of opposing tribes.
I just got back from the border.
This week, Trump blew up a sacred Native American hill on public land to build his racist wall.
— Raul M. Grijalva (@RepRaulGrijalva) February 9, 2020
CBP said there is an “environment monitor” at the blast sites, where there are also “on-going clearing activities,” but did not provide additional details, according to CBS News. CBP did not respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment and clarification about what sites are in the path of the blasts this month.
An internal National Park Service report obtained by The Post found construction of Trump’s wall could destroy up to 22 archaeological sites within Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.
Grijalva said he plans to hold a hearing this month on the border construction’s impact.
“There’s urgency, and time is of the essence in order to try to work with our friends in the O’odham Nation to preserve, conserve and leave the identity intact,” he said.