Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

October 16, 2012

Tohono O'odham government kept secret plan for US spy towers on tribal land

Tohono O'odham government kept secret tribal resolution allowing Border Patrol to view 14 O'odham sites for US spy towers

By Brenda Norrell
Censored News copyright

US spy tower on Tohono O'odham land south
of Sells, Ariz. 2007
Oct. 16, 2012
The US Border Patrol has targeted the Tohono O’odham Nation with spy towers at 14 potential sites in three districts, according to a tribal resolution that opened the door for a massive network of US spy towers on tribal land.

Tohono O’odham members fighting against the militarization of their lands, and abuse of O’odham by US Border Patrol agents, say they were never told of the tribal resolution which initiates the process of these US spy towers on sovereign Tohono O'odham land.

The Tohono O’odham legislative council passed a resolution in April, which was signed by Tohono O‘odham Chairman Ned Norris on April 16, 2012, granting access to US Border Patrol officials for initial site visits in three districts. Since the Tohono O’odham Council does not allow outside news reporters in its council sessions, information often remains secret.

The April tribal resolution describes the Integrated Fixed Tower Program. The resolution says the 180 feet towers would remain subject to the laws of both the US and the Tohono O’odham Nation. These laws include environmental, cultural resources, realty and other laws.

However, during the building of the border wall vehicle barrier on the Tohono O’odham Nation, all federal laws were waived, including US environmental and cultural laws. The remains of O’odham were dug up and removed by Boeing workers.

This is the second time that Homeland Security approved spy towers on the US/Mexico border and on Tohono O'odham land. The first $1 billion boondoggle on the border was halted when Homeland Security said the wifi and surveillance towers did not work. Those towers were contracted to Boeing, with a subcontract to the Israeli defense contractor Elbit Systems who also provides spy technology and security at another border known for Apartheid, the Palestine border.

In the tribal resolution, the Tohono O’odham Nation agreed to allow the US Border Patrol to visit three districts with the intent of constructing spy towers at 14 potential sites. Those districts are Chukut Kuk, Hickiwan, and Gu-Vo districts. Two council delegates opposed the spy towers.

The resolution states that after district approval, the towers must be approved by a second tribal council resolution. Then Border Patrol must proceed with other compliance regulations, including NEPA, 106 NHPA and environmental laws. All US and tribal laws must be adhered to before construction begins on the towers, states the resolution.

However, already at least two US spy towers have been constructed on Tohono O’odham land. Earlier, one was constructed south of Sells. The latest one is also south of Sells on Tohono O’odham land, on the border at The Gate.

Tohono O’odham living on their homeland have reported constant harassment and abuse by US Border Patrol agents to the United Nations. The abuse by Border Patrol agents includes beatings, spying on women at night, holding women at gunpoint, driving at high speeds and endangering O’odham safety, and terrorizing O’odham communities with threats, intimidations, physical and verbal abuse. Tohono O’odham reported the abuse to the UN Rapporteur on Indigenous Peoples during an April session in Tucson.

The US Border Patrol also plans a massive Border Patrol complex on Tohono O’odham land in Pisinemo District, with Border Patrol agent dormitories, helicopter launch pad, horses and dogs. It was kept secret from Tohono O’odham community members until the draft environmental impact statement was reported by Censored News in September.

Nationwide, hundreds of Border Patrol agents have been arrested for crimes in recent years, including rape, murder, conspiracy and drug running.


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