Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

February 28, 2018

O'odham Ofelia Rivas at Ward Valley -- 'Border Tower Construction Threatens Burial Place'

Ofelia Rivas and Earl Tulley at Ward Valley on Saturday. Photo courtesy Ofelia Rivas.

O'odham Ofelia Rivas at Ward Valley -- 'Border Tower Construction Threatens Burial Place'

Article by Brenda Norrell
Audio recording by Earl Tulley, Dineh
Censored News

WARD VALLEY -- Ofelia Rivas, O'odham, spoke at the Spiritual Gathering celebrating the Victory at Ward Valley, describing how the integrated fixed towers planned on the Tohono O'odham Nation will dig into a burial site of her people.
"We have been defending our land for a very long time," Ofelia told Mojave, Colorado Indian Tribes, and others gathered to celebrate the victory of halting a nuclear dump here 20 years ago.
Ofelia said defending the land is something one feels, and the people are not taught this.
"We are all sacred people," Ofelia said.
She said the destruction to the land is "very damaging to who we are."
O'odham used to be called Papago.
"We call ourselves, O'odham, the People."
"O'odham live on both sides of the international boundary."
Because they live on the international boundary, they continue to have to deal with the border and U.S. Border Patrol when they have  ceremonies, and go about their daily life.
Ofelia shared how she met Bradley Angel, among the organizers who helped halt the Ward Valley nuclear dump.
She described how sacred ceremonial grounds in Quitovac, Sonora, Mexico, were targeted with a chemical waste dump.
"We did stop that."
The O'odham elders, traditional people, depleted land permits and stopped this chemical dump on sacred land.
It was a traditional and ceremonial movement.
'It became a big movement through the borderlands community."
During the actions by traditional O'odham, the movement stopped traffic on the main federal road in Sonora, Mexico to make their point.
Describing O'odham land, she said the Tohono O'odham Nation has 74 miles of international border. Two districts are on the border.
"I come from one of those districts."
"We are the farthest from everything." She has to drive 136 miles just to get groceries.
She lives less than quarter mile from the international boundary.
"There's a lot of talk about a wall, a lot of talk about different things."
When they constructed the vehicle barrier near her house, "We told them not to disturb areas."
They disturbed an O'odham burial site and removed the remains of ancestors. Then, they back-dated the remains to be 1060 AD, attempting to say those remains were not O'odham.
"I am a direct descendant."
"We were able to get the remains returned and reburied."
Now, 15 integrated fixed towers are planned on the Tohono O'odham Nation.
The construction of these towers will mean digging 60 feet into that same burial site, where the ancestors were removed.
She said her district, Gu Vo District, is the only district opposing the 15 towers.
"We are being bullied by our own tribal government."
She asked for support to halt the towers.
Ofelia's website, The O'odham Solidarity Project will have a petition to stop the Environmental Assessment. It says the tower construction will have no significant impact.
Ofelia said she asked the U.S. Border Patrol how many towers are planned for the US and Canadian borders.
The Border Patrol said the plan is for only 15 towers on the Tohono O'odham Nation.
Ofelia closed by saying how happy she was to be here on Sacred Land to support the people here.

Listen -- Audio Ofelia Rivas speaking, followed by Black Mountain Birdsingers. Audio by Earl Tulley.

Read more at Censored News:
A Nation of Bullies: US Israeli Spy Towers Targeting Sacred Tohono O'odham Land

New article on the tower structures 'Assessing Surveillance ...'

EPA knew of hazardous waste dump near U.S./Mexico border
by: Brenda Norrell (June 2006)
QUITOVAC, Mexico - While O'odham in Mexico were never told about a planned hazardous waste dump being permitted in their sacred ceremonial community of Quitovac, documents show the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency knew about the dump nearly one year before O'odham in Mexico were informed.
O'odham in Mexico did not learn of the hazardous waste dump near the United States border until April 2006. Mexico had already issued state and federal permits for the dump in 2005, without notifying O'odham.
The EPA, however, knew of Mexico's plan for the hazardous waste dump as early as the summer of 2005, according to EPA reports.

La Cholla Hazardous Waste Dump was later halted by protests and actions.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, Censored News

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