TUCSON, Arizona — To stand at the edge Quitobaquito Springs — an oasis of cattails, dragonflies, turtles, and fish — is to behold the miracle of water in an otherwise dry expanse of desert. It is also to stand on a sacred stopping point along a special coming-of-age pilgrimage for young Tohono and Hia Ced O’odham men, who run from the dry lands of the Sonoran Desert to the Sea of Cortez to gather salt for food preservation, healing, and trade. Now, a new border wall threatens that ritual — along with dozens of other ceremonial or sacred desert sites for the O’odham people.
Construction of the 30-foot steel fence began in September in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, 516 acres of federally protected pristine Sonoran Desert landscape (including Quitobaquito Springs) and UNESCO International Biosphere Reserve. That construction destroyed swaths of desert plants, among them saguaro cacti, which the O’odham consider ancestors. On Monday, February 10, construction crews blasted Monument Hill, a significant burial ground along the southernmost edge of the monument.
“It’s hurts. It hurts very much,” said Amy Juan, a member of the Tohono O’odham Nation and the Tohono O’odham Hemajkam Rights Network (TOHRN). “We’re O’odham. We’re named after this place. We are literally ‘desert people.’”
The Tohono O’odham Nation is a federally recognized tribe with land and members on both sides of the US-Mexico border. Though managed by the Department of the Interior, Organ Pipe occupies part of the tribe’s traditional land.
Ned Norris, Jr., chairman of the Tohono O’odham Nation, has denounced the border wall, and in January, visited the impacted area with Arizona Democratic Congressman Raul Grijalva, chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources. Both have requested information from the Department of Homeland Security and Department of Interior about how the project will respect cultural resources.
A July report by the National Park Service, originally released to the Washington Post, identified over 22 significant archaeological sites within Organ Pipe that the construction would threaten. According to the Arizona Daily Star, Customs and Border Protection said this week that an environmental monitor will be at site of the controlled blasting to safeguard “culturally sensitive artifacts.”
The new wall was a central promise of President Trump’s campaign for office, a measure he believes will halt illegal immigration into the United States. Prior to the new wall, the border within Organ Pipe was delineated by a pedestrian fence and vehicle barricades.
“Until the Trump administration, no one in that region was saying we need a bigger wall. They were saying we need boots on the ground or technology on the ground,” Kevin Dahl, Arizona program manager for the National Parks Conservation Association, told Hyperallergic. “It’s a false narrative that this wall will provide security. This is a fence that can be climbed over in seconds.”
To build the wall, the Trump administration has overruled at least 41 state and federal laws — including the Native American Graves Protection Act, Archeological Resources Protection Act, National Native American Religious Freedom Act, along with numerous environmental laws. “They’ve steamrolled the O’odham people and the National Park Service and failed to consult with tribes in their push to ram this through,” said Laiken Jordahl, borderlands campaigner for the Center for Biological Diversity.
In a series of dispatches from Organ Pipe and other public lands on the border, Jordahl has been documenting the impacts of wall construction. “We’re trying to convey to the world that the border region is not what we hear in the media — it’s not a barren or desolate place, it’s full of life,” Jordahl said. The destruction of the landscape in Organ Pipe, he says, is “an erasure of cultural and natural history.”
Juan agrees, but says she’s heartened by her community’s resilience and their recent mobilization. “Since I was 8 years old, I’ve seen a gradual militarization and occupation by the government on our land. At the heart of it, we are the truth of this land and there’s no denying this. We have this connection. We’ve always been here.”
An extraordinary variety of artists came to Jon Swihart and Kim Merrill’s backyard potlucks, discussing not just their work, but also the events and challenges of their lives.
With A Lion for Every House at the Art Institute of Chicago, Floating Museum riffs wildly on the art rental programs of some museums.
The Newark Museum of Art Presents Jazz Greats: Classic Photographs from the Bank of America Collection
Photographers Antony Armstrong Jones, Milt Hinton, Chuck Stewart, Barbara Morgan, and more capture a breadth of legendary and local musicians and performance artists. On view through August 21.
A Thing for the Mind takes Philip Guston’s 1978 painting “Story” as a starting point to examine the myriad ways in which this piece has filtered into the work of other painters.
An Oakland librarian and a French teacher in Oklahoma City collect ephemera they discover in returned and used books, from photos and recipes to love letters.
Art and photographs, publications from the 19th and 20th centuries, manuscripts, posters and more are set to cross the auction block on August 18.
Until you’ve seen a place for yourself, it’s a bit of an abstract idea. So why not ask Artificial Intelligence to create your travel poster?
Incarcerated people will be allowed to read Heather Ann Thompson’s 2016 Blood in the Water, except for two pages featuring a map of the prison.
The long-lost painting resurfaced at the upscale Urban Gallery in Tel Aviv, sparking the anger of Palestinians.
“Guests in love, please understand — most of the exhibits in our museum are objects ‘born’ many years ago and subject to completely different moral standards,” said the Fort Gerhard museum in a statement.
This week, the Webb space telescope wows, übernovels, crappy pigeon nests, the problem with “experts,” and much more.