Tohono O'odham Demand Halt to Construction of Border Wall

by July 18, 2008

On Thursday, July 10, the O'odham Solidarity Project issued the following call to mobilize against the proposed U.S.-Mexico border wall, which will cut through the heart of the Tohono O'odham's traditional territory (among others').

With the April 1st announcement by the Department of Homeland Security to suspend thirty six federal laws (list of laws found here) to finish the border wall by the end of 2008, the border threatens to destroy the O'odham way of life, their traditions, religious practices, sacred sites, and pilgrimage routes, notes the Washington times, USA Today. There are a host of environmental concerns aswell.

For more news and background please visit the O'odham Solidarity Project website and theNo Border Wall blog


The Traditional Tohono O'odham Indigenous People Demand a Halt to the Construction of the US-Mexico Border Wall and the Destruction of Indigenous Nations.

The following press release was issued by the O'odham Solidarity Project:

The Tohono O'odham Nation has the second largest reservation recognized by the United States, with territory and members on both sides of the US-Mexico political boundary in the states of Arizona, US and Sonora, Mexico. As original people of the territory, the Tohono O'odham have lived on and cared for that land long before such a boundary even existed; before there was a US or a Mexico. Now, however, the construction of the border wall along the entire US – Mexican border is splitting border communities and Indigenous nations alike, including the Tohono O'odham.

The construction of this wall will destroy the Tohono O'odham way of life (their traditions and religious practices), not to mention the many rights sworn to the O'odham people that are being violated. Tohono O'odham elders and traditionalists maintain their legacy through oral history, conducting natural ceremonies that include offerings to the land and sea. They also use manyplants and environmental resources of the region as a source of food and medicine. But, many of these sacred ceremonies take place in Mexico.

"This Wall and the construction of this Wall has destroyed our communities, our burial sites, and ancient O'odham routes throughout our lands. The entire International border has divided and displaced our people," says Ofelia Rivas, a representative of the traditional Tohono O'odham in Washington D.C. “The Wall is also severely affecting the animals. We now see mountain lions going into areas where people live because of the Wall.”

The right of the O'odham to travel freely and safely via these traditional routes in their territory has previously been guaranteed under United States, Mexican, and International Law. The US government's American Indian Religious Freedom Act of 1978 acknowledges rights for the O'odham people that the construction of the US-Mexico Border Wall directly violates. By restricting the mobility of the O'odham people, the Wall prevents the free practice of their religion and their cultural traditions. Further, rights granted by the United Nations universalDeclaration of Human Rights, the Declaration of Human Rights for Indigenous Peoples, and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man are also being ignored due to a waiver issued by the US Department of Homeland Security. Under this document, the President claims the power to waive any and all environmental and Federal Indian laws in order to build the Wall in the name of national security.

The US-Mexican border policies and the Wall have also increased the military presence within the O'odham lands, further affecting their lives and communities.

"This Wall has militarized our entire lands," states Ofelia Rivas, "We, as original people, are now required to answer to United States armed forces as to our nationality on our own lands." Ofelia Rivas, herself, was once asked, at gunpoint, to produce identification to establish her right to be on lands that she was born on and her ancestors lived on since before Columbus.

Ironically, the increase in militarization of the US-Mexican Border has coincided with the rise of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) that went into effect in 1994. Supporters at the time said NAFTA would decrease immigration and bring good paying jobs to Mexico but the exact opposite has happened.

“Many of the people crossing from Mexico into the United States are indigenous people and families,” says Ofelia Rivas. “They tell me that under these free trade agreements they can no longer farm and make a living.”

Under NAFTA it has become easier for commercial goods to cross the border than people, especially the Tohono O'odham. This is illustrated by a striking example told by Mrs. Rivas:"An O'odham elder and her daughter were interrogated and watched by United States Border Patrol guards as they collected traditional O'odham food in the desert."

Ofelia Rivas is in Washington, D.C. today with members of many different Indigenous nations and allies who have walked from San Francisco, California across the continent to Washington, D.C. This group calls their march “The People’s Walk” not only for the sovereignty of Indigenous nations but also for the protection of sacred sites, plants, and animals.

Thus, ordinary O'odham people and elders and their allies are issuing a call to action against the construction of the US-Mexico Border Wall. "As original peoples of these lands,” says Ofelia Rivas, “we protest the violation of the thirty seven federal laws by the April 1, 2008 Waiver by Secretary Chertoff."

For More Information Contact:
O'odham VOICE Against the Wall and O'odham Rights Cultural and Environmental
Justice Coalition: Ofelia Rivas (520) 471-3398,,
The People’s Walk:
Earthpeoples: Rebecca Sommer: (718) 302-1949,

  • big dong
    July 18, 2008 at 4:52 pm

    this is a joke right?? nobody is that stupid to make these obviously fake staements about the O'odham peoples right?
    the mexiacns are killing the indians and this person in the story doesnt realize that? balony story!!


    • ray
      October 28, 2009 at 11:58 am

      "big dong or dog"whatever your name is
      dude you need to just shut up everything your saying
      is so stupid you dont even know anything.

  • July 19, 2008 at 1:46 pm

    Nonsense. Whatever's going on in Mexico does not negate this or any other issue facing the combined O’odham Nation.


  • Misty
    July 28, 2008 at 5:51 pm

    Hey Big Dong, you have a fitting name! I happen to be from the Tohono O'odham Reservation, born and raised. I know exactly what Mrs. Rivas is talking about I have also been harrassed many times by the U.S Border Patrol not to mention racially discriminated against. The border was put up and cut right through the Tohono O'odham Nation and now we have part of our tribe living across the border known as the O'odham in Mexico, now we're going to have a fence put up to keep them out? That's ridiculous that has to be a better way. I back Ofelia up all the way. She's also right about the militarization of our lands, on my way down from Phoenix to my home in Pisin mo'o, I can count 30+ Border Patrol vehicles on the drive down. Then while I'm there visiting it feels as though we're in a Prison Camp, we can't go for drives on our own land without getting pulled over and interrogated. Just hanging out in backyard, Border Patrols canvas the area multiple times, slowly driving by while staring and watching your every move. No type of privacy it wasn't this bad when I lived back at home 10+ years ago. I get pulled over on my way back up to Phoenix everytime, Racial Profiling. Now, I find myself not visiting home as often as I used to, for the inconvenience. So Big Dong, you shouldn't comment unless you know what your talking about.


  • August 1, 2008 at 9:21 am

    For the record, BD, I'm not posting your reply to misty. It's inflammatory, obscene, and quite frankly, I don't for a second believe you're O’odham.


  • big dong
    August 4, 2008 at 11:29 pm

    good that u can censor the peoples responces. but its sad that u have to post repies to your own article using different postnames.

    I am genuine, dont worry about that. I hope you realize how weak your lies are becoming.
    Rake it in while u can O. the people are watching.


  • August 5, 2008 at 6:26 am

    Again... nonsense. I just refuse to approve garbage talk. If you have something genuine to say, then say it and I will approve it. Finally, I always post using the name Ahni.


  • DesertDog
    October 27, 2008 at 11:10 pm

    Not only will this wall seperate the ancestary homes and lands of the Tohono O’odham people, It will close off the corridors that many animals, including jaguars, mountain lions, ocelots, bobcats and many more from moving freely across the land.


  • LakotaWicasa
    November 27, 2008 at 3:07 am

    Big Dong you are the joke not only do you not know about the Tohono O'odham but you know nothing about Indian people at all. All of us Indian tribes have sacred lands that are tied into our culture and we are being deprived from it in some way. Here in South Dakota, us Lakota people are being deprived of our sacred Black Hills from us and leasing them out against or approval to non-Indian people. This is a violation of one of the two treaties the government signed with us allowing us the Black Hills. Now the government is trying to give us millions of dollars for our sacred lands that we can't use anymore. Our lands ARE NOT for sale. We have stupid people coming in their and cutting down trees and destroying plants that are medicinally significant and culturally significant to use. So grow up and learn more about us Indians not just the Tohono O'odham but all tribes in general.


  • a mad T.O
    January 8, 2009 at 11:42 am

    hey im tohono o'odahm when you people come to our reservation and see what we go threw then i would like to hear what you have to say, the white man makes it hard, you came here with out our permission so what gives you the right to tell us what to do with our lanc


  • jules
    April 15, 2009 at 12:32 pm

    I wonder what people would think if we put them a day in our shoes? a day on the reservation, a day near the border, a day in the desert. Would they survive? Someone so use to a burger king, sonic or fry's. Or having air conditioning, heaters and carpeting in their homes. Free from rattlesnakes, trantulas and natures of the desert, would you survive? Every time I go thru border patrol, they ask the same stupid question "Are you a citizen of the United States?" NO! i'm a natural born O'odham raised here! Not like mose border patrol, military or cops who are from "back east" or california. We should be asking them "State your hometown and why are you here?"

    Many O'odham have been harrassed, embarrassed, abused and even killed by border patrol because they don't understand us, they don't take the time out to understand us. I definately feel sorry for the Mexicans they apprehend. They probably get treated worse than O'odham do when we drive, walk or run on our own land.

    I visited my grandmother's house one weekend, we were sitting outside eating morning breakfast. I counted 28 border patrol vehicles passing by on the highway in 20 minutes at a high rate of speed. I dont' know where they were going since the border is a mere 10 more miles and they can't go much further. We were getting ready to leave early the next day from my sister's house a border patrol vehicle followed us into her yard and parked with the headlights shining on us. I walked towards the vehicle to let whoever know they weren't welcomed into the gated fence. As I neared the vehicle they turned around and went out of the gate, when we left and got back on topawa road the vehicle was parked on the side of the road and moved behind us as we passed. If we made a sudden stop they would've rear ended us. We were followed all the way to sells but were never stopped. So tell me does this happen in the city? where you live comment #1? I could go on and on with border patrol, military stories that only the o'odham know, but this website isn't built to house a book about these ungrateful people.


  • Windtalker
    April 15, 2009 at 8:50 pm

    I had thought that things would get better with a tribal person as president but you brother say things are getting worse?is this correct please send a comment back about the truth of the situation we don't always get the truth all the time and we meaning all tribal people on turtle island would like to know more if under Obama treatment to tribal people have been getting better or worse.


  • Leadhorse
    April 30, 2009 at 1:53 pm

    If anyone knows Ofelia Rivas let her know Leadhorse will be coming as soon as possible! I am going through the canada border and coming back through on the first of june with no passport but my tribal id. I dont need a passport to walk on our homelands! I do agree with her and will be coming that way soon. Let her know our prayers are with her and the Tohono O'odham nation,Lipan Apache,and the Kickapoo tribe. Tell her to say hi to dav and del for me. Leadhorse of the People's walk(Choctaw)


  • Leadhorse
    April 30, 2009 at 2:16 pm

    Please everyone dont forget to always stay reminded about the Real I.d act which is being used for this all to take place which take all birthright and constitutional rights away from everyone. I will be there and hope to have frybread with you guys when i get there aye Leadhorse


  • Kevin
    August 31, 2009 at 1:20 pm

    I know the B.S. the Tohono O'odham have to put up with. The Border Patrol hired a bunch of kids and gave them badges,cars and guns.
    I personaly put roofing nails were they go so I can at least pay them back. It's hard to drive with a flat tire.
    God help the Tohono O'odham from the U.S. gov..


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