Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Native Americans complain graves dug up for border fence

[Source: Tim Gaynor] -- Members of a traditional Indian nation spanning the Arizona-Mexico border are complaining that work to put up a new barrier to secure the border has desecrated an ancient burial ground. The U.S. Border Patrol is building a 75-mile (120-km) vehicle barrier across the Tohono O'odham nation lands next to Mexico's Sonora state, in a bid to stop drug and human traffickers driving across from Mexico in trucks and cars. The barrier is made of closely set steel posts sunk in concrete, and is being built in close consultation with tribal authorities. It replaces a rusted, barbed wire fence that stretched across the vast, cactus-strewn tract of desert where the tribe has lived for generations. The tribal government said on Friday that "human burials" dating from the 12th century were found at two sites during preparatory work on the footings for the fence, and say the discovery was handled correctly according to protocols developed with the U.S. government.

But members of five traditional families who say they are directly descended from the dead, complained that their removal is a desecration of a site they hold sacred. "It is a place where our ancestors have slept for many, many years, and someone just dug them out of their graves and put them in little bags in storage," said Ofelia Rivas, a traditionalist who lives in the tiny, cactus-ringed village of Ali Jegk, Arizona, just yards (meters) from the Mexican border. The Tohono O'odham nation, whose name means "Desert People," reaches up to Casa Grande in the north, a few miles (kilometers) south of the state capital, Phoenix, and stretches across the international line into Mexico, where some members live in nine scattered communities. The tribal government said in a news release that the areas in which the human remains were found were among 11 archeological sites identified by the tribe that lie in the path of the barrier. [Note: To read the full article, click here.]