Saving O’odham Jeved


Land defenders circle the Quitobaquito Sacred Spring in an act of resistance and protection of their homelands. (Russ McSpadden

André Souza, Managing Editor

Early on in Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, one of his main talking points was the border wall. He claimed it would stop drugs and crime from entering our country, and declared that Mexico would pay for it. As many people continued to point out, this was incredibly racist and nationalist, and stoked the flames of xenophobia in America. While this campaign promise didn’t really do much to curb illegal immigration, it did bring harm to many Americans of Mexican or Central American descent. Instances of racism towards those groups of people have risen since the current president took office, and 45 not only ignores it, but seems to condone it as well.

However, there is another group of people who are also continuously affected by the building of the wall on the southern border. The Tohono O’odham Nation have inhabited what is now called the Sonoran Desert since time immemorial, and are now being split by a relic of white supremacy. The construction of the border is beginning to impede on their right to move freely throughout their land. Similar to the split of Berlin in the early 60s, families are being divided, people are being cut off from their places of work and worship, and others are being forced to choose a side to stay on. Even worse, the construction of the wall is disrupting and destroying many O’odham sacred sites like Quitobaquito, the sacred springs on Hia-Ced O’odham land. The US-Mexico border was placed less than 50 meters from this desert spring, and the continued traffic of semi and work trucks has cracked through the clay that holds the water in the spring.

The government has also started drilling into the aquifer in order to mix water for their cement, draining most of Quitobaquito in the process. Southern Arizona is hot, dry, and desolate, and this spring was used by many as a reliable source of water, a desert oasis, one could say. The spring was also home to two endangered species that are now at extreme risk of extinction: the Quitobaquito Desert Pupfish and the Sonoyta Mud Turtle. If the spring continues to be drained, it will successfully kill off every single animal that needs the fresh desert water to live.

The O’odham people are fighting back, however. They have refused to let their land be divided by colonial hands, and a movement called Defend O’odham Jewed(Land) has been resisting the division attempts by the European Colonists. Land defenders have exhausted time, money, and energy in their attempts to protect sacred land, and are still receiving little national attention or recognition.

Most of these acts of resistance have been organized and led by indigenous women, and recently, two of the leaders were arrested by the United States Border Patrol. They were taken to one of ICE’s infamous detention centers, where they are currently being held. They have not been charged with any crimes yet so it is impossible for them to post bail at this time. They also have no way to contact anyone on the outside, and all the information we have is all the ICE has made available.

The United States colonial government is attempting to place structures on unceded land that they have no right to be on. No treaties have been signed granting them access to the O’odham people’s sacred territory, and they are trespassing on sacred land. Their efforts to divide these nations are illegal, and the land defenders have every right to be there stopping the wall from being built.