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Rafael Samanez: Indigenous People’s Day Incident – October 12, 2020
Onk Akimel Kikam condemns Indigenous Peoples Day attack on border protesters
Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The following is an October 20, 2020, statement from Onk Akimel Kikam, a grassroots group of residents on the Salt River Pima–Maricopa Indian Community in Arizona.

On Monday, October 12, 2020, Water and Land Protectors that included O’odham relatives were tear gassed and shot at close range by the Arizona Department of Public Safety while protesting the desecration of sacred sites affected by the U.S. Custom and Border Protection’s border wall construction. The Onk Akimel Kikam condemn Arizona Department of Public Safety’s use of chemical agents and projectiles against the Hia-Ced O’odham Land and Water Protectors and their Allies.

The Onk Akimel Kikam stand in solidarity with the Hia-Ced O’odham Water and Land Protectors. They condemn the U.S. President Trump’s political ploy, the U.S./Mexico border wall, as it continues to degrade and desecrate A’al Wappia and its surrounding plants and animals.

Indigenous Peoples Day – Border Patrol Checkpoint – October 12, 2020
Photo by Rafael Samanez
Photo by Rafael Samanez

Photo by Rafael Samanez
Photo by Rafael Samanez

Artifacts dating back approximately 16,000 years have been found in the A’al Wappia area. These artifacts indicate prehistoric activity in the ancestral homelands of the Hia-Ced O’odham. Since pre-columbian times, A’al Wappia and the surrounding areas, both north and south, of what is now known as the U.S./Mexico border has been the ancestral homelands of the Hia-Ced and all O’odham Nations.

To this day, the spring itself remains a spiritual place of reflection, ceremony, and is where traditional practitioners gather medicinal plants to be used in healing. Concurrently, the areas near A’al Wappia are used as re-burial sites and in ceremonial runs.

A’al Wappia is located on the southern border of the United States close to the Mexican state of Sonora, in ancestral Hia-Ced O’odham homelands. Accessible only by a small dusty dirt road surrounded by countless ha:sañ (saguaro cacti), it is quite literally an oasis and offers a unique ecosystem where several species of plants and animals are naturally occurring.

Recognized as a “Designated Critical Habitat” by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, A’al Wappia is home to protected wildlife including the endangered Sonoyta Mud Turtle and Quitobaquito Pupfish. Also found in the area are the Quitobaquito Snail, and the coexisting Desert Caper Plant and Caper Butterfly.

An inherent part of our sacred Himdak (Way of Life), The Spring, its plants and animals are being threatened by site clearing, excavation and construction. Moreover, the depletion of the surrounding water table feeding The Spring is threatened by the continuous pumping of groundwater needed to construct the border wall.

With the blatant override of 41 environmental laws by the Trump Administration and the unceasing disregard for required consultation* with local Tribal Governments, the frustrated Hia-Ced O’odham, with support from Tohono and Akimel relatives, felt their only recourse was to bring much needed attention to these issues by protesting at the Border Patrol checkpoint on State Route 85. We stand unified in protecting A’al Wappia and all of our O’odham sacred sites.

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