Construction workers construction the US-Mexico border wall according to lawmakers and tribal leaders have blown up native American burial sites in Arizona.
Officials have reported that “guided blasting” has started in the National Monument to Organ Pipe Cactus, a natural reserve recognized by Unesco.
The Democratic congressman Raul Grijalva called the devastation “sacrilegious.”
He said the government had refused to communicate with the Tohono O’odham Nation.
Environmental groups also warn of threats to the local underground aquifer, as well as migrating wildlife in the remote desert area about 115 miles (185 km) west of Tucson.
Officials say the project’s goal is to build a 30ft-tall (9 m) steel barrier on the national parkland that stretches for 43 miles.
In 1976 the United Nations named Organ Pipe as an International Biosphere Reserve, calling it “a magnificent example of an intact ecosystem in the Sonoran Desert.”
Mr. Grijalva, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, serves a district that covers the city sharing 400 miles of Mexico’s border.
Last month, he visited the burial sites at the Organ Pipe, known as Monument Hill, and was told that the O’odham people were burying their warriors from the opposing Apache tribe.
“What we saw on Monument Hill was related to tribes that were laid to rest peacefully-that is the one that was exploded with dynamite,” said Mr. Grijalva.
He called the actions of the Trump administration “sacrilegious” in interviews with US media, and told the environmental monitor that the government-appointed to the project would do nothing to minimize the cultural harm.
One field held 10,000-year-old artifacts.
Tribal chairman Ned Norris Jr told the Republic of Arizona that although the region is governed by the U.S. government, “we have lived in this area since time immemorial.” “We are our ancestors. They are our reminders of who we are as a people throughout this whole world. And it is our responsibility, it is our duty to do what is necessary to protect that.”
An internal report from the National Park Service published by the Washington Post suggests that up to 22 archeological sites inside Organ Pipe alone would be damaged by the border wall Mr. Trump proposed during his 2015 campaign.
Crews have also reportedly killed ancient saguaro cactus, which Mr. Grijalva said the O’odham people see as “the embodiment of their ancestors.”
“So it is deeply upsetting to see them turned into mulch.”
Is this legal?
Because of the 2005 REAL ID Act, which grants the federal government the right to suspend regulations that clash with US national security policy, the Trump administration has been able to build parts of the US-Mexico border wall on public ground.
The White House has suspended hundreds of laws in its effort to build the wall-including those that covered Native American homes, endangered species, and the climate.
Mr. Grijalva said that he will work towards repealing the 2005 act and will convene a congressional hearing in an attempt to do so in the coming weeks.