Trump's border wall in Arizona

Brutal crackdown on indigenous protests (Press Release)

Five years ago, one of Donald Trump's key electoral promises was to build a border wall between the United States and Mexico – often announced in connection with verbal attacks against immigrants. In the south of the United States, the wall will cut through a region which is a home to various indigenous communities. In their territories, they regularly cross the border to access their farmland, visit cemeteries, or see their relatives. The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has repeatedly criticized that a wall would make this free movement very difficult or impossible. The construction work has already violated indigenous land rights, and several sanctuaries were destroyed.

For years, there have been bitter indigenous protests against the construction of the wall, especially on the part of the Tohono O'odham in Arizona. On October 12, the Day of Indigenous Resistance, about 30 O'odham gathered at a border crossing on their land in the early morning to pray for the sacred sites and cemeteries that would be destroyed in the course of the construction of the wall and the militarization of the border. "These holy places are actually protected by the law on religious freedom," explained Yvonne Bangert, STP expert on indigenous communities. "Nonetheless, the federal border troops and security officers of the state of Arizona brutally dispersed the peaceful protests, using rubber bullets and tear gas. At least eight indigenous people were arrested and journalists were hindered in their work.

A few days earlier, a federal appeals court had stopped the construction of the wall in Arizona, Texas, New Mexico and California. Civil society groups and several states had filed a lawsuit because the Trump government had planned to divert 3.6 billion USD from the defense budget – a violation of the constitution. The state of Arizona will also play a special role in the election campaign this year: for the first time in 72 years, the Democratic Party could win a majority of the votes in Arizona. During their election campaign visit to the state capital Phoenix, Joe Biden and Kamala Harris demonstratively showed up with five indigenous leaders to discuss pressing issues and to campaign for votes. Tohono O'odham Nation Chairman Ned Norris Jr. was present as well, in addition to leaders of the Navajo Nation, the Gila River Indian Community, the San Carlos Apache Tribe and the Hopi Tribe.

Further, the Democratic candidate's team published a 15-page concept paper on their planned indigenous policy. "The most important part of this paper is the reintroduction of the annual Tribal Nations Conference at the White House. This meeting of the leaders of the officially recognized Native Nations with representatives of the US government was initiated by Barack Obama," Bangert stated. "The paper also addresses the issue of violence against indigenous women in the United States, renewable energies, and a task force to secure the voting rights of indigenous people. The Democratic Party is apparently aware of the problems of indigenous communities in the country and seems willing to address these issues.