Blog #6 – Build That Wall (NOT)

Our first activity of the day was visiting one of the border checkpoints on the reservation. I am not sure what I was really expecting, but all I can say is that it felt very weird to be able to stand in both countries and stare miles down the dirt road that runs along the border. Being able to see the landscape helped give me a better understanding of the possibility of changing the physical border barriers, mostly that the desert sand and massive flood washes would pose much more of an issue than most politicians who have not been on-site can fathom.

We had the opportunity to listen to another tribal member today – Selso Villegas, head of Water Resources Management for TON and self-proclaimed “earth doctor.” Selso is a prime model of a tribal member who left the reservation for higher education and a different style of life who decided to return to the nation and offer his services to better the nation. Based on our talk, I would describe Selso as the natural resources peace-maker of the tribe, always looking out for the betterment of his community while keeping both federal parties and O’odham parties satisfied. What struck me most about talking with him was that the O’odham have not only a creation story, but also a destruction story – one that says the earth will be destroyed by people while the O’odham stand by without stepping in to protect mother earth. Based on this belief, Selso said that the way to survive climate change is founded on the fact that the human purpose is not to procreate, but to adapt and survive (Darwin, is that you?).

Before making the drive to Ajo we backtracked to Kitt Peak Astronomical Observatory to find magnificent views of Baboquivari and the rest of the land as well as discover massive telescopes on the mountain. I did not read much into how these giant telescopes work, but interestingly enough, as tall as they are above ground, most of them extend much farther underground in the body of the mountains. I wonder if this has something to do with light supply or reflection/refraction?

3 Replies to “Blog #6 – Build That Wall (NOT)”

  1. Selso is certainly an interesting fellow, Abby. And so is Justin. For tribal members who have achieved such impressive credentials to commit themselves to bettering their people rather than seeking out the highest paying job speaks much for their characters. Knowing what you do now about how non-Indians have treated the T.O (and other tribes), you can see why they have to maintain a very cautious attitude about with whom they can share the information gathered by their department.

    Every time I see the wall it physicalizes for me the history that has swept the Tohono O’odham up in its wake. As Vice Chairman Jose suggested, during the mid-19th century the T.O. were unaware of the profound forces working to change their lives. They just did their best trying to survive as Mexico and United States developed a national landscape without any regard for their profoundest values.

  2. Abby,

    I also did not know about the destruction story before our talk with Selso, and it found it very interesting as well. Their story seems on pace to be true, as it is usually poorer people, such as Native Americans and other rural Americans, who do the least damage to the environment but internalize most of the costs (that one was for you Guse). This is why I am largely in favor of taxes that transfer some of the costs of pollution back to the large corporations that create the majority of it, as corporations will not change unless they are incentivized either by the carrot of monetary gain or by the stick of legal action.

  3. Finally seeing the border for the first time, it became evident to how people are so able to illegally immigrate. But then seeing the fence behind the gate it was also evident why the Tohono O’odham feel as if the are being cut off from their land. There is a constant battle between the past and the present, where we must reconcile the two to create a productive future. And building a wall along the border is NOT the answer, it will only worsen the tension with Native Americans throughout the US.

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