The election of President Trump in November has raised a lot of questions for the Tohono O’odham nation. Specifically, there is concern over the proposed plan to build a wall on the Mexican border, which bisects traditional Tohono O’odham lands. Less than two weeks after the presidential election, the vice chairman of the tribe went on a radio show to say ““Over my dead body will a wall be built,” further explaining that the importance of land to the Tohono O’odham tribe should take precedence over political justifications for the wall. He also invited President Trump to visit the reservation to see why a wall would be ineffective (The Runner, 18 November 2016).
As President Trump took more tangible actions towards building a wall, such as signing an executive order, the nation has taken more direct action in opposition of the wall. In late February, a video entitled “There’s No O’odham Word for Wall” was posted on the nation’s website (The Runner, 03 March 2017). Again, the tribe extended an invitation to President Trump to visit the reservation, to engage in discussions of the tribe’s concerns about the proposed wall. Tribal members took further action by going to Washington, DC to protest outside of Senator John McCain’s office, as he is the senate representative of the reservation. The protestors were asking for McCain to formally oppose the wall, and introduce legislation prohibiting any construction with environmental impact studies (http://www.azcentral.com, 23 March 2017).
The actions of the Trump administration have demonstrated a shocking amount of disrespect for the tribe. As reported in The Runner, a delegation from the Trump administration planned to visit the reservation on March 23 (17 March 2016). This delegation did not show up for their planned meeting, although it is not clear why. Refusal on the part of the administration to meet with tribal leaders is not only disrespectful, but it also reflects bad policy. It is only logical to examine all aspects of a proposal, especially such a significant construction project as a border wall, before moving forward with plans. If the administration takes further steps to plan for construction before consulting with the Tohono O’odham Nation, they are going to encounter problems further along in the process, where it could be more disruptive. There was no mention of the failed meeting in the April 7, 2017 issue of The Runner. The only content related to the issue is the cartoon seen below, which was likely inspired by the vice chairman’s November comment. This cartoon, without any commentary, suggests the tribe’s feelings of frustration with the current administration.
Going forward, it will be interesting to see if the administration reschedules their meeting, or has any further interactions with the tribe about border issues.