A national monument in Arizona, home to rare species and sacred Native American burial sites, is being blown up this week as part of construction for President Trump's border wall, Customs and Border Protection confirmed to CBS News. "Controlled blasting" inside Arizona's Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument began this week without consultation from the Native American nation whose ancestral land it affects, according to the congressman whose district includes the reservation.
"There has been no consultation with the nation," said Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who is the chair of the House Committee on Natural Resources and whose district contains the reservation and shares 400 miles of border with Mexico. "This administration is basically trampling on the tribe's history — and to put it poignantly, it's ancestry."
Customs and Border Protection told CBS News that the blasts are in preparation for "new border wall system construction, within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain in the U.S. Border Patrol's Tucson Sector."
The explosions are occurring on Monument Hill, a burial site for the Tohono O'odham Nation, according to Grijalva.
The border wall cannot be constructed on the Native American reservation because it is private land. The nation's burial sites, however, which Grijalva said are "immediately adjacent" to the reservation, are on public land, making them fair game for the Department of Homeland Security, which oversees the Customs and Border Protection.
Grijalva sent a letter to Homeland Security on January 7, expressing his "serious concerns" over the wall's construction on historically tribal land. He urged the department to consult the nation "government-to-government," before moving forward with construction.
He has not heard back.
"There's been stonewalling, no response for any request," he said.
Weeks before construction began, Grijalva — along with Tohono O'odham elders, chairman Ned Norris Jr, and archaeologists — toured the nation's sacred ceremonial sites, located within Organ Pipe. The group saw rock piles and burial sites with bone fragments dating back thousands of years. One burial site, known as Las Playas, contained artifacts that go back 10,000 years.
"What we saw on Monument Hill was opposing tribes who were respectfully laid to rest — that is the one being blasted with dynamite," Grijalva said.