Border wall construction near Calexico
A section of new, steel bollard-style replacement wall goes up near Calexico. CBP photo by Mani Albrecht

Six tribes of the Kumeyaay Nation have written to the Department of Homeland Security and the Army Corps of Engineers demanding suspension of border wall construction to protect cultural sites.

The tribes say the government has failed to properly detect and protect Kumeyaay village areas, burials and religious sites, and has placed unwarranted restrictions on tribal monitors.

“We are horrified that the government is moving forward with construction on the border without studying our Kumeyaay sacred sites and other cultural resources and how to protect them,” said Angela Elliott Santos, chairwoman of the Manzanita Band and chairwoman of the Kumeyaay Heritage Preservation Council. “Construction must stop in order to avoid further destruction of Kumeyaay cultural resources and sacred sites while studies are done in consultation with the Kumeyaay Tribes.”

The letter was signed by the Manzanita Band of the Kumeyaay Nation, the Campo Kumeyaay Nation, the Ewiiaapaayp Band of Kumeyaay Indians, the Iipay Nation of Santa Ysabel, the San Pasqual Band of Mission Indians and the Jamul Indian Village.

The tribes are proposing to work cooperatively with the government while construction is temporarily paused.

“The Kumeyaay people, our people, have occupied this region, on both sides of the U.S.-Mexico border, for many thousands of years. Trenching for the new border barriers is destroying an important part of our legacy and likely the precious human remains of our ancestors,” said Elliott Santos.

“Until we can study the area, we will not know the extent of the damage. We remain willing to work with the government in a reasonable time frame to ensure that the Kumeyaay history and religion are not illegally desecrated further by the border wall construction projects,” she said.

Chris Jennewein

Chris Jennewein is Editor & Publisher of Times of San Diego.