Kumeyaay Tribe Blocks Border Wall Construction to Protect Burial Grounds

Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) has said Americans should be furious about the Trump administration's border wall bid after video published on social media showed members of the Kumeyaay Nation in Campo, California, blocking construction over fears it would disturb ancestral burial grounds and potentially destroy artifacts in the area.

Sharing video showing members and allies of the Kumeyaay nation singing in peaceful protest at the border, while a U.S. Border Patrol agent appeared to stand by, Harris said "the Kumeyaay shouldn't have to put their lives at risk during a pandemic in order to prevent the desecration of an ancestral burial site. For a pointless border wall."

"We should all be outraged this is happening at our border right now," she said.

The Kumeyaay nation is indigenous to the region, which reaches across both sides of the border in San Diego County and northern Baja California.

In a statement sent to Newsweek, Jeff Stephenson, the supervisory agent for the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol said construction crews had expected to perform pre-construction blasting to remove old portions of border fencing.

He said that environmental surveys had suggested that there were no biological, cultural or historical sites identified within the blasting area.

However, members of the Kumeyaay Nation disagree with that appraisal and say that burial grounds will be disturbed if the construction work moves forward.

As work was set to get underway on Monday, Stephenson said "a group of community members gathered within the restricted construction zone to express their concerns regarding the border wall construction. The community members were asked to move away from the project for their safety."

After they refused to move, he said: "Out of caution, Monday's scheduled blasting was postponed and we are working with the construction contractor to reschedule."

Stephenson said CBP "has and will continue to coordinate with federal land managers, state agencies, local governments, tribal governments, and other interested stakeholders."

He also added that "CBP has a cultural monitor present at the construction site to ensure that if any previously unidentified culturally sensitive artifacts are observed within the project area that construction is halted and the appropriate stakeholders are notified to include tribal nations."

"In addition, the environmental monitor is present to ensure construction best management practices are being implemented by the construction contractor," he said.

Newsweek has contacted the Kumeyaay Nation for comment.

This is not the first time that indigenous groups have sought to protect their land from the impacts of border wall construction.

In Arizona, the Tohono O'odham Nation have called on the Trump administration to stop border wall construction along the border over fears that it would disturb sacred burial grounds, as well as potential artifacts.

The Trump administration also faced condemnation for knocking down Saguaro cacti, which are considered sacred to members of the Tohono O'odham Nation, while clearing a pathway for the border wall.

Despite opposition from indigenous groups, as well as environmental and archaeological groups, the Trump administration has pushed ahead with construction, recently passing the 200-mile mark.

President Donald Trump has repeatedly vowed to see at least 450 miles of border wall built before the end of 2020. With just six months to go, it is unclear whether his administration will be able to meet that goal.

Border wall
Sections of border wall are pictured under construction on February 13, 2020 in Dona Ana County, New Mexico. The Trump administration has continued construction of the U.S.-Mexico border wall amid the coronavirus outbreak. PAUL RATJE/AFP/Getty
Kumeyaay Tribe Blocks Border Wall Construction to Protect Burial Grounds | U.S.