Kumeyaay Tribe Blocks Border Blasting in Burial Grounds

by on July 1, 2020 · 5 comments

in Civil Disobedience, Civil Rights, San Diego

On Monday, June 29, members and supporters of the Kumeyaay Nation in Campo blocked construction of the border wall by standing in front of an area where pre-construction blasting was scheduled to take place.

Community members sang and chanted peacefully to express their concerns about explosives planned to be used to blast away portions of the old border fence.

Construction contractors working for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers were scheduled to begin Monday, blasting the old portions of the border fence to clear the way for the construction of new sections of the border wall, a project championed by the Trump administration. The planned construction area is located along the U.S.-Mexico border in far east San Diego County, about 75 miles from the city of San Diego.

The Kumeyaay tribe is one of the main First Nations people who have lived for thousands of years in this region, an area that spans both sides of the border in San Diego County and northern Baja California. A spokesperson said, “igniting explosives will disturb and desecrate ancestral burial grounds and artifacts in the area.”

Jeff Stephenson, the supervisory agent for the San Diego sector of the Border Patrol, claimed prior environmental surveys showed no biological, cultural or historical sites were identified within the blasting area located on a small strip of land along the border that he says is owned by the federal government.

The Kumeyaay tribe strongly disagrees and say they will continue to resist the blasting. One member of the tribe told the San Diego Union-Tribune, “It would be just about as disrespectful as us going into Arlington cemetery and setting off explosions.” Or we could add, just as disrespectful if they went out to Ft. Rosecrans cemetery and set off blasts.

The showdown Monday and halt to the blasting was only a “temporary victory” protesters said, who also pledged to return the next time the Border Patrol tried to bring explosives. And the BP says they will try again soon.


{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Brynn July 1, 2020 at 6:54 pm

I stand in solidarity with the Kumeyaay Tribe from afar, and recognize their ancestral land rights over this unceded territory. Construction of the wall should cease and negotiations opened between federal and tribal officials.


retired botanist July 4, 2020 at 4:13 pm

Yep I second that, Brynn. There are SOO many existing regulations about cultural impacts; SHPO, and numerous others, that the Corps is supposed to consult on before impacting any site within an APE (area of potential effect). I cannot understand how this has been allowed to go forward, following required consultations with any NA tribe that has interest, remains, or cultural significance in the area. I don’t know if this is a “Trump fast track” thing, but I absolutely challenge Jeff Stephenson on this conclusion. Sadly, I expect the Kumeyaay will not get much support in their effort. If only other NA nations could mobilize to their aid. This is egregious of the Govt and the Corps. I can only hope someone files a lawsuit on their behalf. :(


Lyle July 5, 2020 at 9:42 am

This article: https://www.eastcountymagazine.org/kumeyaay-protest-halts-dynamite-blasting-border-wall more fully explains what the Kumeyaay are asking for.

The NEPA process should have worked out these concerns and mitigations, except the wall has been exempted from NEPA.


retired botanist July 6, 2020 at 2:57 pm

Thanks, Lyle, that definitely shed some more light on it, and I cannot BEGIN to say how much is wrong with the way this is going forward!! A CBP cultural monitor? Sorry, but wtf is that? And blasting, BEFORE the area is surveyed for cultural remains? Blast first, then look around for “shards”? Really?
And the private property does NOT exempt these people from Federal laws (NEPA, nevermind CEQA) that protect spp, cultural remains, and significant sites. I would argue that while Trump can try and exempt “the wall” from specific NEPA approval and process, this scenario violates a bucketload of other stuff, too detailed to summarize here.
I really feel for the Kumeyaay because their nation, among all the many California tribes, has been especially “spat upon” by American development and the larger NA cultural annihilation in this country.
I just hope some pro bono entity will pick up their cause and file some lawsuits against the Govt because, depressingly, that seems to be the only way forward these days.
Its also worthwhile understanding that this standoff is specifically about this NA nation and their rights ,but honestly, its about SO MUCH MORE, environmentally. One cannot just draw some physical line through the critical habit of species and say “Right. So you stay on that side of the line”. Non-human species haven’t read the book, they don’t follow the laws.
These habitats are precious- not just to the Kumeyaay but to us all.
Shame on the Border Patrol…for SO MANY reasons. :(


Mike August 24, 2020 at 2:36 pm

I stand with the Kumeyaay! Our Federal government continue to act like the vicious animals they have been for hundreds of years. Nothing changes! Now they want to desecrate the graves of the Kumeyaay for literally nothing, because this wall will do nothing. The same Border Patrol idiots who say this wall is ok are the ones who keep finding tunnels. Is this wall going to prevent tunnels? Is this wall going to prevent the hundreds of cars and trucks that carry meth and heroine into the US? No! But apparently, the wall is ok, because “prior environmental surveys showed no biological, cultural or historical sites were identified.” Yeah right, like anybody believes those lies.


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