Protect Tribal Lands from Militarization and Exploitation

U.S.-Mexico Border

Target: U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske

Goal: Prevent militarization and surveillance of indigenous lands, and preserve tribe’s cultural heritage

The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol recently approved a $133 million contract to build surveillance towers near the U.S.-Mexico border, several of which will be placed on indigenous land belonging to the Tohono O’odham tribe. Plans to militarize the border have been putting these indigenous peoples at risk for many years. The U.S. Customs and Border Patrol website states their intent to protect “the Nation’s natural and cultural resources,” yet their actions continue to jeopardize the Tohono O’odham way of life. The further militarization of tribal land along the border and the resulting harm to the O’odham tribe must be prevented.

The Tohono O’odham tribe is split by the Arizona -Mexico border, with one half in the United States and the other in Mexico. Both halves of the tribe are experiencing negative effects from Border Patrol activity and militarization on their lands.

Even though the O’odham nation is federally recognized, the U.S. Border Patrol regularly detains tribe members. Border patrol policies such as fence construction threaten much of the pristine land held by the O’odham, as well as the preservation of their cultural heritage. Because of increased militarization, members of the tribe in Mexico are no longer able to pass freely across the border. This limits their access to resources used to practice and preserve their cultural heritage, as well as access to the U.S. sanctioned education and healthcare that is legally theirs as members of the tribe.

The decision of the Border Patrol to militarize the U.S.-Mexico border is a violation of the department’s own policies and is threatening the culture and traditional lifestyle of the Tohono O’odham. Sign the petition below to let U.S. Customs and Border Patrol Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske know that the U.S. Border Patrol has no right to exploit and damage native lands.


Dear Commissioner R. Gil Kerlikowske,

The U.S. Border Patrol’s recent approval of a contract to construct surveillance towers in Arizona on Tohono O’odham land is a violation of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s policy of protecting tribal lands and culture. Militarization and increasing surveillance on O’odham land will only put the tribe’s culture at risk.

The Tohono O’odham were divided by the U.S.-Mexico border, and many currently enforced Border Patrol practices exploit the O’odham nation’s land and prevent the Mexican half of the tribe from reaching the institutions that they have rightful access to. These include education, healthcare and access to the transfer of their tribe’s cultural knowledge. Building the proposed surveillance towers will only increase the divide between the U.S. O’odham and the Mexican O’odham, placing their cultural heritage in greater jeopardy and further violating the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol’s mission of protecting tribal lands and cultural heritage.

I urge you to consider alternatives to surveillance and prevent further militarization of the Tohono O’odham land. Please take action to uphold the policies of the U.S. Customs and Border Patrol and preserve the O’odham cultural heritage and way of life.


[Your Name Here]

Photo credit: Steve Hillebrand via Wikimedia Commons.

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62 Signatures

  • Jill Ballard
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  • sheila childs
  • Amy Wilson
  • Terrie Phenicie
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