Testimony on Proposed Yuma Border Barrier Projects

Submission to US Customs and Border Protection
by Lorraine Marquez Eiler, of Darby Well and Ajo, Arizona, founder of the Hia c-ed Oodham Alliance

I would like to express my deep concern and opposition to further extension of the border wall from the Colorado River eastward toward the Tinajas Altas Mountains, after personally seeing the damage done by Homeland Security’s construction contractors to other sacred sites, shrines and burials at Quitobaquito Springs. There will be consequences from damaging or desecrating the Constitutionally guaranteed religious liberties or spiritual practices of Indian Nations that continue as living traditions in the area where the wall is being constructed. My concerns are not new, nor are they contrived merely to protest the border wall. Around 2010, I wrote this statement on Tinajas Altas, a salutation that was published by the University of Arizona Press in 2012:

“Our ancestral sites are never abandoned but are instead imbued with life
And with spiritual forces of enormous innermost significance to living people.

Hia C’ed O’odham traditional practices, called archaeological sites
In some other cultures, include water sources, landmarks, camps, shrines,
Trails, burials, hunting grounds, gathering places, landscapes,
And even particular trees and boulders where special events---
Births, deaths, meetings--- once occurred.

For example, we call saguaro cactus Ha:san and think of them as family ancestors.
All these places and things have held great meaning in the history
and survival of the living Hia C’ed O’odham and other Native Nations.

Tinajas Altas has great meaning for us, and perhaps, for you.
Please assist us in preserving our heritage and land
So our children can know and enjoy this Sacred and Beautiful land
Given to us by our Creator. “

This served as the “salutation” or preface to the book, Last Water on the Devils Highway: A Cultural and Natural History of Tinajas Altasedited by Bill Broyles and colleagues. That book definitively lays out the cultural and spiritual importance of trails, water reserves and sacred sites around the Tinajas Altas range for five tribes: my own Hia c-ed O’odham ancestors, as well as our kin, the Tohono O’odham; the Cucupa, Quechan and Yavapai. Our O’odham people from the Lower Gila River depended on water at Tinajas Altas to survive the Camino del Diablo trail. The trail went westward toward San Luis and down to the Colorado River delta. It also went eastward toward our sacred mountain of S-cuk Do’ag in the Pinacate range of Mexico, crossing the border past Tule Tanks toward Las Playas Grandes to get to Tinaja de los Papagos, Tinaja de Emilia, or Suvuk before our people arrived at our place for collecting sacred salt by the ocean.

I oppose damage done by wall construction.


Lorraine Marquez Eiler
Tohono O’odham Legislative Council; Hia C-ed O’odham Alliance