Protesters along AZ Highway 86 say Border Patrol is disrupting traditional Oodham ceremonies

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Protesters along AZ Highway 86 say Border Patrol is disrupting traditional O’odham ceremonies

AZ Hwy 86- Motorists on Arizona State Highway 86 just east of the U.S. Border Patrol checkpoint may have been surprised this week to see a handful of people holding up signs and waving.

The signs say the Border Patrol is disrupting traditional O’odham ceremonies on lands of the Tohono O’odham Nation, and presses the agency to stop.

Ofelia Rivas, a Tohono O’odham activist who is no stranger to protests, said she and supporters want to make people aware of what is going on.

“Over the past five years Tohono O’odham traditional ceremonies have been disrupted by the Border Patrol,” she said July 16 as she stood on the shoulder of Arizona Highway 86 holding a sign. She said the summer months are the time of the year when several O’odham ceremonies take place.

The deer ceremony, she said, sends hunters out for deer, but Border Patrol helicopters fly over and buzz the hunters, scaring away their prey.

“In Pisinemo District Border Patrol agents surrounded hunters, disarmed them and made them sit on the ground,” Rivas said, noting that in Pisinemo, if no deer is gotten by hunters, no ceremony is held.

In her community of Menager’s Dam, the deer ceremony is held even if the four-day traditional hunt is unsuccessful.

“We have traditional rights to carry on our ceremonies and traditions without disruption from the Border Patrol,” she said.

The displaying of signs along the highway, she said, is one way of letting people know what is going on. “We want people to be aware that we are concerned about it, and we want the Border Patrol to be concerned,” she said.

“July and August are ceremonial months. We’ll be other places, and we’ll be back here on July 26,” she said.

Joining Rivas at the roadside were members of an organization called O’odham Voice Against the Wall, which a sign said is an O’odham rights and human rights organization.

Rivas said Ray Mattia, a resident of Menager’s Dam who performs traditional ceremonies, was part of the group protesting along Arizona Highway 86.

Photo: Tohono O’odham activist Ofelia Rivas took up a position just east of the Border Patrol’s checkpoint near the eastern boundary of the Tohono O’odham Nation on Arizona Highway 86 to protest what she says is interference with traditional ceremonies on reservation land by the Border Patrol. She was joined by a handful of supporters, including an organization called O’odham Voice Against the Wall. (The Runner photo)

www.oodhamrunner.com

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