La Posta Band of Mission Indians files lawsuit over border wall construction

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SAN DIEGO (CNS) – The La Posta Band of Diegueno Mission Indians is suing the federal government to halt construction of the southern border wall, which the tribe alleges is desecrating its ancestral burial and sacred sites.

The suit brought by one of 12 bands of Kumeyaay people alleges the construction of the border wall runs directly through Kumeyaay burial sites and sacred lands in San Diego County, “causing irreversible and easily avoidable damage to Kumeyaay remains, cultural items, history and religious practices.”

President Donald Trump is named as a defendant in the suit filed Tuesday in San Diego federal court, along with Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper, Acting Secretary of Homeland Security Chad F. Wolf and Lt. Gen. Todd T. Semonite of the Army Corps of Engineers.

Tribal members want an injunction ceasing construction until the government can “guarantee adequate consultation and protection of La Posta religious practices and cultural heritage.”

The suit states that construction should be halted until measures are taken to mitigate the potential impacts to cultural resources, such as establishing a formal tribal monitoring program with at least two tribal monitors at every construction site; allowing monitors to be close enough to the construction to witness any uncovering of cultural materials; and modifying proposed border security measures to alleviate impacts to tribal cultural and burial sites.

The lawsuit also alleges that funding for the border wall was unlawfully transferred from the Department of Defense to pay for its construction, citing a ruling issued in June by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The La Posta band alleges it has not been properly consulted by the government regarding the project or investigation of potential human remains, and that only one “cultural monitor” from the tribe has been allowed within the 21-mile project area.

The tribe alleges construction has already uncovered historic tribal burials and threatens a tribal historic cemetery in Jacumba. Some tribal members have taken to protesting the wall’s construction by physically blocking the paths of construction vehicles or standing in areas slated for pre-construction blasting.

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