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Fri Oct 9, 2020, 12:18 PM

A Native Nation's Impossible Fight to Stop Trump's Wall From Dividing Its Land

In the remote California desert about 50 miles east of San Diego, five protesters gather around a backhoe parked at the US-Mexico border. The sun owns the cloudless sky, and dust coats everyone’s skin. A construction worker flips through a set of keys, preparing to dig a trench for a new stretch of President Trump’s border fence, while the protesters try to engage him. He doesn’t give them any reaction until the moment before he steps up into the cab: “You’re trespassing.”

“You’re trespassing on Kumeyaay land!” says one of the protesters.

“It’s government land,” the worker replies, and starts the engine.

“He’s going to try to move it,” shouts one of the protesters, prompting three others to climb into the backhoe’s giant bucket. After a minute, the worker shuts off the engine, descends from the cab, and walks away.

Similar scenes to this one, from July, have unfolded repeatedly. The protesters are Kumeyaay, members of a nation of 13 tribes that have shared culture, language, and land for more than 12,000 years. Originally, they lived in an area that encompassed all of present-day San Diego County and much of Baja California. The Spanish moved into the area in 1769, Mexico drove out Spain by 1821, and the United States drew a border in 1848 after a two-year war with Mexico. That relatively new political line partitioned the Kumeyaay’s land, putting half in Mexico and half in the United States.


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