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Mexico and US EPA conspire for a toxic dump in the Tohono O'odham traditional ceremonial community in Sonora, Mexico
Monday, 20 April 2009 00:07
by Brenda Norrell

QUITOVAC, Sonora, Mexico — Tohono O'odham urge a halt to a scheme of the government of Mexico, acting in collusion with the US EPA, to establish a toxic waste dump near the ceremonial area of Quitovac, south of the US border, in a traditional O'odham community. The Mexican government and the US EPA plan to circumvent international law which requires toxic materials from factories to be returned to the country of origin of the raw materials for disposal. In this case, the ceremonial community of Quitovac is targeted in the scheme to dump toxins in an Indigenous community.

Protests have been carried out in the state of Sonora, Mexico and in the city of Tucson. "The Mexican government and a company called CEGIR/Centro de Gestion Integral de Residuos S.A. want to build a toxic dump to dispose of industrial hazardous wastes. The permit process has been conducted with no involvement of the Indigenous O'odham communities in decision-making processes," said the O'odham Rights Cultural and Environmental Justice Coalition and O'odham VOICE Against the WALL.

"The proposed dump would desecrate the sacred ceremony site at Quitovac, and devastate the culture, traditions, sacred sites and spiritual well-being of the O'odham Indigenous peoples in both Mexico and the U.S. The dump would also expose children and nearby communities to dangerous toxins released in the land, air, and water, and could contaminate water the communities depend on. "The Tohono O'odham tribal government in Arizona has passed a resolution denouncing the dump project due to its impact on the sacred ceremonial grounds at Quitovac and on O'odham people, their culture and environment."

The Sonoyta, Sonora municipal government rejected the dump, but the Mexican government failed to obey the laws of Mexico. Mexico has refused to officially declare the project over. "The United States Environmental Protection Agency has failed to uphold its responsibility to protect the O'odham people who are U.S. citizens who visit Quitovac for ceremonies and family visits. The EPA must strongly urge the Mexican government to reject the dump due to its impacts on O'odham who are US citizens," the coalition of O'odham said. "To the O'odham, Quitovac is the place that defines who we are as people of the desert.

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We are related to the earth from which we are made. Our Him'dag, our way of life, is based upon this principle. Quitovac holds the traditional knowledge that the O'odham tap into during ceremony, and when we sing our songs and vocalize the old sacred words, we communicate with the grounds when we dance the way the Creator and our helper Brother I'itoi taught us. When we talk about the land we mean the total environment, the plants and animals, the waters, ponds and seas and underground rivers, the mountains, the sky and all humanity. We cannot allow a toxic dump here," said Ofelia Rivas, of the O'odham Rights Cultural and Environmental Justice Coalition.

Rivas asked for others to call and e-mail the Mexican and US governments today, urging them to obey their own laws and stop the toxic dump proposed near Quitovac. Alfonso Flores, Mexican Secretary of the Environment Mexican Consulate in Phoenix Tel: +52 5556 243334 * Fax: +525556 243589 (602) 242-7398 E-mail: alfonsoflores@semarnat.gob.mx Mexican Consulate in Tucson (520) 882-5596 Lisa Jackson, US EPA Administrator Mexican Consulate in San Francisco jackson.lisa@epa.gov (202) 564-4700 (415) 354-1700 For more information: O'odham Rights Cultural and Environmental Justice Coalition and O'odham VOICE Against the WALL (520) 349-5484 uyarivas@hotmail.com Greenaction for Health and Environmental Justice (415) 248-5010 greenaction@greenaction.org www.greenaction.org

Quitovac, Sonora, March 28, 2009: Resolution in Support

Whereas, the O'odham People are the original people in the lands targeted by CEGIR and the Mexican government for a proposed hazardous waste landfill, and

Whereas, the O'odham people have the sole authority to oversee the environmental balance of these lands according to the mandated instructions of the Creator, and

Whereas, the O'odham maintain their legacy through oral history, the teachings of Elder Brother I'itoi, maintain their inherent way of life including conducting ceremonies, making offerings to the land and sea, waterways and mountains as well as using all the biological and environmental resources of the region as a food and medicinal source, and

Whereas, the O'odham strongly oppose the proposed hazardous waste dump site proposed by CEGIR - Centro de Gestion Intergral de Residuous, S.A. near Quitovac in the State of Sonora, Mexico, and

Whereas, the O'odham know that regardless of what environmental and cultural protection laws would be implemented and enforced for this project, the effects of hazardous chemicals will have a detrimental and injurious effect on the human and biological environment of the region and a devastating effect on O'odham culture, traditions and sacred sites,

Now Therefore Be It Resolved, that we the participants in the gathering in Quitovac, Sonora, Mexico on March 28, 2009 affirm our support for the efforts of the Traditional O'odham Leaders of the O'odham Territories and the Tohono O'odham Nation to oppose and stop once and for all the hazardous waste landfill proposed to be built near Quitovac,

Be It Further Resolved, that we call on the Mexican Government and the Government of the State of Sonora enforce their existing environmental and cultural protection laws and stop this project and protect the human and biological environment, culture and sacred sites of the region,

Be It Further Resolved, that we call on the United States Government to exercise its environmental justice and trust responsibility to speak out in defense of the culture and sacred sites of O'odham who are United States citizens whose spiritual well-being would be devastated by the proposed dump that would desecrate an O'odham sacred area;

Be it Finally Resolved, that the Mexican Government, both Federal and State, mandate improvement of its communication with the O'odham representation in the State of Sonora, Mexico and improve its protection of O'odham People, culture and sacred sites.

Adopted March 28, 2009 in Quitovac, Sonora, Mexico

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