President Donald Trump visited this sprawling bend in the Rio Grande last week to hold a Cabinet meeting and sign a $7.85 billion spending bill that included money for a border wall. During a Monday appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Trump falsely claimed that “drugs are pouring into our country right now,” comparing it to the opioid crisis he claims he has fought at the federal level.
Many other American Indian leaders have countered that “drugs” are coming over the border legally — for use by their own people. On Monday, Pueblo of Laguna Parish President Lawrence Rael sent a letter to Trump about the devastation drug users and dealers are wreaking on Native American land. For Rael, the threat of national security and drug use should concern all citizens — not just a portion of the population.
Chaco Canyon is the largest concentration of Native American Indians in the United States. The scale of the canyon is even larger than the Grand Canyon and the majority of the land is privately owned. A more than six-mile long stretch of the border is privately owned, along with over 20,000 acres of privately owned land within a mile of the border. That means that public lands inside the border are owned by none other than the Department of Homeland Security. U.S. citizens have been prohibited from using those lands, since they are owned by the department, even when border patrol agents have asked them to cross.
The walls and fences are part of a multi-pronged border security strategy to keep non-Native Americans out of the U.S. and to contain the drug industry. Border Patrol agents have erected walls to prevent immigrants and asylum seekers from crossing. Human traffickers have also built makeshift roads through the southern border to encourage the Mexican criminal gangs, the Zetas and Los Zetas, to set up illegal “turf” along the border.
The Chaco is known for its unique customs, such as the lengthy process of bringing children out into the open to kill and sell them. Indigenous people in Mexico and the United States have attempted to make use of the ceremonial practices of centuries past. The “Pueblos de la Chaco” project from the National Park Service has catalogued people’s uses of the Chaco over the last 2000 years. Archaeologists from the University of New Mexico have cataloged the anthropological resources that have been ravaged by the drug industry.