Trump's Border Wall Construction Is Blasting Native American Burial Sites
Construction crews began "controlled blasting" of the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument in Arizona last week, CBS News reported Friday. And Congressman Raúl Grijalva of Arizona, who represents the area, says they did so without consulting the Tohono O'odham Nation which considers parts of it sacred.
"This administration is basically trampling on the tribe's history — and to put it poignantly, it's ancestry," Grijalva told CBS News.
Specifically, contractors began blasting in an area called Monument Hill, which includes important Native American burial sites, The Washington Post explained.
"Where they were blasting the other day on Monument Hill is the resting place for primarily Apache warriors that had been involved in battle with the O'odham. And then the O'odham people in a respectful way laid them to rest on Monument Hill," Grijalva said in a video posted on social media Sunday.
I just got back from the border. This week, Trump blew up a sacred Native American hill on public land to build h… https://t.co/t0K0CmsekI— Raul M. Grijalva (@Raul M. Grijalva)1581265349.0
The Nation wants all construction to stop on Monument Hill and for two-mile buffer zones to be set up around certain sites, including Quitobaquito Springs, an archaeological site and the only natural water source for miles, according to USA Today.
"They're our ancestors. They're our remnants of who we are as a people, throughout this whole area. And it's our obligation, it's our duty to do what is necessary to protect that," Tribal chairman Ned Norris Jr told the Arizona Republic, as BBC News reported.
Customs and Border Protection (CBP) confirmed that work was being done on the site.
"The construction contractor has begun controlled blasting, in preparation for new border wall system construction within the Roosevelt Reservation at Monument Mountain," A CBP spokesperson said in a statement reported by The Washington Post. "The controlled blasting is targeted and will continue intermittently for the rest of the month."
CBP further told USA Today that it would "continue to have an environmental monitor present" during its activities, but Native American groups and environmental advocates are worried about what the wall could do to both sacred sites and the monument's unique ecosystem.
Organ Pipe was designated as an International Biosphere Reserve by the UN in 1976, which called it "a pristine example of an intact Sonoran Desert ecosystem," according to BBC News. Environmentalists are worried construction could harm an underground aquifer, as well as migrating wildlife.
Laiken Jordahl of the Center for Biological Diversity told The Washington Post that construction had "butchered" Monument Hill.
"It's completely different from what it's been before — there's a swath of land gone from right in the middle," he said.
Jordahl said construction was also destroying 200-year-old saguaro cacti.
"They are also sacred to the O'odham," he explained to The Washington Post. "They see them as the embodiment of their ancestors. So to see them turned into mulch — it's deeply upsetting."
This is the top of "Monument Hill," a sacred site to multiple tribes, that @DHSgov is dynamiting right now to build… https://t.co/QlSLdl0Jr9— Russ McSpadden (@Russ McSpadden)1581271395.0
Grijalva sent a letter to the Department of Homeland Security in January asking it to consult with the Tohono O'odham Nation about construction, but did not hear back.
The Trump administration is able to blast through sacred sites and threaten endangered wildlife on federal land because of the 2005 REAL ID Act, which permits the government to waive laws that interfere with national security, BBC News explained.
Grijalva said he would convene a hearing in the coming weeks to begin the process of repealing the act.
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The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.
"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."
The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.
They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.
They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.
But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.
"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.
What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.
It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.
To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.
First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.
Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.
University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.
"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."
Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.
"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.
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