Joseph Gavino Nunez III

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. 10337

Approve Date

April 13, 2022

Project Title

Nunez III, Joseph (Harvard U.) "Tohono O'odham Sovereignty: Settler Colonialism and Indigenous Rights to Cross-Border Mobility"

In March of 2019, the Tohono O’odham Tribal council agreed to U.S. Border and Custom Enforcement’s plan to construct Integrated Fixed Towers (IFTs) across sixty-two miles of reservation land buttressing Mexico. These towers are embedded with advance surveillance technologies operating twenty-four hours a day and seven days a week to detect items of interest and incursions at the U.S.-Mexico border, marking an entirely new form of state invasion over Native land. With more than two-thousand Tribal members residing in Mexico, questions about how IFTs will impact cross-border mobility, threaten sacred sites and retract the basic legal building blocks of Tohono O’odham sovereignty serves as the basis for a historically grounded ethnographic study on a militarized border infrastructure appearing on Indigenous land. Understanding this development through the framework of settler colonialism, an ongoing structure rather than a past historical event, provides a generative line of inquiry into how the United States derives its fundamental claims of legitimacy to assert plenary power over Tribal decisions. This research examines how the juridico-political and sociocultural implications of IFTs reshape Tohono O’odham assertions of rights to self-government and constitute new realities for cross-border Indigenous life.