Joseph Gavino Nunez III
Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationHarvard U.
Grant numberGr. 10337
Approve DateApril 13, 2022
Project TitleNunez 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.