“Under Occupation”: A Discussion with Amy Juan of the Tohono O’odham Nation

Tohono O'odham cultural activist Amy Juan discusses the US-Mexico border from the perspective of people who were here long before it existed.

  
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With today’s post, we inaugurate our first audio Q&A. The Border Chronicle is excited to launch into an audio series of in depth interviews with compelling borderlanders, like today’s guest Amy Juan of the Tohono O’odham Nation. Amy works for the International Indian Treaty Council and is a longtime cultural activist who grew up on the border in the town of Newfield on the Nation. In the 19th century, the United States imposed its southern boundary with no consultation of the O’odham people. The Nation, located in Southern Arizona, is the size of Connecticut, but traditional O’odham lands reach deep into Mexico.

Amy, who was born in the 1980s, says she comes from the last generation to experience freedom of movement before the Border Patrol occupied their land. The Border Patrol increased its presence particularly after 9/11, when it put up checkpoints on every paved road leaving the Nation, installed Forward Operating Bases (modeled after bases used in US military operations in places like Iraq and Afghanistan), and erected surveillance towers. And as Amy mentions in the interview, in 2017 she took a trip to Israel/Palestine to learn more about where these surveillance towers were first created and tested, before being installed in her own community.

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We’re excited to dive into our first audio interview and the rich history of the US-Mexico borderlands in the voices of the people who live here. Also, soon Melissa and I (Todd) will have a discussion about The Border Chronicle, why we created it, and why border journalism is vital. I also hope that today’s enriching conversation with Amy outshines any of the minor technical guffaws that are all my fault. Consider any guffaw just part of the learning process.  And major thanks to Lilly Clark, our wonderful audio editor, for helping me edit and finesse the production side, and edit out the guffaws.

I’ve known Amy Juan for nearly a decade, initially because of her activism fighting Border Patrol abuses and surveillance, and since then I have come to know her as an educator and, dare I say, a visionary. Please enjoy and please consider subscribing to The Border Chronicle.

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