Finding a Voice and Making it Heard: Defending Native Rights on the Border

New construction at Three Rivers is considered the hub for the Jupiter Oil Pipeline running to Brownsville, Texas.

New construction at Three Rivers is considered the hub for the Jupiter Oil Pipeline running to Brownsville, Texas.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For the Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe of Texas — on the border and in the pathway of “the wall” — the future is precarious. Not federally recognized as a tribe and threatened daily by the impact of the Texas Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) export terminal and associated pipelines, the Carrizo/Comecrudo is in a race to identify its villages, gain proper recognition, and form a voice to protect its rights and land. It is an uphill fight, but with a new project funded in part by First Nations Development Institute (First Nations), progress is being made.

The Carrizo/Comecrudo Tribe works to protect the Garcia Pasture, a sacred site in the Rio Grande Valley that contains remains of ancestors and cultural artifacts from various nomadic tribes, including the Carrizo/Comecrudo. The need for protection abounds: The site is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. There are huge environmental implications. And moreover, the members and sacred aspects of the original pre-Columbian villages surrounding Garcia Pasture have been not only ignored, but not even identified. And although the Carrizo/Comecrudo is not the official holder of the site, they are taking a stand.

“We, as Native people, have a right to speak out for what has been happening,” says Tribal Chairman, historian, storyteller, and Keeper of the Lifeways Juan Mancias.

Mancias explains that it’s something their people have to do because the threats are so pervasive. Before and beyond battling the LNG terminals, the Tribe has fought for a stronghold in Texas. The Tribe has endured centuries of historical trauma and oppression. It is not federally recognized, so there is no federal funding. Its people have scattered, and some were forced into Mexico when the border was established. Pollutants from the sale of substandard coal to Mexico have jeopardized their natural resources and the quality of the air and water. Ancestors are buried on the land they can’t defend. And the health of the Rio Grande, the home of Carrizo/Comecrudo for generations, is at risk.

Now, with the help of a First Nations Broad Reach Grant, which supports Native American-led community efforts toward environmental justice, the Tribe is addressing one of the biggest challenges through the “Build a Village, Save the Earth: Project Stop Texas LNG.”

Juan Mancias stands before Mariposa Village, one of the three camps in South Texas. Funds for Project Stop Texas LNG will go toward replenishing these camps with supplies, food, water, gas, and video and monitoring equipment.

Juan Mancias stands before Mariposa Village, one of the three camps in South Texas. Funds for Project Stop Texas LNG will go toward replenishing these camps with supplies, food, water, gas, and video and monitoring equipment.

Mancias explains that “liquefied natural gas” is natural gas that is cooled to a liquid state to make it easier to transport, as it becomes 1/600th of its original volume. He says Texas LNG aims to create an export facility on 625 acres at the Port of Brownsville near the Gulf of Mexico – a site chosen because it is close to the Permian Basin, where natural gas is extracted, and near existing pipelines. With the new facility will come more pipelines, from a supplier that has not been identified, and more fracking practices, which are already having an impact. Mancias says the region has already experienced over a million small earthquakes, and there are significant concerns that natural springs and the underground aquifer is being polluted by wastewater that is being reinjected into the ground. And all of it is happening directly on the Garcia Pasture site.

“Everything is being connected,” adds Mancias. “It affects us as a Tribe, our people living along this river, and all the way up. We’re concerned about the desecration of our burial sites, but also for our clean water. Everything is coming where we maintained an existence.”

By Amy Jakober

The ocean Derricks that are brought into Port of Brownsville for repair will add to the panorama if the three LNGs and Jupiter Refinery become part of the Bahia Grande area.

The ocean Derricks that are brought into Port of Brownsville for repair will add to the panorama if the three LNGs and Jupiter Refinery become part of the Bahia Grande area.