Sentient: adj., able to perceive or feel things
In late September 2019, I organized a group of human animals to bring attention to new construction of border wall, just south of Lukeville, Arizona and east of Sonoyta, Mexico.
The wall is a project of the Trump administration. On the US side of this section of wall is Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a federally protected wilderness area and a UNESCO-recognized international biosphere reserve. The administration has waived state and federal laws—including the Endangered Species Act and the Clean Air Act—to build here and within other protected areas of border states.
The new wall will cut off countless Sonoran Desert animals from migratory routes and water sources. It will uproot miles of desert vegetation. It puts at risk 22 significant archeological sites — ancient trails, tools, ceramics, and shrines dating back 15,000 years. Its construction will draw down groundwater sources, including Quitobaquito Spring, part of the sacred homeland of the Hia C-ed O’odham and the Tohono O’odham people and the only site in the United States where the endangered Quitobaquito pupfish, the Quitobaquito spring snail, the Sonoyta mud turtle, and the desert caper plant (the only plant that supports the caper butterfly) occur naturally. New roads, surveillance cameras, and bright lights will accompany the wall, each with its own deleterious consequences for land, water, and sky.
Videography & editing: Julius Schlosburg
Direction & concept: Kimi Eisele
Animals: Joanna Carichner, Eb Eberline, Kimi Eisele, Ruth Marblestone, Erika O’Dowd, Kate Ramlow-Meyer
Special thanks: Greg Colburn, Laiken Jordahl
If you care about animals; plants; indigenous people, heritage, and land; and humans seeking better opportunities, you can support environmental and immigration rights groups working to halt border wall construction and uphold justice in the borderlands.
Center for Biological Diversity: https://www.biologicaldiversity.org
Sky Island Alliance: https://www.skyislandalliance.org/
Indivisible Tohono: https://www.facebook.com/indivisiblet…
No More Deaths * No Más Muertes: http://nomoredeaths.org
Colibrí Center for Human Rights: https://www.colibricenter.org
Humane Borders: https://humaneborders.org/
Coalición de Derechos Humanos: https://derechoshumanosaz.net/
They say one way to understand another is to put yourself in their shoes. I don’t know if empathy is ever enough or even appropriate. But. When I am a deer, I am tender, careful, gentle. When I am a deer, I don’t know “country” or “policy” or “asylum.” I know the smell of trail and of water. I follow it.
The Trump administration has erected, as of Oct. 19, 2020, over 370 miles of new wall along the US-Mexico border. To do so, it has uprooted intact andthriving ecosystems (trees, cacti, desert scrub), destroyed sacred sites, siphoned sacred springs, plundered rivers, interrupted critical wildlife corridors, cut off animals from crucial water supplies. It has inflicted spiritual and emotional damage on Indigenous communities whose very heritage depends on relationships with this land and its species, as well as on newcomers who’ve come to love and respect this place as their own. Many of the landscapes the wall construction has destroyed were never common corridors for human traffic in the first place—they are far too rugged and remote. The construction was one man’s megalomaniacal vision. He broke laws and waived acts agreed upon decades ago to protect sacred lands, water, and wildlife in order to build it. It is a trophy for his madness.
If you don’t live in the borderlands, you may have missed this. Maybe images of the construction passed across your screen, another tragedy “somewhere.” Or you’ve bought into the rhetoric about safety and you believe, somehow, a wall will save you. From what? And at what cost? Where is your tender deer-heart?
This video is a follow up to one created in Sept/Oct 2019 in Sonoyta, Sonora, Mexico, where we wanted to understand what it might feel like to come upon the wall as jaguar, horned toad lizard, jackrabbit, coyote, javelina, and mule deer. While we channeled the animals, we remained our human selves, cognizant of our role as witnesses, stewards. We did not wish for it, but we knew our action that day foretold an ugly future. Indeed, it did.
May we now find our most tender humanity to create a different one. Tear the mf down.
Videography: Julius Schlosburg
Direction & editing: Kimi Eisele
Music: Vicki Brown & Christian Ravaglioli
Please support Indigenous actions to protect the borderlands:
Defend O’odham Jewed: gofundme.com/f/defend-oodham-land-bail-fund
Kumeyaay Defense: linktr.ee/kumeyaaydefense
Please support these and other environmental organizations working to protect borderlands’ species and landscapes and hold the Trump administration for its unlawful wall:
Center for Biological Diversity biologicaldiversity.org/
Sky Island Alliance skyislandalliance.org/
Northern Jaguar Project: northernjaguarproject.org/northern-jaguar…/