In January 2021, the San Xavier District Council of the Tohono O’odham Nation unanimously passed a resolution that acknowledged the legal personhood of the Ha:san (Saguaro cactus) stating that “there is abundant historic documentation that the Tohono O’odham (Desert People) and their sister tribes of O’odham, regard Ha:san, (Saguaros) as one of their kin with human heritage” and that “in essence, long ago recognized saguaro cactis as a “personhood” (1). Following this, other districts of the Tohono O’odham Nation passed similar resolutions.
On May 4th, 2021, the Tohono O’odham national Legislative Council followed suit and unanimously passed resolution no. 21-137 “Recognition and Protection of the Sacred Ha:san”. In the resolution, the Council recognizes that “Indigenous peoples have made the compelling argument that the trees, wildlife, rivers, and mountains are sacred and should be granted ‘personhood’ and the legal rights associated with it”, and that “the Tohono O’odham and sister O’odham tribes hold the Ha:san in the highest regard and consider it as an O’odham person” and kin (1). It also expresses that “the Ha:san is an integral part of the O’odham himdag” (or “way of life”) and should never be harmed or disrespected (1).
The resolution was produced in the midst of an ongoing battle between the Tohono O’odham Nation and the construction of the US-Mexico Border Wall on Tohono O’odham ancestral land. The resolution condemns the destruction of and damage to the sacred Ha:san during construction of the U.S. Border Wall and during other U.S. Department of Homeland Security projects on tribal lands and federal lands which are not recognized by the U.S. government, but which are aboriginal homelands of the O’odham (2). The Council calls on all entities to reverse the destruction of the sacred Ha:san and begin “healing the cultural, spiritual, and ecological wounds” (2-3).