Texas Tribe Sues Elon Musk to Protect Sacred Sites From SpaceX

From an commentary deck close to the highest of his South Texas rocket launch tower, Elon Musk, founding father of SpaceX and self-proclaimed proponent of free speech, appears to be like northward to South Padre Island, house to many historical village websites of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas.

In a video published last May to the YouTube channel On a regular basis Astronaut, Musk is seen trying over the tower’s railing and down at a “farm” of giant rocket gasoline storage tanks crammed with liquid oxygen and methane gasoline. These will service weekly launches of SpaceX’s huge Tremendous Heavy and Starship orbital launch automobiles in 2023.

Musk surveys the land from the gleaming metallic launch tower, trying down on an ecosystem crammed with endangered species, corresponding to ocelots and Kemp’s ridley sea turtles. To the east, he sees the waves of the Gulf of Mexico crashing on Boca Chica Seashore, the positioning of the Carrizo Comecrudo creation story. To the northwest only a few miles away is Garcia Pasture, an archaeological website containing the stays of a pre-Columbian village practically a thousand years outdated.

Musk wears a black T-shirt with “Occupy Mars” emblazoned throughout the entrance, as if his company conquest and colonization of area had been some form of righteous protest. As he stands atop his multibillion-dollar mountain of poisonous equipment, he can not see the Indigenous individuals under who’ve come to supply tobacco to their ancestors.

Musk doesn’t see them as a result of, in response to the Carrizo Comecrudo, he’s blind to the considerations of the Indigenous individuals who fought and died for the land he now occupies.

“I don’t assume they perceive what a sacred website is, as a result of they don’t have any connection to something that’s sacred to their lives,” says Juan Mancias, chair of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas.

Far From Extinct

In April, Mancias and two different tribal members tried to make choices and say prayers at Boca Chica Seashore, the place the Rio Grande flows into the Gulf of Mexico. These two our bodies of water fed the Carrizo Comecrudo for 1000’s of years, offering them with fish and wildlife, medicinal vegetation, constructing supplies, and fibers for clothes.

However on this spring day, the one highway that gives entry to the general public seaside was closed and guarded by a Cameron County sheriff’s deputy.

In a video Mancias posted to Fb, the deputy is seen stopping Mancias’ truck from coming into Freeway 4, explaining that SpaceX is conducting floor testing.

“Immediately’s one in every of our holy days,” Mancias says to the deputy. “In fact, that is Holy Week for you guys, for you Christians. However for us, it’s a cross-quarter marker, and we wish to come out right here and drop a few of our tobacco.”

The deputy commiserates with them, saying he wished he may allow them to via, however he can’t.

“That’s in opposition to the American Indian Non secular Freedom Act,” Mancias tells him.

“Oh, I don’t know, sir,” the deputy says, rapidly altering the topic.

In an interview on the YouTube channel Mouth of the Rio Grande, Mancias sums up the scenario succinctly: “They are saying we’re extinct. I say kiss my ass.”

Entry and Enlargement

The Carrizo Comecrudo endured slavery by the Spanish, indoctrination by Catholic mission colleges, intrusion by Massive Oil, and fragmentation by the Mexican border and by Trump’s border wall. Now, they face the desecration of their sacred lands by liquefied pure gasoline vegetation and the SpaceX launch middle, “Starbase.”

Final Might, the tribe joined the environmental teams Save RGV and the Sierra Membership in a lawsuit in opposition to Cameron County and the Texas Common Land Workplace, stating that blocking entry to a public seaside violates the Texas Structure. The decide dismissed the case, and it’s at the moment on attraction.

Bekah Hinojosa, senior Gulf Coast consultant for the Sierra Membership, says the county now closes Boca Chica Seashore and the highway to it 5 days every week from early within the morning to late at evening. They’ve additionally closed the seaside on a number of events merely to permit SpaceX and Elon Musk to have press conferences or to make use of the seaside for their very own occasions.

“That’s flawed,” Hinojosa says. “Individuals have been going there for generations. These are sacred lands of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe. Individuals have to go on the market to fish to feed their households. And Cameron County is permitting a billionaire to shut it for his personal events. That’s ridiculous!”

The swimsuit is actually a shot throughout the bow to get the eye of SpaceX, which started invading Boca Chica in 2014, shopping for out current owners and shifting in a military of tech workers, threatening to gentrify the close by metropolis of Brownsville, a largely Latino neighborhood.

The spectacle of rockets additionally attracts scores of vacationers to Boca Chica Seashore on days when it’s open to the general public. What was as soon as a pristine seaside the place sea turtles buried their eggs is now a dumping floor strewn with empty bottles, fast-food containers, and different litter. Components of the seaside are nonetheless black from a wildfire in 2019 set off by a take a look at of SpaceX’s Raptor rocket engine.

However what considerations Mancias most is the deliberate enlargement of the launch middle and the potential destruction of historical village websites and the artifacts and human stays they might comprise.

The launch middle was initially designed to deal with smaller rockets, such because the SpaceX Falcon 9, and Falcon Heavy automobiles. However the firm is switching to the a lot bigger Tremendous Heavy and Starship rockets that can ultimately place 1000’s of Starlink web satellites into low-earth orbit. The corporate plans to launch as much as one rocket every week beginning subsequent 12 months, requiring a bigger assist facility and extra launchpads.

The unique individuals of the realm had been migratory, shifting inland throughout hurricane season, then again out to the gulf throughout fishing season. Over 1000’s of years, numerous villages shaped and dissolved, buried within the marshland soils of the realm.

“That was a fishing colony there for us,” Mancias explains. “It was a serious gathering place through the instances when looking was not out there.”

Previously, firms doing mining or dredging or different improvement tasks within the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas had been usually caught stealing artifacts and even human stays they discovered. Some offered them or locked them away in non-public collections, in response to Mancias.

In accordance with archived paperwork on the Texas Railroad Fee, in 1871, surveyors found a mound alongside a proposed rail line that contained the bones of greater than 325 males, ladies, and kids. The railroad firm on the time questioned a really outdated native Native man who described how, as a boy, he had witnessed the bloodbath of his whole village by Spanish troopers accompanied by Catholic monks.

The our bodies of his individuals and household, together with his father, who had fought the Spanish valiantly in earlier battles, had been thrown right into a pit and burned. The mound of buried bones the railroad surveyors discovered was all that was left of the outdated man’s village.

The outdated man who recounted the story was Manuel Cavazos, the only survivor of what grew to become often called the Satan’s River Bloodbath. And he was the great-great-great-grandfather of Juan Mancias, the chair of the Carrizo Comecrudo Tribe of Texas at the moment.

Nobody is aware of how a lot of the tribe’s historical past has been misplaced on this approach. It’s greater than doubtless historical villages had been bulldozed and any artifacts or stays uncovered had been misplaced within the fog of development when the launch middle was first in-built 2016.

“We don’t know what [Musk] did with the artifacts … if they simply threw them over to the facet, or offered them to collectors,” Mancias says.

SpaceX didn’t reply to an e mail request for remark.

Border Partitions and Fuel Vegetation

SpaceX isn’t the one menace to the standard tribal lands of the Carrizo Comecrudo. In 2017, the tribe fought in opposition to former President Trump’s border wall. Building of the wall, which continues to at the present time, threatened the Eli Jackson Cemetery, the place most of the tribe’s ancestors are buried. Thanks largely to the tribe’s efforts, the trail of the wall was altered to bypass the cemetery. Nonetheless, the cemetery is now closed to guests because of its proximity to the wall.

Extra not too long ago, the tribe has been preventing the development of two liquefied pure gasoline (LNG) vegetation, each of which infringe on Garcia Pasture, an space held sacred by the tribe. The positioning accommodates the remnants of a pre-Columbian village round a thousand years outdated. Earlier this 12 months, the World Monuments Fund added Garcia Pasture to the 2022 World Monuments Watch, and it’s included within the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations.

Nonetheless, the Rio Grande LNG terminal started development final month to create a pure gasoline export facility on the Port of Brownsville that’s throughout the boundaries of Garcia Pasture. The ability will take fracked gasoline from the Rio Bravo Pipeline and convert it right into a condensed liquid cooled to minus 259 levels Fahrenheit, which might then be loaded onto tanker ships for transport to international nations.

Cindy Cochran, a researcher for the tribe and normal assistant to Chairman Mancias, says she was shocked by photos of how the large website was going to be cleared earlier than development begins.

“They only bulldoze all the pieces,” Cochran says. “They don’t care. It doesn’t matter what’s there. They don’t take into consideration how they will restore, they don’t take into consideration environmental impacts, nothing. They only get in there and bulldoze.”

On Nov. 3, Mancias and his tribe served a cease-and-desist order on the Port of Brownsville and on NextDecade, the mum or dad firm of Rio Grande LNG, to cease development to stop harm to the traditional village website. Neither group has but responded to the letter.

Preventing for Recognition

The Carrizo Comecrudo have a historical past and an identification that goes again so far as anybody can keep in mind, preventing and dying for his or her land and sanctifying it with prayers and ceremonies. But they’ve virtually no authorized rights to guard it.

The Carrizo Comecrudo have been preventing for federal recognition since 1998, however the course of takes years; requires groups of legal professionals, genealogists, and different specialists; and might price as a lot as 1,000,000 {dollars}. There are greater than 200 tribes within the U.S. that lack federal recognition, a lot of them caught on this unimaginably advanced course of. However the authorized safety afforded to most Native tribes, such because the Native American Graves Safety and Repatriation Act (NAGPRA) and the American Indian Non secular Freedom Act, solely apply to federally acknowledged tribes.

Nonetheless, with a membership of round 1,200, the Carrizo Comecrudo perform as a tribal nation like another. Along with sustaining and supporting the tribe’s tradition and traditions, they recurrently come collectively as a neighborhood, together with different Indigenous and environmental teams, to guard Fatherland and rights.

“We work with lots of people, as a result of we’re human beings and we would like everyone to be welcomed on our land,” says Christa Mancias-Zapata, tribal secretary and daughter of Juan Mancias, “particularly these which can be preventing extractive industries serving to us to guard our sacred websites and the land itself.”

Sadly, not being federally acknowledged means Elon Musk and SpaceX don’t have any authorized requirement to seek the advice of with the tribe concerning the deliberate enlargement of the launch middle. And there may be positively no requirement to achieve the tribe’s consent.

Musk has purchased the favor of native governments with beneficiant donations and acquired tax breaks and different concessions in return for jobs and an infusion of his well-known wealth into the neighborhood. So whereas Musk might not acknowledge the Carrizo Comecrudo, they positively acknowledge him.

The rich capitalist makes use of his riches to take advantage of a brand new world throughout the photo voltaic system whereas standing on the backs of Indigenous individuals right here on Earth. He’s a colonizer, identical to the Spanish who slaughtered the village of Juan Mancias’ great-great-great-grandfather Manuel Cavazos in 1801. And Juan Mancias carries that very same preventing spirit. Preventing Musk’s SpaceX empire thus turns into a robust act of decolonization for the Carrizo Comecrudo tribe.

Musk’s objective is to desert the Earth, whereas Mancias and his tribe battle to heal it.