Native American leaders and others are honoring Omaha elder Nathan Philips who is at the center of video widely shared and making national news in recent days. It shows Philips drumming and singing while high school students wearing “Make America Great Again” hats mocked and taunted him. The confrontation happened in front of the Lincoln Memorial following the Indigenous People’s March in Washington, D.C.
Cheyenne River Sioux Tribal Chairman Harold Frazier is among those praising Phillips for remaining poised and calm in the face of negative comments and intimidation from the students.
“I want to applaud him for taking that stand, and I want to applaud everybody and thank them for standing up and reminding Americans we’re still here,” Frazier said on Native America Calling. The students are from Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky. They were on a school trip for the National March For Life that same day. Frazier said he couldn’t bring himself to watch the video at first. “It really saddens me the hatred that exists in this country,” he said.
Philips said he was wrapping up near the Lincoln Memorial when he inserted himself into an increasingly tense verbal confrontation between the high school students and a group representing the Black Hebrew Israelites.
“I was wondering where the chaperones where and why did they allow them to disrespect people on the mall?” Phillips said to Native America Calling and KSFR Indigenous Foundation host Tara Gatewood.
Tribal leaders, Native American members of Congress and heads of Native organizations issued public statements expressing concern and outrage over the apparent lack of respect by the students. One of the students prominent in the video, Nick Sandman, said people are mischaracterizing his role in the confrontation. He said he was confused and did not intentionally make faces or interact with Phillips and other Native Americans at the event.
Following coverage of the altercation, the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School released a statement publicly:
“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.
The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.
We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement.
Catholic High School officials investigate and one of the students singled out in the video says there’s misinformation and lies about the incident.”
Gary B Hornfeld AIM says
The boy who refused to move aside was clearly motivated to block Phillips and did so without any information or understanding that an Indian playing a drum is a sacred affair just as the boy believes in his Catholic teachings.
Sandra W. says
A very respectful way to diffuse confrontation and possible violence by Elder Phillips. Our Native teachings say to never disrespect an Elder. I witness alot of “White” kids disrespecting Elders,even their own Parents! It’s not being taught in the home!