Some Native leaders are pushing back against a report that claims to exonerate Catholic high school students involved in a high-profile confrontation last month during a rally on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. The report was prepared by a detective agency hired by a law firm on behalf of the Catholic Diocese of Covington. Diocese leaders say the report’s conclusions clear the students of making any offensive or racist statements. The report’s authors talked to Covington Catholic High School students and chaperones and reviewed video footage of the incident.
Lance Gumbs, a member of the Council of Trustees for the Shinnecock Indian Nation in New York dismisses the report as ‘laughable’. Gumbs witnessed the confrontation first-hand and says the students, teachers and the third-party investigators fail to comprehend the extent of disrespect directed at Omaha elder Nathan Phillips as he sang and drummed at the rally.
“I think what would behoove the Catholic Church is to sit down with a group of the Indigenous people who were there to discuss what transpired and how to build a better bridge, how to understand a different culture and what that meant to us to have that young man stand in the way of an elder,” Gumbs said.
The report’s investigators tried to talk to Phillips, but said they did not get a response. They did acknowledge that the students performed a ‘tomahawk chop’ motion with their arms and joined in with Phillips as he chanted. In a letter to school parents, diocese Bishop Roger Foys says the students’ reaction to the situation was “expected and one might even say laudatory.”