“A group of high school teens surrounded and jeered at Native American elder Nathan Phillips on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Jan. 18. The images in videos that went viral on social media Saturday showed a tense scene near the Lincoln Memorial.” The Washington Post
“A Native American man steadily beats his drum at the tail end of Friday’s Indigenous Peoples March while singing a song of unity urging participants to ‘be strong’ against the ravages of colonialism that include police brutality, poor access to health care and the ill effects of climate change on reservations.
Surrounding him are a throng of young, mostly white teenage boys, several wearing ‘Make America Great Again’ caps. One stood about a foot from the drummer’s face wearing a relentless smirk.
Nathan Phillips, a veteran in the indigenous rights movement, was that man in the middle.
In an interview Saturday, Phillips, 64, said he felt threatened by the teens and that they swarmed around him as he and other activists were wrapping up the march and preparing to leave.
Phillips, who was singing the American Indian Movement song that serves as a ceremony to send the spirits home, said he noticed tensions beginning to escalate when the teens and other apparent participants from the nearby March for Life rally began taunting the dispersing indigenous crowd.
A few people in the March for Life crowd began to chant, ‘Build that wall, build that wall,’ he said.
‘It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ Phillips recalled. ‘I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way, and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.’
The encounter generated a wave of outrage on social media less than a week after Trump made light of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre of several hundred Lakota Indians by the U.S. Cavalry in a tweet…
In a statement, the Indigenous Peoples Movement, which organized Friday’s march, called the incident ’emblematic of our discourse in Trump’s America.’
‘It clearly demonstrates the validity of our concerns about the marginalization and disrespect of Indigenous peoples, and it shows that traditional knowledge is being ignored by those who should listen most closely,’ Darren Thompson, an organizer for the group, said in the statement.
Some of the teens in the video wore sweatshirts from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky., which sent students to Washington to participate in Friday’s antiabortion March for Life event, according to an archived page of the school’s website that was taken down Saturday.
School officials and the Catholic Diocese of Covington released a joint statement Saturday.
‘We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general,’ the statement said. ‘The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.’
The diocese’s statement expressed regret that jeering, disrespectful students from a Catholic school had become the enduring image of the march…[Philips] said ‘It was an aggressive display of physicality. They were rambunctious and trying to instigate a conflict. ‘We were wondering where their chaperones were. [I] was really trying to defuse the situation.’
Phillips, an Omaha tribe elder who fought in the Vietnam War and lives in Michigan, has long been active in the indigenous rights movement. He said he hopes the teens will find a lesson in all of the negative attention generated by the videos.”