Nathan Phillips seeks meeting at Covington Catholic on racism, accuses student of ‘falsehoods’
Nathan Phillips sought Tuesday to meet with teens from Covington Catholic High School on racism and cultural appropriation while accusing one of the students of “intentional falsehoods” about their viral encounter.
Mr. Phillips, an Omaha Nation elder, offered to come to the Northern Kentucky private school for “a dialog about cultural appropriation, racism, and the importance of listening to and respecting diverse cultures,” according to a press release from the Lakota People’s Law Project.
The students were accused of harassing Mr. Phillips in Saturday media reports until video showed that he initiated contact by walking into their cheer circle with several other adults, singing and beating a drum, on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial.
“Race relations in this country and around the world have reached a boiling point,” Mr. Phillips said. “It is sad that on the weekend of a holiday when we celebrate the life and legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., racial hostility occurred on the steps of the Lincoln memorial, where King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech.”
He also accused junior Nick Sandmann of “intentional falsehoods” about their face-off. Mr. Sandmann said in a Sunday statement that Mr. Phillips “locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face.”
“I have read the statement from Nick Sandmann, the student who stared at me for a long time. He did not apologize, and I believe there are intentional falsehoods in his testimony,” Mr. Phillips said. “But I have faith that human beings can use a moment like this to find a way to gain understanding from one another.”
Some media figures have backpedaled after initially denouncing the students, but the press release insisted that Mr. Phillips was “mocked” by Catholic students who “took over and disrespected a sacred space wearing MAGA garb and chanting slogans in support of President Donald Trump.”
The students, some of whom were wearing Make America Great Again hats, said they began doing school cheers while waiting for their bus after a handful of Black Hebrew Israelite protesters called them racial and homophobic slurs.
Mr. Phillips, along with the Indigenous Peoples March and the law project, also wants to meet with Pope Francis or other Vatican officials about “what role the Church might be willing to play in reconciling the Catholic community worldwide and Indigenous people.”
“We feel that there is a distinct lack of understanding and appreciation of Native peoples and traditions worldwide,” Mr. Phillips said. “It’s time to address the indecency of culturally appropriating our ritual movements and songs for the enjoyment of non-Native peoples.”
Shameful. A group of MAGA hat wearing youths taunted an elder singing and playing a ceremonial drum at yesterday’s #IndigenousPeoplesMarch. This is the face of Trump’s America: proud, obnoxious racism and disrespect. pic.twitter.com/HLJvK67CPA Lakota Law Project (@lakotalaw) January 19, 2019
Chase Iron Eyes, an attorney with the law project and spokesperson for the march, said that he witnessed the event. The boys had been attending the 46th annual March for Life. while he and Mr. Phillips were there for the Indigenous Peoples March, both of which occurred Friday.
“The kids must not understand what their choices in attire and expression represent in a time when our president openly mocks Native Americans and closes the borders to Indigenous children,” Mr. Iron Eyes said. “Racist rhetoric and actions are being normalized at the highest levels of the American government.”
He added, “Still, we have hope that Native elders, high school students, and Catholic leaders can come together and reach a better understanding of each other.”