Indigenous People March: National Confrontation

By Katie Keith

On Friday, January 18, 2019, there was an Indigenous People March in Washington D.C.

Liberal Side

This started off as an innocent protest, thousands of Native Americans declaring their rights as well as celebrating and enjoying their cultural ways of life. A group of school boys from Covington Catholic High School showed up at the rally wearing Make America Great Again hats. They had the right to wear what they wanted, but then they were no longer friendly towards the peaceful protestors. Nathan Phillips, an elder in the Omaha tribe, was chanting along with his fellow tribe members when the group of boys approached them. The group of boys were shouting racial slurs, mocking their culture, and getting within their personal space. Nick Sandmann, a junior at Covington Catholic School, got up in Nathan’s face. Nick did not touch him or say anything to Nathan. He said he was “trying to defuse the situation and that they did nothing wrong.” Many people that were attending the rally as an ally, said the situation was tense and gave them the unsafe feeling. The boys exclaimed that there were four black men who were preaching about the Bible. Name calling, shouting, and aggression arose, the source unknown. Nathan Phillips started a healing chant, trying to defuse the situation. Things had calmed down, until Nick got in Nathan’s personal space and refused to move. “What the young man was doing was blocking my escape. I wanted to leave. I wanted to get away from it,” Nathan said. The stand off lasted until the chaperones came and led the students away. Why were the chaperones away from their students in the first place? The school they attend is in Kentucky, which means the students were unfamiliar with being in large crowds. This tense situation would have most likely not occurred if chaperones were present the whole time.  The school the boys attend have even called this behavior disrespectful and are handling the situation accordingly. In a statement from both Covington Catholic High School and the Diocese of Covington, they apologized to Nathan Phillips. “We will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” they said in the statement.

Conservative Side

During this Native American March, the group of Catholic High School boys gathered around the protestors. The boys claimed to have never said anything hateful or racist. A group of four men who are a part of the Black Hebrew Israelite Movement started saying racial slurs to the teen boys. Nick Sandmann said “a teacher [chaperone] gave the students permission to begin their school chants to counter the hate.” This chanting was turned against the boys, saying they were chanting hateful things. Nathan Phillips got in between the two groups and did a chant to try to “defuse the situation.” Nathan approached Nick, and the two stood face to face while Nathan continued chanting. This action in the video went viral, putting all the blame on Nick and the school boys. “I do not blame myself, my schoolmates, or the chaperones. I blame the adults in the situation and the ones who stood against me,” said Nick. "The protester everyone has seen in the video began playing his drum as he waded into the crowd which parted for him. I did not see anyone try to block his path. He locked eyes with me and approached me, coming within inches of my face. He played his drum the entire time he was in my face," Nick said. From another angle of the video, it appears Nathan Phillips was the one who approached the boys first. Nick stated that he did not have an encounter with Nathan. After the video went viral, Nick stated, “I am being called every name in the book, including a racist, and I will not stand for this mob-like character assassination of my family’s name.” The Sandmann family has been getting death threats for something he said he had no part in besides being there. President Donald Trump invited the group of schoolboys to the White House. They have yet to say if they will go.

This situation could seen from both sides, Liberal and Conservative. Nick’s facial expression was also a big controversy during the matter. His facial expression could be seen as either smug or as scared. The whole situation was confusing, and the blame is getting passed around from Nick, to Nathan, to the group of Hebrew Israelites.  Things escalated quickly and who’s at fault is up to personal discretion.