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Nathan Philips: Disrespecting The Culture of Indigenous People and Who Is Paying for It

Nathan Philips
Written by Chioma Gabriel

It’s a shame when highly reputable and respectable people of native descent are disrespected by the same youths they would give their lives for. During the March for Life that happened In Washington D.C on Friday, as a March for every life inclusive of the Indigenous people; a group of teens were in Washington for the March for Life anti-abortion rally that was taking place at the same time as the Indigenous People’s March.

For the Indigenous people, the aim is to bring awareness to the injustices affecting Indigenous men, women, children and two spirits. A peaceful March that spoke to culture and people, until these teenagers of Covington Catholic High School, wearing MAGA hats started yelling over Native American marchers.

Nathan Philips

This is where the story hurts:

Nathan Philips, a veteran of the Vietnam war and an elder of Nebraska’s Omaha tribe, was confronted by a teen who stood and stared down at him with the most disrespectful smile while the other students yelled “build that wall! Build that wall!”
The elderly protester; Mr Nathan Philips stood and unrelentingly sang in his native language while the teenagers stood in front and around him, yelling that the wall be built. Totally disregarding the lives of the people who have seen America become.

In an interview, Nathan Philips in all his emotions, talked about what happened. “When I was there singing I heard them saying ‘build that wall! build that wall!’” he said. “you know this is indigenous land, were not supposed to have walls here, we never did for a millennium before anyone else came here.”
Phillips added he wishes the young men he encountered would, “put their energy into making this country really great, helping those that are hungry.” At this point, he was already teary.

Mr Philips reaction just shows how much love you can give back to hate, even if it’s from the young.

The whole world have felt disrespected by this incident and news outlet all over the world, reporting on the heavy story of Nathan Philips.

Who gets to pay for it

January 19 will well go down in native history as the day which a Native American elder, Nathan Philips, was talked down and disrespected by Non-Native teenagers from Covington Catholic High School at the end of the day’s Indigenous People’s March.

As much as the outrage has been directed at the school boys, the Convington Catholic High School is largely seen as being responsible for fostering an environment where these types of actions and words are condoned.  USA Network’s Cincinnati Enquirer, reported early Saturday the 19th, that the school had responded to the public, “Covington Catholic High School has said that students could be expelled after a video went viral, showing an incident where students who were in Washington D.C. for the March for Life surrounded indigenous marchers at a different event.”

On the school’s code of conduct web page, it is stated the students should be held accountable for harassment and/or bullying.

Harassment and/or bullying which includes but is not limited to: face-to-face harassment or name-calling, threats, unwelcome jokes, written harassment of any kind, defamation of character/spreading gossip about another person, unwelcome physical contact, or cyber-bullying.

Still not enough

For whatever reason; maybe obvious reasons, the Covington Catholic High School converted all of their social media pages to private, and the ability to access the school’s contact page is now password protected. But the school along with Kentucky Catholic church issued an official public statement.

A website at the Catholic Conference of Kentucky, described as “Representing the Roman Catholic Church and Kentucky’s dioceses in public policy matters,” posted the following:

Statement on the actions of Covington Catholic High School students 19 Jan.

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.

The incident definitely took over the day with worldwide outrage and support. Nathan Philips happens to have more to his profile, he is an Omaha-based Vietnam veteran who holds an annual ceremony honoring National Cemetery. Mr Philips is the former director of the Native Youth Alliance and a reputable keeper of ceremonial sacred pipe.

After the incident, Social Media was on fire with support from thousands of people talking about it from around the globe. I am currently writing about this from Nigeria.

From Twitter

Now a petition

A past student from  Covington Catholic class of 1995, Matthew Lehman, has issued a public petition titled “Immediate change at Covington Catholic.”  His petition is asking for the “immediate termination of the school principal, Mr. Robert Rowe, for fostering an environment where these types of actions and words are condoned,” as well as a board to review admissions and educational standards, and for the school to cease any activity with the March for Life.

So far the petition has garnered over 5,400 signatures.

Sign the petition

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About the author

Chioma Gabriel

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