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A video from the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. created a firestorm over the weekend. There’s a tug-of-war over the public message since the initial video surfaced showing Nathan Phillips drumming and singing as a group of students jeered and mocked him. Another group calling themselves Hebrew Israelites also heightened tensions. Tribes, tribal leaders, members of Congress, media pundits and even the school the students represented were quick to denounce what they say is obvious disrespect of an Omaha Nation elder. Parents, political commentators and even President Trump are now coming to the students’ defense, saying they acted appropriately. We’ll sort out the incident and the evolving reactions.
Quese Imc (Pawnee/Seminole) – hip hop emcee and independent music producer
Nathan Phillips (Omaha) -U.S. Marine Vietnam Era Veteran and Elder
Lance Gumbs (Shinnecock Indian Nation) – a senior trustee and councilman of the Council of the Shinnecock Indian Nation and the regional vice president of the National Congress of American Indians
Marisa Duarte (Pascua Yaqui Tribe) – assistant professor of Justice and Sociotechnical Change in the School of Social Transformation at Arizona State University
Kansas Middletent (Lakota) – ambassador for Native Hope
Break 1 Music: Honoring The Homeland (song) Radmilla & Herman Cody (artist) Shi Kéyah (album)
Break 2 Music: The Real People (song) RiverFlowz (artist) RiverFlowz (album)
Johnnie Diacon says
I’d like to know where the chaperones were when the Black Israelites first began to verbally harass the group from Covington. Have any of them came forward? Did any of them record what was happening and why didn’t they stop it initially? Why does it appears that no adults were in charge to the point that, as one of the students claim, he suggested to a chaperon that they do the school chant to ease the tension? If this is true, then why did it take a child to suggest a solution to the problem rather than an adult? And even further than that why didn’t any adults step in and remove the students from this situation if they felt so threatened. It had been going on for a good period before Nathan Phillips entered.
This is just my opinion and I am basing it on what I took away from hours of watching multiple videos of the incident as well as seeing news reports and reading articles about it. The native people were harassed by both the Black Israelite group and the Covington students. The claim that the Covington students did not harass anyone is inaccurate. I had read reports that others not associated with the event at the Lincoln Memorial had reported that the Covington group had been causing trouble throughout the day. Again, if true, this sounds like poor adult supervision of these kids. Some of the videos I watched do indeed show rowdy behavior by the Covington students both before and after Mr. Phillips entered the encounter singing. I have watched several long videos of the incident that was taken by different people and from different angles. There was instances of the Covington students doing the tomahawk chop, faux Indian dances and mock chanting while Mr. Phillips was singing. I have seen videos in which “build the wall” was to be heard in the background, but to be fair the phone was not aimed at the person who said it so I cannot say for certain that it was a Covington student, but my guess is that it was. I base this on the fact that the Covington students were wearing hats and shirts which feature Trump’s Make America Great Again brand and the voice was obviously that of a young person. I’m sure Trump’s hateful rhetoric is a common theme, incidentally or not, in their young lives and they possibly don’t fully comprehend the true intent behind it when they sport such gear and make such comments. As for the ones that are saying that these kids were singled out simply because they were wearing MAGA gear I have this to say, if you chose to sport the gear that has been aligned with white supremacy then expect to inherit the stigma that goes along with it. In fact I’m sure that the hateful and ignorant and inexcusable things that the Black Israelites were yelling at these kids and to others for that matter, was most likely triggered by the kids clothing and their actions. This is what most likely drew the unwanted attention to them since they are kids and would possibly have been ignored. As for those that say Mr. Phillips “pushed” his way into the crowd, this is also inaccurate. I have watched several videos from different angles which most definitely show him slowly walking, at times almost in a dance step fashion, as he came into the area drumming and singing. In no way shape or form was he aggressive in his entrance. His path was for the most part clear as he and a few other natives got in between the two groups. Statements about the boys not surrounding Mr. Phillips during this is also inaccurate. Many videos show rowdy Covington students, or at least young people in MAGA hats and shirts that I perceive to be Covington students behind Mr. Phillips’ group. At this point the Black Israelites aggressive vocal presence had diminished to practically nothing. I want to note here that there has yet to be an authoritative adult presence at this point in the videos that I have watched. As for statements I have heard that the Covington students “made no attempt to confronting people”, I feel that initially they may not have, but it appears that the harassing jeers of the Black Israelites is what got the students riled up and due to the lack of adult supervision they were left to their own devices in how to respond which turned out to be in a very inappropriate manner.
As for Mr. Phillips’ intent on interjecting himself into the situation, I cannot speak for him personally, but I initially heard an interview in which he said his first thought was to ignore the situation because he was unsure of what was taking place and didn’t want to get involved. It was after the students appeared to get worked up during their school chant and the student taking off his shirt during this point, which is visible in the videos, he felt that he needed to intervene because it appeared the situation was growing out of control to a dangerous point. According to Mr. Phillips and backed up by others present in his group, that in order to defuse the tension they decided to place themselves between the two factions and sing and pray in the hopes of drawing power from the ancestors as they had done back during the peaceful protests at Standing Rock. The intention was for the good of both factions, not one over the other.
I feel the “build the wall” comment(s) that were on the videos or relayed as being heard by those there was the product of the students lack of understanding who and what native people are. A lot of non-native people know little to nothing about us and many, unbelievably and sadly, are under the impression that we no longer exist. Their first impression of a brown skin person is that they are either, Mexican, Middle Eastern, or Asian. I myself have experienced this through my life. I have been asked to read something to a non-native that was in Spanish because they thought I was Hispanic, during the Iran Hostage crisis I was called an Iranian, and because my last name rhymes with Taiwan I was often called names reserved for people of Asian descent. Having grown up in a sun down town in Arkansas as a child I was referred to by the N word on many occasions and when I explained that I was Native American, their response was something to the fact that I couldn’t be because they are “all dead”. This type of bull continues today with Trump and his supporters lumping all brown skin people from south of the border as “Mexicans” even though they are coming from counties in Central and South America.
As for Nick Sandmann, the Covington student who is now the face of this incident. I have this to say. First if it is true that he has received death threats, this is totally uncalled for and inexcusable. As for him being scared as he now claims and all he could do was to stand there and smile, I’m not buying that. That look is not the look of a scared child. I have seen that look before and that is the smug look of someone who is not at all afraid or even the least bit concerned of his actions and its consequences. I have seen that look, it is the look of white privilege, of affluence. And why should he be worried, he has the numbers to back him up. He’s not starring down an old man by himself. If he was truly afraid and confused as he claims, then every time Mr. Phillips hit his drum I think Sandmann’s eyes would have blinked and he would have winced. He did neither, but stood there calmly with what I personally perceive to be more of a smirk than a smile. He seemed pretty composed for someone who, as he claims, was scared and worried that “a situation was getting out of control where adults were attempting to provoke teenagers”. There is the fact that if he truly was worried and felt scared, then why did he not seek out a chaperon? Why did he not remove himself from that position if he was truly uncomfortable and confused by what was happening? Again this brings up the lack of adult supervision present during the encounter. It appears that discipline actions should also be in line for the adults in charge for letting the children under their supervision become embroiled in such an event.
Why is it we are only seeing a few videos of the incident. From these videos I have seen many students with their phones out recording the event as it took place. Are these not being made public because they may possibly confirm the actions and identities of the Covington students committing the very acts that they are now claiming didn’t happen? I think less blame needs to be placed on Mr. Phillips’ actions and more on the original instigators, the chaperons, and finally the students. And if true, I find it intriguing, but not unexpected that Sandmann’s family would hire a PR company to handle the affair for them. After all I’m sure that his family can afford it since they are sending their son to a private school for his education. Again, for what it is worth, this is just my opinion.
Thank you 🙂
“As for the ones that are saying that these kids were singled out simply because they were wearing MAGA gear I have this to say, if you chose to sport the gear that has been aligned with white supremacy then expect to inherit the stigma that goes along with it. How dare you say this.” A young girl was raped wearing a short dress do you say well you were wearing a short dress………
Trace Hentz says
please read Deborah Miranda on this topic: https://badndns.blogspot.com/2019/01/first-encounters.html#comment-form
Please do not add to the false rhetoric….there was not mocking of Native Americans on the high schoolers part. There was an interview with Nathan Phillips the elder and even he said they did nothing derogatory to him and his people. Please stop spreading false media gossip! Time to look for common ground folks!
Donna Platt says
We all have seen different videos and heard all sides of the story on yesterdays news. The following is just my point of view and what I walked away with at the end of the day. I am not putting this out there to argue, point fingers or even be correct.
The blacks: were saying things that were malignant.
The young adults: they did not understand how to stay focused in their message and therefore became infected by the nastiness. You could see this by their body language.
The Native American drummer: He didn’t understand that the other people in the groups did not understand his message.
Those who were saying negative incite full things: They ruined any message they were trying to share.
The lack of respect spreads like a disease. We have seen this in our society today.
I have said it before “that if you have ten people that were watching a train wreck you would have 10 different opinions on how it happened.”
This is so true of what happened with the three groups that converged the other day. Each groups has tried to validate their stance.
Eons ago when I was in my teens and would attend protest the organizers would alway remind us that we needed to stay focused and on point, peaceful and respectful of others. They would say that there were going to be those who would try to distract you from your statement and there would be those who do not represent what you are saying. Stay focused and respectful. Of course you need to know this was also in the time of dr Martin Luther King. Peaceful demonstrations.
Hopefully the incident is going to be a learning experience for all those involved, especially the teens and the adults who brought them to demonstration.
You cannot control others dialog only your own, so don’t react to a few that use malignant words and actions.
When adults form a protest of any kind they need to prepare those young people so they understand how to deal with distractions. Adults are teaching our young to be tomorrow’s leaders.
It is obvious that there is enough blame to go around for all of those involved.
What I still say though is that there is no reason to disrespect an Elder and Native American who is chanting their prayer song.
Yes many do not understand that when a Native American chants and drums that it is a peaceful way of conveying a prayer or a story.
Many of our young today have learned that an “Elder” is just an old person and they don’t have to show respect.
I refer back to my grandparent on why we respect Elders, and that is that an Elder has lived a long life, full of stories that got them to where they are. We may not know or understand their trials and tribulations, all we see is a worn out bandage that covers many of the wounds. By showing respect for them you show respect for yourself. (Old is a term we use for a worn out pair of shoes.)
From my point of the train wreck I saw a lack of respect on all sides.
This is sad as how do you move forward if we loose Respect in our world. Just saying..
I think our Indigenous youth got lost in this conversation. I’m worried about what message the support for the Covington crowd sends to our Indigenous youth. How does white fragility become a cultural norm.? How do we move forward and control our narrative? The inherent racism is endemic in the educational system and not limited to the Catholic school system. How do we instill self esteem in our Indigenous youth where suicide rates are alarming and racism/sexism and homophobia runs rapid and condoned by our president ?