Footage of white teenagers taunting a Native American man in Washington, DC, has sparked outrage and prompted a Native American member of Congress to condemn their “display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance.”
A video of the incident, which occurred yesterday, shows a large group of boys, almost entirely white, some wearing “Make America Great Again” hats, surrounding and mocking a man as he sings and drums as part of the Indigenous Peoples March. Indian Country News identified the man as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder and Vietnam Veteran.
One boy stood directly in front of Phillips, smirking as those around him chanted and made “tomahawk chops” with their hands. The teens were reportedly in Washington, DC, to attend the March for Life as part of a trip sponsored by their school, Covington Catholic High School, in Park Hills, Kentucky.
Speaking after the incident, Shilling, looking shaken, recounted what had happened: “I heard them saying, ‘Build that wall, build that wall.’ You know, this is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here; we never did.” He said he wished that the “mass of young men” who taunted him would “put that energy into making this country really great.”
Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), who recently took her seat as one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, condemned the boys’ behavior and linked it to President Donald Trump:
This Veteran put his life on the line for our country. The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking. https://t.co/NuPnYu9FP4
— Rep. Deb Haaland (@RepDebHaaland) January 19, 2019
The Cincinnati Enquirer reported that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covingtion, which operates the boys’ school, issued a statement saying was looking into the incident.
Update: In a statement to the Enquirer, the diocese condemned the boys’ actions and apologized to Phillips. “The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion,” it said.