WASHINGTON — A grinning teen wearing a red Make America Great Again hat stood inches from a Native American who was chanting and playing a ceremonial drum during an Indigenous Peoples March.
Other students, some wearing Covington clothing and many wearing red “Make America Great Again” hats and sweatshirts, surrounded them, laughing and jeering.
In a joint statement to the Cincinnati Enquirer , the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School apologized to Phillips. Officials said they are investigating and will take “appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”
“We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips,” the statement read. “This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person.”
"We are just now learning about this incident and regret it took place," Laura Keener, spokeswoman for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington, told the Enquirer. "We are looking into it."
The school’s social media channels were switched to private.
Students from the school participated in a March for Life event in Washington the same day as the Indigenous Peoples March, according to the school's website.
Nathan Phillips, a Vietnam veteran and former director of the Native Youth Alliance, is the man beating the drum and chanting the AIM Song, Indian Country Today reported.
According to the “Indian Country Today” website, Phillips is an Omaha elder and Vietnam veteran who holds an annual ceremony honoring Native American veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.
“When I was there singing, I heard them saying ‘Build that wall, build that wall,’” Phillips said, as he wiped away tears in a video posted on Instagram. “This is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did.”
“I wish I could see that energy of that young mass of young men to put that energy into making this country really great,” Phillips said in an interview posted to social media.
This is not the first time Phillips has been ridiculed.
State Rep. Ruth Buffalo, a North Dakota state lawmaker and member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said she was saddened to see students showing disrespect to an elder who is also a U.S. military veteran at what was supposed to be a celebration of all cultures.
“The behavior shown in that video is just a snapshot of what indigenous people have faced and are continuing to face,” Buffalo said.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico, who had been at the rally earlier in the day, sharply criticized what she called a display of “blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance.”
“This Veteran put his life on the line for our country,” she tweeted Saturday. “Heartbreaking.”
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