Haaland condemns students’ behavior toward Native elder at Indigenous Peoples March

Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) condemned a group of young students for displaying “blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance” in a viral video apparently taken during Friday’s Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C.

The video shows a group of dozens of mostly young men wearing President Trump’s signature red “Make America Great Again” hats and other apparel supporting the president. Several young men can be heard shouting and seen jumping around a Native American elder who is chanting and beating a drum. At one point, a young man is seen standing directly in front of the elder as he chants.

{mosads}The elder was identified by Indian Country Today newspaper as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder who is also a Vietnam veteran and former director of the Native Youth Alliance.

Phillips is reportedly a keeper of a sacred pipe and holds an annual ceremony honoring Native American veterans at Arlington National Cemetery.

In a phone call with The Hill, the freshman lawmaker said she feels as though that respect for others has diminished in recent years. 

“I feel like some of that has truly been lost and that’s all condoned by our president,” Haaland said. “You could tell that by the hats they were wearing.”

Haaland is Catholic as all Pueblo Indians have been since the late 1500s. The students involved in the incident were from an all-boys Catholic school in Kentucky to attend Friday’s March for Life rally against abortion. 

“Our Catholic values of Pueblo people have been to care about each other and respect cultures,” Haaland said. “Those are things I learned as I was growing up.” 

The school and the Diocese of Covington said in a joint statement Saturday that they would “take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion.”

“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 statement obtained by USA Today read.

Haaland said she hopes the school and their parents “look deep into themselves” and teach their children “some manners and respect.” 

“Every student in this country should know that there would be no United States without Native Americans,” Haaland told The Hill. “It’s a shame they didn’t sit and listen quietly and learn … It was wrong-headed for them to antagonize him so I hope they learn some Native American history and cultural sensitivity.” 

Haaland and Rep. Sharice Davids (D-Kan.) were the first two Native American women elected to Congress in November. Haaland wore a traditional Pueblo dress, jewelry and moccasins for her swearing-in ceremony earlier this month.  

The Democrat from New Mexico attended the Indigenous People’s March at the Lincoln Memorial earlier in the day before the incident took place and said the crowd was in “such high spirits.” 

“These kids, they could not diminish the power and the love that everyone shared for the march over all,” Haaland said. “It’s unfortunate they tried to take him off his game.” 

But she applauded Phillips for finishing his song. 

“This Veteran put his life on the line for our country,” Haaland, one of the first two Native American women elected to Congress, wrote on Twitter. “The students’ display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking.”

{mossecondads}Haaland shared the now-viral video that was reportedly taken during the march. The Twitter video surpassed more than 2 million views in two hours.

He said he could hear the group of young men chanting “build that wall, build that wall” around him as he was playing his drum. 

“This is indigenous lands. We’re not supposed to have walls here, we never did, for millennium before anybody else came here. We never had walls,” Phillips said in an Instagram video posted by user @ka_ya11. 

“We always took care of our elders, we took care of our children,” he continued. “We always provided for them. We taught them right from wrong.

Phillips said he wished he could see that “energy” exhibited by the large group of boys be channeled into “making this country really really great.” 

A University of the District of Columbia student who took the videos told CNN that the students were first involved in a back-and-forth of yelling and name-calling with a group of young African-Americans nearby.

The student, Kata Taitano, told CNN that Phillips attempted to stop the situation from escalating by stepping in, playing his drum and chanting a healing prayer.

Taitano said that Phillips’s efforts to defuse the situation were successful until he reached the boy in the video, who she said “just refused to move and he just got in Nathan’s face.”

Detroit Free Press reporter Niraj Warikoo also reported that Phillips said the students were harassing a group of black people. Phillips reportedly said that the MAGA hat-wearing teens had a “scary” “mob mentality.”

Avery Anapol contributed to this report, which was updated on Jan. 20 at 8:13 a.m.

Tags Deb Haaland Debra Haaland Donald Trump Indigenous Peoples March Native American elder Sharice Davids

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