Nathan Phillips, the Omaha elder who was confronted by teenagers in Make America Great Again hats spoke out Saturday, saying "it was getting ugly."

Phillips, a Vietnam-era veteran, was singing the American Indian Movement song of unity near Friday's March for Life when he was surrounded by the teens who he says were chanting "build that wall, build that wall" as he was playing his drum, according to an Instagram video.  


“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips told the Washington Post. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

The video of the confrontation quickly went viral, drawing criticism from Native American communities.

Phillips said he is "still trying to process what happened" after the incident. “I’m feeling a little bit overwhelmed.”

“That energy could be turned into feeding the people, cleaning up our communities and figuring out what else we can do,” he continued in reference to the teens who harassed him. “We need the young people to be doing that instead of saying: ‘These guys are our enemies.’ ”

The Indigenous Peoples Movement called the incident “emblematic of our discourse in Trump’s America.”

“It clearly demonstrates the validity of our concerns about the marginalization and disrespect of Indigenous peoples, and it shows that traditional knowledge is being ignored by those who should listen most closely,” Darren Thompson, an organizer for the group, said in the statement.

Rep. Deb HaalandDeb HaalandOVERNIGHT ENERGY: Energy Dept. targets Trump rollbacks on appliance efficiency | Biden officials take second look at Arctic refuge drilling | Scientists study 'power source of stars' in climate fight Biden administration kicks off second look at Arctic refuge drilling Tracy Stone-Manning's confirmation treatment was simply unacceptable — and it must stop MORE (D-N.M.) condemned the group of students for displaying "blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance."

“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.”

The group was identified as high school students visiting from Kentucky.

Covington Catholic High and the Diocese of Covington released a statement Saturday condemning the student's actions, per

"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." they wrote. "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.

– This story was updated Jan. 22 at 8 p.m. with new info describing Phillips