If this is what it takes to get the media's attention, revealing the uneven quality of our mainstream media coverage of Indigenous issues, and the seriousness of lack of mutual understandings -- then the bravery of the Omaha Elder Veteran Nathan Phillips was worth it.
Who is Nathan Phillips? Here is the comment of Suzanne Benaly (Navaho, Tewa), head of Cultural Survival:
"On Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day, I am reminded of Dr. King’s wise words, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that,” which ring true today as they did in 1957.
This past weekend’s events that overshadowed the Indigenous Peoples March in D.C., where Omaha Elder and Veteran Nathan Phillips was confronted by youth from the Covington Catholic High School from Kentucky, reflect a disrespect for American Indians and the racism President Trump influences in his rhetoric and actions. The standoff that took place between several groups and the young men emboldened to ridicule and show contempt to Elder Nathan Phillips is a public demonstration of the ignorance and racist attitude which Indian people have experienced since the founding of this country.
Elder Nathan Phillips rose above any divisive rhetoric using the drum to call for prayer and peace. He was concerned, as we all should be, about the actions of these young men and what our responsibility is in guiding our young people to strive for a just and compassionate world not a world of fences and divisions. He wisely said, “This is Indigenous land, you’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did for millennia. We never had a prison, we always took care of our Elders, took care of our children, always provided for them, taught them right from wrong. I wish I could see that energy … put that energy to making this country really, really great.”
We stand with Elder Nathan Phillips. There is no room for hate, bigotry, and discrimination in today’s world. There is much work to do in educating our society about Indigenous Peoples to overcome prejudice and injustice. Let us live our lives with love, kindness, and respect for all humankind and all beings that walk this Earth.
"I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear." - Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr."
Here's a woman who was attending the march describing what happened:
Here’s a woman who was attending the march describing what happened in her own words. pic.twitter.com/2bKvvzONEw
— Simar (@sahluwal) January 19, 2019
“At the close of the Indigenous People’s March and rally, the few of us left lingering to chat and meet were confronted and surrounded by 50-70 young people wearing Trump’s hats, T-shirts and other apparel. The group consisted of mostly white men who sought to intimidate, mock and scare us with a mob mentality in order to silence a demonstration that was mostly concluded. The group outnumbered us and enclosed our small group, chanting "build the wall” and other trumpisms… The group was clearly looking for any opportunity to get violent and they consistently infringed on our space, bumping into us, inching closer and closer and daring us to get physical. They surrounded us, screaming and cajoling and mocking the elder singer with intentionally disrespectful dancing and attempting to dance/sing louder than him…."
Student fieldwork on the Indigenous March and Rally from Hannah Funk:
The Indigenous Peoples March began at the Department of the Interior, within which the Bureau of Indian Affairs is housed. This was a deeply intentional choice on the part of the March organizations, centering the political nature of the March as not only an affirmation of indigenous culture, but a denouncement of the way that the U.S. government historically oppressed and continues to oppress Native Americans.
At the Department of the Interior, elders led the group in traditional prayers, featuring drumming, song, and tobacco smoke. During the prayer, March attendees talked with those around them, and I studied the signs. They demonstrated the intersectionality of the March, from remembering the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, to advocating for a Green New Deal, to expressing solidarity with Hispanic immigrants through the poignant message “No one is illegal on stolen land.”
Around 9:30, we began to march to the Lincoln monument. This portion of the day was different from other marches I have attended, since rather than chanting in call and response fashion, people drummed and sang traditional songs. This made the March seem a time of unity, reflection, and almost calm, culminating in the political energy of the rally.
While I only stayed at the rally for a half hour, I found the conviction and diverse perspectives highlighted among the speakers to be the most inspiring part of the experience. I heard a few female elders speak, with tribal backgrounds ranging from the Piscataway tribe in DC to the Taino in the Caribbean, as well as a drum group formed by brothers who emphasized the challenges facing indigenous women. While studying indigenous issues in Brazil this past semester, I read about how the movement is primarily led by men, leading to rendering invisible the needs of the indigenous woman. Therefore, I was excited to see the strong representation of female leaders and the recognition from everyone at the March that the needs of women must be given special importance in the indigenous community. For me, the greatest take-away of the Indigenous Peoples March was the truly intersectional nature of the indigenous movement in the U.S. and its connection to the struggles of other marginalized peoples.
The Mishandling of the MAGA Teens Story Shows Why I Gave Up on Mainstream Media Tristan Ahtone of the Washington Post (January 2019)
Native American Activist Says He Forgives Boys in Videos Associated Press (January 2019)
A Viral Story Spread. The Mainstream Media Rushed to Keep Up. The Trump Internet Pounced. Abby Ohlheiser and Paul Farhi of the Washington Post (January 2019)
Viral Standoff Between a Tribal Elder and a High Schooler is More Complicated Than it First Seemed Michael E. Miller of the Washington Post (January 2019)
Fuller Picture Emerges of Viral Video of Native American Man and Catholic Students Sarah Mervosh and Emily S. Rueb of the New York Times (January 2019)
#IndigenousPeoplesMarch | #IPMDC19 Social Media Photo & Video Posts Vincent Schilling, Indian Country Today (January 2019)