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The first Indigenous Peoples' March was a political demonstration on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on January 18, 2019. The event included speeches, prayers, songs, and dance, and was intended to draw attention to global injustices against indigenous peoples. After 8:00 prayers outside the Building of Interior Affairs, the marchers proceeded along Constitution Avenue and ended at Henry Bacon Park, north of the Lincoln Memorial. Organizers expected a crowd of about 10,000 people.Prior to the march procession starting, prayers were held on the steps of the U.S. Department of the Interior.
At the end of the formal program, an incident occurred between a group of about sixty students who had been attending the March for Life rally and Nathan Phillips and others involved in the Indigenous Peoples March. Videos of the students surrounding Phillips were shared widely on social media. According to Phillips, he had walked into the crowd of boys in an attempt to defuse a conflict between them and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites. The boys were were widely condemned for mocking and harassing Phillips, including by several lawmakers and by their school, and some people affiliated with the march described the boys as threatening due to their numbers, actions, and "Make America Great Again" attire. Some others have said the incident was taken out of context. Nick Sandmann, a student who is seen in the video standing closely facing Phillips, released a statement to refute the negative characterization of the incident.Contents
Featured speakers highlighted social concerns such as "violence against Native women, the ravages of climate change and fossil fuel extraction, and the federal government shutdown." Some carried signs that read "We will not be silenced."Participants
Organizers expected about 10,000 people would attend.
Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, the first Native American women elected to Congress, spoke at the march. Haaland is a representative for New Mexico and a member of the Laguna Pueblo tribe; Davids is a representative for Kansas and a member of the Ho-Chunk Nation.
A delegation representing eight tribes from Oklahoma included Reverend David Wilson, a member of the Choctaw Nation and the Oklahoma Indian Missionary Conference superintendent. Wilson said that half of his group were young American Indian Methodists in the group ranging in age from 20 to 32 "who are more inclined to work on issues of social justice, more so than other generations.... Social justice is in their DNA".Incident
A group of around sixty boys from the private, all-male Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky traveled to Washington, D.C. to attend the pro-life March for Life rally that was being held the same day.[Notes 1] Shortly after the end of the Indigenous Peoples' March, a conflict began near the Lincoln Memorial between the students and a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, who had been shouting "racially combative comments" at the group of students and at Native Americans. The students responded with school spirit chants. Omaha elder, activist, and Vietnam veteran Nathan Phillips entered the crowd of students, playing the ceremonial drum and chanting the AIM Song, a Native American intertribal song. According to Phillips, the conflict was "reaching a boiling point" and he approached the students in an attempt to defuse it. A video of the students closely surrounding and appearing to mock Phillips and his small group of supporters was widely shared through social media, including on Twitter and YouTube, with one video reaching two million viewers in two hours Saturday morning, January 19. Some alleged that students had been chanting "build that wall" at the group of Native Americans. Some others defended the students, saying that the video had been taken out of context.Response
The video resulted in backlash against the school and the students. In a brief interview on Twitter, Phillips responded to the alleged chants of "build that wall" by saying "This is Indigenous Land you know, we're not supposed to have walls here. We never did for millenniums before anybody else came here we never had walls. We never had a prison. We always took care of our elders and took care of our children. We always provided for them, we taught them right from wrong. I wish I could see that energy in that young mass of young men down there. To put that energy into making this country really great — helping those that are hungry..." Some others affiliated with the march described the group of boys as threatening due to their numbers, actions, and "Make America Great Again" attire.
Shortly after the event took place, the Covington Catholic communications director released a statement expressing regret that it had happened. In a joint statement on January 19, the Diocese of Covington and the Covington Catholic High School extended apologies to Phillips, condemned the students' behavior, and said that after they reviewed the situation, they would take "take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion." Student Nick Sandmann, who was recorded standing closely facing Phillips, released a statement where he alleged misinformation and "outright lies" were being spread about the incident. According to him, the situation began when a group of African-American protesters directed insults at the students, and the students responded with school spirit chants. Sandmann said that he was confused when Phillips and other Native Americans subsequently approached him and the other students, and tried to remain as calm as possible to avoid trouble.
According to a CBC News report, Ruth Buffalo, a North Dakota Representative and member of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation, said the students' disrespect of what was meant to have been a "celebration of all cultures" saddened her. She added, "The behaviour shown in that video is just a snapshot of what Indigenous people have faced and are continuing to face." Buffalo suggested "some kind of meeting with the students to provide education on issues facing Native Americans." House Representative Haaland wrote, "The students' display of blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance is a signal of how common decency has decayed under this administration. Heartbreaking." Alison Lundergan Grimes, Secretary of State of Kentucky, described the scene as "horrific" and said the students' actions did not reflect Kentucky's values. She wrote, "I refuse to shame these children. Instead I turn to the adults that are teaching them and those that are silently letting others promote this behavior. This is not the Kentucky I know and love. We can do better and it starts with better leadership." Kentucky Representative Thomas Massie wrote that after watching videos from four different cameras he believed the media had misrepresented the incident and that "In the context of everything that was going on (which the media hasn’t shown) the parents and mentors of these boys should be proud, not ashamed, of their kids’ behavior."Media coverage
The Washington Post described the Indigenous Peoples' March as "meaningful" and an example of how Native Americans will not be silenced. The article drew attention to Donald Trump's joking about the Wounded Knee Massacre to mock the senior United States Senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren.[Notes 2] The Post also wrote in a separate article that the "tense encounter in Washington prompted outrage".Notes