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Native American: Here's Why I Got in Their Faces

Nathan Phillips says he got between two warring groups
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 20, 2019 5:00 PM CST

(Newser) – A Native American who was seen in an online video being taunted outside the Lincoln Memorial said Sunday he felt compelled to get between two groups with his ceremonial drum to defuse a confrontation. Nathan Phillips says in an interview with the AP that he was trying to keep peace between some Kentucky high school students and a black religious group that was also on the National Mall on Friday. The students were participating in the March for Life, which drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, and Phillips was attending the Indigenous Peoples March happening the same day. "Something caused me to put myself between (them)—it was black and white," says Phillips, who lives in Ypsilanti, Michigan. "What I saw was my country being torn apart. I couldn't stand by and let that happen."

Videos show a youth standing very close to Phillips and staring at him as he sang and played the drum. Other students—some in "Make America Great Again" hats and sweatshirts—were chanting, laughing, and jeering. Other videos also showed members of the religious group, who appear to be affiliated with the Black Hebrew Israelite movement, yelling disparaging and profane insults at the students, who taunt them in return. Phillips said his first interaction with the students came when they entered an area permitted for the Indigenous Peoples March. "They were making remarks to each other ... (such as) 'In my state those Indians are nothing but a bunch of drunks.' How do I report that?" he said. "These young people were just roughshodding through our space, like what's been going on for 500 years here—just walking through our territories, feeling like 'this is ours."

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