It was with some shock last night that I saw the newly emerging videos of Nathan Philips, an Omaha elder, being mocked and taunted by a mob of teenagers in MAGA hats and clothing from Covington Catholic school in Kentucky at the end of the Indigenous People’s March in Washington DC.
Original footage uploaded to youtube –
There are various different videos of this confrontation all over social media. My first view was of a video shared by Sacred Stone Camp which clearly shows the shouting, mocking and intimidation from the mob
The video can be viewed on Facebook here
My understanding from the various social media posts is that this group of teenagers were part of a pro-life rally and had surrounded and were taunting a group of African-american Muslims, so Nathan stepped in with a song for peace to diffuse the situation.
(If my understanding is wrong, then I apologise and would direct you to the Sacred Stone Camp facebook page for information, please listen to first nations voices about this incident in preference to my own)
Nathan was interviewed on camera shortly afterwards, visibly shaken and wiping away tears, he says
“I heard them saying ‘build that wall, build that wall,’” Phillips said while wiping away tears. “This is indigenous land, you’re not supposed to have walls here. We never did for a 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.”
Video evidence shows that there was a situation developing between a group of four African-American Muslim men and the group of teenagers, when Nathan walked in with his drum and offered the song for peace as an offering to diffuse the situation
My thoughts are… The song is a song for peace. In our tradition, we could think of it as being like a spell.
Nathan stepped in with the song for peace to diffuse an ongoing situation.
He drew their attention onto him rather than those already involved.
Peace being brought into the world was met with resistance. That teenager, and the others shouting their slogans are confronting peace. Shouting it down.
Is this not exactly the state of the world now?
The peace song is out. It has picked up its own life now. Let’s see how it ripples. The song is not finished yet, it is being sung by others.
What Can We Do?
We can listen to indigenous voices, and we can act to amplify them.
This has happened around the time of the full moon ( writing this on 20th January 2019) and it has occurred to me that The Druid Network also has a Peace Ritual, which is intended to be done at the full moon. So I am asking all who are able, to do this ritual over the next few days.
There is a line in the ritual which at first I thought to be problematic in this instance.
“We honour the fallen, those who chose to take arms and fight”
And I was going to suggest changing this line – but then I thought.. Nathan is a Vietnam veteran. If we to honour him at this time, we should honour his life and his decisions, rather than place our own opinions as more important than his life decisions. If anything I would just change the beginning to “We honour the elders, those who chose to….”
Update – for the sake of clarity, I have found a 1 hour 17 minute video of what happened.
It seems that there were 5 African-American Muslim evangelists preaching at the teenagers for a full hour, and the situation started to get a bit tense.
At around the 1 hour 10 minute mark on the video Nathan and the others can be seen walking into the situation, up to the teenagers, who are starting to get a bit rowdy in retaliation to the muslim preachers (who don’t seem to be bothered by the rowdiness, to be honest). It appears that Nathan was acting to stop any escalation, acting for peace.
The Muslim guys go quiet and can be heard talking amongst themselves about how the elder was very courageous and had walked right between them all and calmed the entire situation down.
Then it all turns round and Nathan gets surrounded and mocked and taunted by the teenagers. and is lost from the camera view.
So, the full story is a little more complicated, as life usually is. But the main point of the story still stands. Nathan had seen a situation occurring and had stepped in to diffuse it. to bring about peace. Had he not done so, things could easily have escalated. And what happened to him was real.
Nathan acted as an elder. Where were these teenagers’ elders? Where were their teachers, responsible adults, their chaperones? They should have been escorted away from this situation an hour beforehand, not left to their own devices in a situation that could easily have turned sour at any time up til they left.
I still feel it is right to amplify the indigenous elders prayer for peace. In this whole situation, he is the only responsible adult .