Made ‘mockery,’ Native elder offers dialog to besieged Catholic youthBy Talli Nauman
Native Sun News Today Contributing Editor
nativesunnews.today WASHINGTON, D.C. – Feeling mocked by Catholic high-schoolers during an incident at the historic first Indigenous Peoples March here January 18, a Native elder offered to defuse tense fallout by holding a dialog with them in their hometown of Covington, Kentucky. “Race relations in this country have reached a boiling point,” said Omaha Nation elder Nathan Phillips, following the incident on the Washington Mall, in which he said he used his part in a closing ceremony prayer song to neutralize aggression brewing between the teenagers and a small group of Black Hebrew Israelite men. “It is sad that on the weekend of a holiday when we celebrate the life and legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr., racial equality hostility occurred on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial where King gave his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech more than five decades ago,” Phillips said. Martyred in 1968 five years after his famous speech at the March on Washington, King is celebrated nationally every year for preaching non-violence and civil rights defense.
Now, he says he’d like to use what occurred as a teachable moment. He’s offering to travel to Covington Catholic High School in northern Kentucky “to have a dialog about cultural appropriation, racism, and the importance of listening and respecting diverse cultures.” Phillips said he also is seeking a meeting with Vatican officials—ideally Pope Francis himself, who has apologized to American Indians for the “grave sins of colonialism.” The Omaha man proposes they discuss roles the church might play in reconciling the Catholic community worldwide with indigenous people. “We feel that there is a distinct lack of understanding and appreciation of native peoples and traditions within many nations -- and that it’s time to address the indecency of culturally appropriating our ritual movements and songs for the enjoyment of non-native peoples,” said Phillips. “When those actions occur, they are racist and wrong. When they occur in front of native people as a form of mockery, like what happened Friday at the Lincoln Memorial, they are completely unacceptable.”
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