Members of the Omaha Tribe gathered at the Nebraska State Capitol on Sunday afternoon to protest the treatment of an Omaha Tribe elder who garnered widespread national attention after a video of a group of high school students mocking and jeering him in Washington D.C. went viral Friday evening.
The drumming Native American man in the videos circulated online is 64-year-old Nathan Phillips, an Omaha Tribe elder.
“Our purpose, here in Lincoln, Nebraska, is to show solidarity with our relative, Nathan Phillips,” Omaha Tribe member Renee Sans Souci said in a press release Saturday morning. “Many of the Phillips family members reside here in Lincoln, as well as many members of the Omaha Tribe of Nebraska.”
The demonstration was held at 2 p.m. on the north side of the Capitol building as members of the tribe formed a circle near the steps of the building.
Phillips had been a part of the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, which coincided with the March for Life that drew thousands of anti-abortion protesters, including a group from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky.
In videos that have been shared across social media, Phillips was drumming and singing the American Indian Movement song while the students laughed and mocked him. One student in particular was standing close to Phillips and smirked at him as he continued to drum.
Phillips said he felt compelled to get between a group of black religious activists and the group of largely white students to defuse a potentially dangerous situation.
Phillips, a Vietnam War veteran, later appeared in another video posted to Twitter, where he said the boys had been chanting “Build that wall,” a reference to President Trump’s proposed wall at the United States southern border.
“Before anybody else came here, you never had walls. You never had a prison. We always took care of our elders. We took care of our children,” Phillips said in the video. “We always provided for them, you know? We taught them right from wrong. I wish I could see that energy of the young men to, you know, put that energy to make this country really great.”
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School have apologized and have said they are investigating the incident and the students involved and “will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."
"We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips," the diocese statement read. "This behavior is opposed to the Church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person."