Video shows students in confrontation with Native Americans, prompting apology from Catholic diocese, high school

A Roman Catholic diocese and a Catholic high school in Kentucky issued a joint apology Saturday after videos posted online showed a confrontation Friday between some of the school's students and some Native American adults after rallies near the Lincoln Memorial in Washington.

However, one unedited video circulated on social media Sunday appeared to show that a Native American adult approached the students and instigated the interaction, leading some commentators to retract their previous criticisms of the students.

Both the March for Life, a demonstration against abortion, and the Indigenous Peoples March, in support of Native Americans, were being held not far from one another.

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Footage posted to Instagram showed one student standing face-to-face with Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Omaha elder. Phillips was singing and playing the drum while the unidentified student stared him in the face.

Other students, some wearing Covington Catholic High School clothing, surrounded them, chanting, laughing and jeering.

“We condemn the actions of the Covington Catholic High School students towards Nathan Phillips specifically, and Native Americans in general, Jan. 18, after the March for Life, in Washington, D.C. We extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person,” read the joint statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School.

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In a separate Instagram video, Phillips is heard saying that he heard the students chanting “Build that wall, build that wall.”

"This is indigenous lands," Phillips says. "We're not supposed to have walls here. We never did."

Phillips was involved in a similar incident in 2015 where he said he was harassed by another group of students a Native American themed party, Detroit's Fox 2 reported at the time.

"They had little feathers on, I was just going to walk by," Phillips said. He said he was trying to teach the students about respecting Native Americans when the conversation became heated.

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Phillips alleges that the students threw a beer can at him and hurled racial slurs. When asked why he engaged with the group to begin with, he said he felt an obligation.

"For me just to walk by and have a blind eye to it," he said, "something just didn't allow me to do it."

EDITOR'S NOTE: A previous version of this report identified Phillips as a Vietnam War veteran. That has since been found not to be the case.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.