'They reacted with anger' - Native American veteran at centre of viral video speaks out

A Native American Vietnam veteran has said what happened at a rally in Washington DC on Friday is...
Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.32 21 Jan 2019

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'They reacted with anger' - Na...

'They reacted with anger' - Native American veteran at centre of viral video speaks out

Jack Quann
Jack Quann

15.32 21 Jan 2019

Share this article

A Native American Vietnam veteran has said what happened at a rally in Washington DC on Friday is a microcosm for what is happening in the United States of America.

Tensions escalated when an annual anti-abortion march coincided with a rally by indigenous communities calling for their rights to be respected.

Footage from the incident went viral.


It showed Nathan Philips beating his drum in front of a group of boys from a Kentucky Catholic school, who were wearing 'Make America Great Again' hats.

The video showed one boy in particular standing directly in front of the 64-year-old and staring into his face for a prolonged period.

That boy, named as Nick Sandmann, has released a statement claiming he was trying to keep a calm composure during the incident.

He claimed that "derogatory insults" were directed at his school group and they began to chant a school spirit message.

"I did not witness or hear any student chant 'build that wall' or anything hateful or racist at any time".

He claimed Mr Philips than approached him with his drum, but he "never interacted" with him.

"To be honest, I was startled and confused as to why he had approached me", Mr Sandmann added.

"I believed that by remaining motionless and calm, I was helping to diffuse the situation. I realized everyone had cameras and that perhaps a group of adults was trying to provoke a group of teenagers into a larger conflict."

"I did smile at one point because I wanted him to know that I was not going to become angry, intimidated or be provoked into a larger confrontation".

Mr Philips told Sean Moncrieff there were a lot of groups involved.

"It wasn't a protest, but we was there for an indigenous people's gathering and there was a march and there was rally and it was a great event."

He said the reason for the gathering was "unity, bringing people together to work towards a better future, bringing indigenous people's from throughout the world to Washington DC.

"There was other marches throughout the world, I was told, that was happening at the same time that we were doing our little event in DC it was being done in different places around the world".

"We were just winding down, we had the permit until evening so that we could break down and our sound system and all those things that we had out there.

"And we had a lot of people there that were still there who just didn't want to leave because it was a good event".

"That's when we started noticing... groups over here called 'The Right to Life' and there's a group over here (called) 'Prolife' - it's a conflict, it's been going on for a while here in America.

"A lot of the people in that (Right to Life) march were walking through our space and heading wherever they were going."

"But that's who got into confrontation with a group over here, I understand they're called the Black Israelites, the Lost Tribes of Israelites or something like that.

"It was four black individuals who were out there on the mall exercising their freedom of speech and their right to assembly."

"A little whirlpool of hate"

He said they were "shouting abuses at each other".

"Then when the marchers, the young people started coming through and they witnessed these guys, that's when they started taking offence".

"It's like a little whirlpool of hate going on here and we're just at the edge of it and we're getting drawn into it".

On the events in the video, he said: "To me this is just a microcosm of what's going on in America.

"People (are) just at each other's throats because of race, religion, immigration, things like that, dividing the people here.

"That prayer was a pure prayer of unification, the song that people have been seeing me sing using the drum."

"They reacted with, I think it was anger - why was I putting myself in-between them and the people there - it was like putting myself in between a beast and its prey".

"But I wasn't trying to protect the Black Israelites as much as I was trying to protect the right of assembly in America, the right of freedom of speech in America".

"When I was coming towards the end of the song and that young man was in front of me, smirking at me and smiling at me - 'cause when I was there and how they said I advanced on them, it wasn't an advancing on them.

"It was 'OK, it's time for me to leave this spot, I'm going to go that way'.

"And I started moving and people started moving aside and letting me pass, until I got to that guy.

"And I wasn't so much looking at him as a point past him - and I was just trying to slowly walk my way out of there".

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