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Kentucky High School Sparks Backlash After Students Ridicule Native American Veteran

Covington Catholic High School in Kentucky has opened an investigation after a viral video showed its students surrounding and taunting a group of Native American marchers, including a Vietnam war veteran.

Omaha elder and Vietnam War veteran Nathan Phillips was leading a song in the Indigenous Peoples March in Washington, D.C. on Friday, according to Indian Country Today. As he played his drum and sang, a group of teenage high school students — predominately white and wearing "Make America Great Again" hats — stood around Phillips and the other marchers, openly laughing and mocking the practice.

According to a report by USA Today, the students were from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky. After the video circulated widely on social media, the school released a joint statement along with Diocese of Covington, saying that they would review the incident. The two groups reportedly promised to "take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion."

"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.," the statement continued. "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."

According to the school, the students were in the nation's capitol to attend the March for Life event on the same day. The March for Life advocated for criminalizing abortions and supported pro-life political candidates. The school was apologetic to this event as well, noting that the students' antics had drawn negative attention to the march.

"We know this incident also has tainted the entire witness of the March for Life and express our most sincere apologies to all those who attended the March and all those who support the pro-life movement," the statement went on.

To many, however, the victim in the whole ordeal was Phillips. Phillips is reportedly the former director of the Native Youth Alliance, and has been an outspoken voice for many years. This has drawn harassment down on him before, including a 2015 incident when Eastern Michigan University students dressed in Native American costumes reportedly yelled epithets at him and hit him with a beer can.

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Phillips is also active among veterans. He holds an annual ceremony in the Arlington National Cemetery honoring fallen Native American soldiers, and he told Indian Country Today that he was harassed upon returning to the U.S. after the war as well.

“People called me a baby killer and a hippie girl spit on me," he said.