Omaha Elder Nathan Phillips on Stage in Santa Cruz

AIM of Ohio leader Corine Fairbanks presents Nathn Phillips with an eagle feather.

Published February 17, 2019

SANTA CRUZ, Calif. — Nathan Phillips, the Omaha elder, who gained national attention when he drummed and sang the American Indian Movement anthem at the Lincoln Memorial while attempting to avert the escalation of a potentially violent situation between a group of Covington Catholic high schoolers and members of the Hebrew Israelites, was in California last Sunday to have a teachable moment for the Santa Cruz community. Phillips was on a panel and honored by American Indians and allies.

The event was organized by the Lakota People’s Law Project, in partnership with Santa Cruz Civic Auditorium, Resource Center for Nonviolence, Daniel Sheehan, Greenpower, and the Romero Institute.

Phillips discussed the recent incident that took place after the Indigenous Peoples March on the late afternoon of January 18, 2019. The Lakota People’s Law Project was among the core organizers of the Indigenous Peoples March.

“I was there. Nathan is a friend of mine. I know him from Standing Rock, and it breaks my heart that he traveled all the way to D.C. to join the first annual Indigenous Peoples March, only to be caught in between two hostile camps as they squared off against one another in the shadow of a statue of Abraham Lincoln. Nathan himself was actively disrespected in various ways that day,” said Chase Iron Eyes of the Lakota People’s Law Project. “But he stood strong for peace with justice, using a drum and song. Remarkably, in the days that followed Nathan’s unfortunate treatment.

“We see Nathan for who he is: an Indigenous elder mistreated while trying to deliver racial harmony at the place where Martin Luther King, Jr. gave his ‘I Have A Dream’ speech 56 years ago.” says Iron Eyes.

The evening started off with Norman “Wounded Knee” DeCampo (Miwok) offering the opening prayer, and he then asked Corine Fairbanks, of the American Indian Movement of Ohio to join him. Fairbanks, had flown from the Ohio area to deliver gifts from the Native Communities of Indiana, Kentucky, and Ohio. One of those gifts presented to Phillips and his daughter was an eagle feather.

Corine Fairbanks and Noram “Wounded Knee” DeOcampo.

The panel included Ann Marie Sayers, Oholone Elder, her daughter, Kanyon Sayers-Roods, Raymond Kingfisher, Former Mayor, Chris Krohn, City Council Member Drew Glover, and Indigenous Organizations stood and declared support for Nathan Phillips. Chief counsel Daniel Sheehan was there provide context and analysis. The audience in the almost packed civic auditorium, showing agreement by often giving severalstanding ovations.

Corine Fairbanks contributed to this story from Santa Cruz, California.

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