A diocese in Kentucky is looking into videos that show youths, possibly from the diocese’s all-male high school, mocking Native Americans at a rally in Washington.
Laura Keener of the Catholic Diocese of Covington said Saturday it regrets the incident.
In a joint statement issued later in the day, the Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High said they “condemn the actions of Covington Catholic High School students.”
“This behavior is opposed to the Church’s teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person. The matter is being investigated and we will take appropriate action, up to and including expulsion. 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 continued.
The Indigenous Peoples March in Washington on Friday coincided with the March for Life, which drew thousands of pro-life demonstrators.
Videos circulating online show a youth standing extremely close to an elderly Native American who was singing and playing a drum. Other youths, some wearing clothing with Covington logos, surrounded them, laughing and shouting. Many of the youths were also wearing “Make America Great Again” hats.
An online news platform called “Indian Country Today” identified the elderly man as Nathan Phillips, an Omaha elder and Vietnam veteran who holds an annual ceremony honoring Native American veterans at the Arlington National Cemetery.
State Rep. Ruth Buffalo, a North Dakota state lawmaker and member of the Mandan, Hidatsa and Arikara Nation, said she was saddened to see students showing disrespect to an elder who is also a U.S. military veteran at what was supposed to be a celebration of all cultures.
“The behavior shown in that video is just a snapshot of what indigenous people have faced and are continuing to face,” Buffalo said.
She said she hoped it would lead to some kind meeting with the students to provide education on issues facing Native Americans.
U.S. Rep. Deb Haaland of New Mexico sharply criticized what she called a display of “blatant hate, disrespect, and intolerance.”
“This Veteran put his life on the line for our country,” she tweeted Saturday. “Heartbreaking.”
Kentucky Secretary of State Alison Lundergan also tweeted about the incident, saying: “As we prepare to celebrate the life of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., his work to ensure equality for all through nonviolent civil disobedience sadly still applies today. Kentucky, we are better than this.”
Crux staff contributed to this report. This story has been updated with the joint statement from the Diocese of Covingtion and Covington Catholic High School.