Native American drummer from viral video is from Michigan

Jan 20, 2019 at 1:15 pm
Updated 1:15 p.m. on Sunday, Jan. 20: This post has been edited to incorporate details from an extended video that shows what happened before the shorter viral clip.

On Saturday, a video showing a Native American man stoically drumming and singing while a mob of President Donald Trump-supporting teens mocked him went viral.

That man has been identified as Nathan Phillips, a 64-year-old Vietnam War vet from the Omaha tribe who now lives in Michigan, The Washington Post reports.

The incident took place on Friday at the Indigenous Peoples March on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. Nearby, a group of white students wearing Trump "Make America Great Again" hats had been bused in from Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Ky. to attend an anti-abortion March for Life.

A third group made up of around five Black Israelites was also present, preaching at and taunting both the Native Americans and the MAGA hat-wearing students. At various times, the students taunted back. As tensions between the Black Israelites and the students escalated, Phillips and a small group of Native Americans walked up to try to diffuse the situation with their drumming, Phillips said.

The boys then surrounded Phillips, jeering at him. One stood in front of him, smirking in his face.

Phillips told the Post:

“It was getting ugly, and I was thinking: ‘I’ve got to find myself an exit out of this situation and finish my song at the Lincoln Memorial,’ ” Phillips recalled. “I started going that way, and that guy in the hat stood in my way and we were at an impasse. He just blocked my way and wouldn’t allow me to retreat.”

So, he kept drumming and singing, thinking about his wife, Shoshana, who died of bone marrow cancer nearly four years ago, and the various threats that face indigenous communities around the world, he said.

“I felt like the spirit was talking through me,” Phillips said.

It's not the first time Phillips has been in the news due to a racist confrontation. In 2015, Phillips told WJBK-Fox 2 that he was attacked by a group of Eastern Michigan University students who were dressed as Native Americans at a themed party near Ypsilanti. After telling the group what they were doing was racially offensive, one of the students allegedly threw a full beer can at him, hitting him in the chest.

When asked why he felt compelled to speak up to the teens, he told WJBK at the time, "For me just to walk by and have a blind eye to it, something just didn't allow me to do it."

An extended video of the incident showing what happened before the viral video has surfaced. You can watch it below.

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