Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Mr. Bob Rowe, Principal 

Covington Catholic High School 

1600 Dixie Hwy 

Park Hills, KY 41011

Mr. Rowe: 

I am compelled to write this letter after I watched the incident which happened at the Lincoln Memorial at Washington DC, where Nick Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, who along with the dozens of classmates confronted an Omaha Elder Nathan Phillips. These students can be seen chanting and laughing at Nathan Phillips who was there to participate in the Indigenous Peoples March. Nathan states that he was singing a prayer song in an attempt to alleviate tensions between these students who were taunting another group of protesters. 

At a time when racial tensions are getting worse in the United States, incidents like this exacerbate the problem and social media has raised awareness of the oppression against people of color. Watching these videos allows for Americans to judge for themselves whether these young men exhibited racism, discrimination and disrespect. Subsequent media attempts to masquerade the racial harassment against Nathan Phillips and characterize Mr. Phillips as protesting, without validation is unacceptable. As Americans place Covington Catholic High School under a microscope, this should be viewed as an opportunity to teach these young men the importance of treating all people with respect and dignity. 

This is also a teachable moment for our own Native people. As the Chairman of the Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation, I hope this letter will show our young people to understand that such racial intolerance and bigotry that was exhibited during the horrible scene does not reflect all of society. As a tribal leader, I cannot remain silent, look on and do nothing.

The actions of these students and the subsequent comments of elected officials and the media exhibit much worse, covert racism. I pray that Covington Catholic School doesn’t just dismiss the boys’ actions. I also pray that these boys are held accountable and honestly assess their actions and how they were allowed to conduct themselves at a public event while representing Covington Catholic School. 

Dr. Martin Luther King once said: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” One of the teachings of our tribal elders is that each of us is a leader in our own environment . I hope that if our tribal youth ever witness someone being bullied, harassed, or abused, that they step up and say something. Teaching our young people to stand up against bulling in that moment can make them and others stronger. 


Rodney Cawston, Chairman 

tipyelene cicqin - 

Eagle Blanket 

Confederated Tribes of the Colville Reservation 

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