A Statement On the Viral Encounter Between Teens and Native American Elder

A Statement from our Executive Director, Bryan Martin, On the Viral Encounter Between Teens and Native American Elder

In the wake of the recent viral video footage showing a group of teenagers, heckling and belittling a Native American elder, we at Big City Mountaineers have a litany of concerns on our minds. The pace of the reporting and the associated left-right takes have been dizzying but we believe we have seen enough to speak with confidence and a clear heart about what transpired that day. To be sure, Big City Mountaineers is not an outwardly political organization but we are grounded in a belief that a diverse and inclusive society – one that embraces multi-culturalism and inter-cultural respect – makes us stronger. And when we see things in our society that are an affront to that belief it’s critical that we denounce it.

This weekend we celebrated Martin Luther King, Jr’s incredible legacy and unfortunately it was marred by the selfish and disrespectful actions of a cohort of immature boys. Moreover, we are reminded in Dr. King’s writings that “history will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.” Therefore, it is important that we use this moment in time to state unequivocally that we stand in solidarity with our Native American brothers and sisters in denouncing the behavior of the Covington Catholic students. This support also extends to those who identify as refugees, immigrants, people of color, women, LGBTQ, and other oppressed minorities, who have had a difficult time recognizing this country as their own of late. To be sure, this country’s leader has explicitly disparaged, threatened, and at times physically assaulted people like them and there is no doubt that his actions have inspired bad behavior like what we saw in front of the Lincoln Memorial this weekend. Some are dust-ups, some are truly violent, but they all do damage to the soul of America.

Our work is grounded in diversity, equity, and inclusion. As an organization, we seek out those that, through no fault of their own, lack access and opportunity to the spiritual healing and inspiration an experience in the outdoors provides. As staff and instructors, we embrace our unique perspectives and respect one another’s backgrounds in offering the best possible curriculum and courses for our students. And as teams in the backcountry, we recognize our collective strength and the importance of each team members’ talents to achieving our objectives outside. For 30 years we have seen these values lead to tangible and significant accomplishments in the field for our students and our volunteers. Sadly, none of these values were displayed by Covington Catholic students this past weekend.

In Peace,

Bryan Martin