Transcript for How viral moment of teen's confrontation with Native American elder unfolded
Reporter: It was the stare down that sparked outrage. Videos capturing a group of white high school students, many wearing Maga hats appearing to surround a native-american elder. It hurt me to my core. Reporter: Now that student speaking out to NBC. My position is I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. Reporter: Kathy griffin tweeting "I want names ", and Alissa Milano saying red hat is the new white hood. When the story came out, everyone pounced on it and had an immediate reaction. The more information we got the more our positions changed. Reporter: Tonight we widen the lens, taking you inside a longer video showing you a more nuanced picture of what actually led up to that standoff. It all started January 18th. As two separate marches converged on the nation's capitol, the right to life and indigenous people's March. By the afternoon, a small group of indigenous people perform a ceremony along the reflection pool, but they are not alone. Before you started worshipping totem poles -- Reporter: A small group can be heard shouting at the indigenous marchers, in this now removed Facebook video. Roughly half an hour later, the young black israelites turned their attention to the white students. Look at these damn crackers. Reporter: Later identified as covington catholic students from Kentucky. For more than an hour, the black hebrews continued to hurl insults at both groups. Bunch of incest babies. This is what make America great looks like. Reporter: The atmosphere intensifies when a young man rips off his shirt and leads his group in a battle cry often meant to intimidate. Meanwhile, Nathan Phillips, an indigenous activist overhears the commotion and decides to take action. Came to a point where somebody had to do something. Came to me that elder, we got to do something. Reporter: The Omaha elder steps between the students and the black hebrews, beating his drum and singing a traditional song. It's a song of unity, a song of strength and courage. Reporter: Then Nate Phillips locks eyes with Nick Sandmann, a junior at covington, leading to that epic staredown. Sandmann now speaking to NBC. Do you see your own fault in any way? As far as standing there, I had every right to do so. I don't, my position is that I was not disrespectful to Mr. Phillips. I respect him. Reporter: But Phillips saw it differently. He wanted to de-escalate it, he should have asked his people, let's exit this situation. Reporter: As Phillips' song come a close, some people started throwing tomahawk chops and chanting. When we listen to it, there's some fake Indian chant that people sing before football games. Let's make America great. Reporter: And as Phillips begins to leave, a young man offers a parting remark after one of the indigenous people called America stolen land. You stole it from the aboriginals. Land gets stolen. That's how it works. Reporter: The day after the incident, covington school released a statement condemning the actions of its students, saying in part, we extend our deepest apologies to Mr. Phillips. Covington adding that it intends to launch a third party investigation this week. Today the school deciding to close due to threats of violence and protests. Where were their supervisors? Where were the teachers? Why did they allow this to build up over two or three hours? Reporter: One chaperone told usa today there was nothing the chaperones could have done different limit president trump entering the fray saying they have captited thettention of thworld. The level of unsafety and insecurity we are feeling becausof the political discourse, and that unsafety and insecurity makes people react very quickly to any symbol or sign of disrespect or discrimination or anything else. Reporter: And a sobering reminder of the internet's ability to oversimplify complicated events. What we need to do is be more skeptical, be more caution and engage in critical thinking. If there's a lesson everybody can learn from this incident is to take a pause. The media can get the full story before rushing to judgment. Look at more data, look at more evidence, look at more video. Reporter: Nathan Phillips believes the incident can be used as an opportunity. Opportunity to heal a nation. Opportunity to bring people together with the purpose of shallow.
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