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On heels of racial clash in nation’s capital, Billings Native American speaker reflects at Martin Luther King Jr Day event

BILLINGS- As dozens of organizations commemorated Martin Luther King Jr. Day around Montana, one Northern Cheyenne tribal member also took the day to reflect on the weekend’s national events.

At 10 a.m Monday, a crowd gathered at the  MSU-Billings campus and rang a commemorative bell as a part of Martin Luther King Jr Day.

Walter Runsabove, a program coordinator with the campus Native American center, first said a prayer in honor of the civil rights movement at the bell ringing ceremony.

“Martin Luther King Jr. Day is an important day for us,” said Runsabove.

However, the event was also a chance to discuss recent events in our nation’s capital, where, over the weekend teenagers were seen on video clashing with a Native American drummer.

Runsabove said the work of King is important especially on the heels of the Indigenous Peoples March at the National Mall, where a  crowd of teenagers surrounded a Native American elder and other activists and appeared to mock them after Friday’s march at the Lincoln Memorial.

The students were reportedly seen on video shouting and the person who shot the videos described the atmosphere as tense. One of the students, pictured staring at the elder, has said he was trying to stay quiet and defuse the situation, and a new, longer cut of the video appears to indicate the students were yelling to drown out another group of black men yelling slurs at the Native American group.

Runsabove said the only way to balance the hate in the world is with love, just like Martin Luther King’s ‘dream’ movement.

“I didn’t react in a negative way because when you react in a negative way than you are feeding the negative side of it and you’re going to make it grow,” he said.

Runsabove said a lot of people contacted him about the events in Washington D.C to hear his point of view.  He said he believes, at this time the world is in a very unbalanced place.

“There is a lot of hate right now and the only way to balance that is through love and given the recent events that happened in Washington D.C. with the school and the Vietnam veteran…The way I saw it, there is two sides to every story.”

Monday’s Martin Luther King Jr. bell ringing ceremony event is a part of a weeklong series of events at MSU –Billings. Wednesday the campus will hold a suicide seminar which starts at 5 p.m. in Petro Hall Lobby.

Related: Student says he was trying to stay calm and defuse situation at D.C. protest

Andrea Lutz

Andrea Lutz

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