Last week, the press proved itself once again a purveyor of fake news when it unquestioningly ran with Nathan Phillips’ portrayal of a group of high school boys from Covington Catholic as a MAGA mob mocking his Native American ancestry. Apologies to the teens quickly followed when videos surfaced disproving Phillips’ claim that the students had surrounded him and chanted “build the wall” while smirking front-man Nick Sandmann blocked his way.
Even as Phillips’ accusations fell apart, the media sidestepped these glaring inaccuracies and provided the Ypsilanti, Michigan man a sympathetic forum in which to air his grievances. After some pushback, the press began reporting on some of the inconsistencies surrounding Phillips’ story. More significant questions remain unasked, though, especially concerning the Native Youth Alliance, the purported non-profit Phillips started.
To date, the media has made only passing reference to the Native Youth Alliance. In a write-up of its interview with Phillips, People magazine called him “[t]he loquacious founder of the Native Youth Alliance, a grassroots indigenous awareness group.” The New York Times noted that Phillips “was the former director of the Native Youth Alliance, a group that works to ensure that traditional culture and spiritual ways are upheld for future generations.”
What little else is known about the Native Youth Alliance comes from social media and a blog. A Facebook page for the Native Youth Alliance states it “was founded in 1990 as a religious organization and has been incorporated as a non-profit since 1993.” The blog linked on the Native Youth Alliance Facebook page includes this same language.
Both the Facebook page and the blog list [email protected] as the Native Youth Alliance email, and both provide P.O. Box 980034 in Ypsilanti, Michigan, as the organization’s mailing address.
However, a search of Michigan’s corporate records for the “Native Youth Alliance” came up empty, while a search of Washington D.C.’s corporate records revealed that the Native Youth Alliance was registered as a nonprofit on January 30, 2002, and listed Phillips’ then-partner, Shoshana Konstant, as the registered agent.
Since then, however, D.C. regulators have revoked the Native Youth Alliance’s nonprofit status. Maryland records also show Konstant as the registered agent for a religious nonprofit named Native Youth Alliance that was formed in 1993, but is no longer “in good standing.”
No other corporate reports or details were available for either the Maryland or the D.C.-based Native Youth Alliance, and the Maryland records state that no annual reports were filed for the Native Youth Alliance past five years. A search for Native Youth Alliance in GuideStar, the gold standard for researching nonprofit organizations, also revealed no known nonprofits with that name. A search of the Internal Revenue Service charity database had no matches for the Native Youth Alliance.
Another oddity appears in an aside on the Native Youth Alliance blog, where the organization states under the heading “Make a Donation to Native Youth Alliance”: “It has come to our attention that there are people who want to help us in our efforts. We have also heard that there are others who have collected donations for us and kept if for themselves; therefore, Native Youth Alliance is authorizing only our Fiscal Sponsor, the Washington Peace Center, to accept donations to support our work.”
The blog then notes that “[t]hough Native Youth Alliance will be accountable for all our funding, the Peace Center has agreed to accept the responsibility of Fiscal Sponsor for those who need a tax deduction.” A PayPal link follows. It opens a PayPal account linked to the Washington Peace Center, but with “Native Youth Alliance” listed as the reference.
Unlike the Native Youth Alliance, the Washington Peace Center appears in both GuideStar and the IRS charity search. Unfortunately, according to the voicemail greeting for the Washington Peace Center, the nonprofit is undergoing a reorganization and is not currently monitoring its telephone. An email inquiry on the Peace Center’s relationship with the Native Youth Alliance also went unanswered, as did a request for comment to the Peace Center’s former director.
While the Native Youth Alliance’s blog stated that it “is authorizing only our Fiscal Sponsor, the Washington Peace Center, to accept donations to support our work,” a few sentences later, interested donors are told they may mail a check to the organization’s P.O. Box.
Here we find another anomaly: The P.O. Box provided for the Native Youth Alliance (P.O. Box 980104) was also used by the Heritage of Healing, a Michigan non-profit created in 2012 by Phillips’ late wife, Shoshana Beth Phillips. This fact indicates that Phillips’ family controls access to the Native Youth Alliance’s P.O. Box.
Further disconcerting is the fact that after telling supporters that it is authorizing only the Washington Peace Center to accept donations, the blog includes a second section entitled “Want to donate to our cause?” Here the blog includes a second PayPal link that goes directly to the Native Youth Alliance, using the [email protected] email.
It appears that Phillips controls this email account as well as the Native Youth Alliance P.O. Box, because when the email address is entered, “Nathan Phillips” automatically appears in the “to” field.
After Phillips’ storied encounter with the Covington Catholic boys overtook the news cycle, the [email protected] email address connected to a PayPal account started circulating with requests for donations. Phillips’ daughter posted a note on Facebook thanking those who supported her father and added: “If you would like to support Native Youth Alliance donations can be sent via PayPal at [email protected]”
The Native Youth Leadership Alliance, which a search of GuideStar and the IRS charity database confirms is a legitimate nonprofit based out of South Dakota, also promoted Phillips’ similarly named Native Youth Alliance in its NYLA News. The NYLA shared with readers the PayPal information for Phillips, and this note: “This elder is the former director of the Native Youth Alliance and contributions can be sent to PayPal link. Any donations NYLA receives on mistake will be sent to the Native Youth Alliance.”
A San Francisco coffee shop also joined the efforts, pledging to match 100 percent of the store’s revenues to donate to the Native Youth Alliance.
But what is the Native Youth Alliance? Where was it incorporated? Who is the current director? Who has access to the PayPal account? And for what will the funds be used?
Calls and emails to the Native Youth Alliance went unanswered. Meanwhile, Phillips continues to speak with the press. However, given the terminal lack of curiosity displayed to date by the media, it is unlikely we will receive answers to these questions any time soon.