MAGA hat-wearing students performed 'haka' to mock Native American elders

Video has emerged of a group of Catholic high school students at the centre of a racism storm performing what appears to be a haka.

The students, from Covington Catholic High School, were in Washington DC on Friday (local time) for an anti-abortion march when they bumped into the Indigenous Peoples March, taking place at the same time.

Footage of the two groups' confrontation spread like wildfire at the weekend, with many dismayed the teenagers - many wearing Donald Trump's signature 'Make America Great Again' hats - were jeering and mocking the elders.

Native American Marcus Frejo told the Washington Post at one point the group appeared to perform a haka - but rather than doing it out of respect, they were mocking the traditional Māori dance.

Video shows one of the students ripping off his shirt before leading the other through a rehearsed eight-second routine that looks like a cross between a simplified haka and popular '90s dance the Macarena.

The haka made up a small part of an 11-minute video of the confrontation shot by Mr Frejo.

Mr Frejo said what much of the reporting hasn't covered is that the face-off ended peacefully.

"They went from mocking us and laughing at us to singing with us. I heard it three times," he told the Post. "That spirit moved through us, that drum, and it slowly started to move through some of those youths."

The students peform a 'haka'.
The students peform a 'haka'. Photo credit: Marcus Frejo / Facebook

A "calm" came over the students, he said, who soon dispersed.

The school and local diocese have both apologised for the students' prior behaviour, particularly one MAGA hat-wearing student who stood extremely close to elder Nathan Phillips, grinning.

"We extend our deepest apologies to Mr Phillips," said a joint statement from the Roman Catholic Diocese of Covington and Covington Catholic High School. "This behaviour is opposed to the church's teachings on the dignity and respect of the human person."

The school is leaving its options open, including possible expulsion for the students that took part.