Student Punished for Speaking Menominee

According to a report in the Shawano Leader, a student at Sacred Heart Catholic School in Shawano, Wisconsin, was not allowed to play in a January 19 basketball game as punishment for speaking Menominee.  Twelve year old Miranda Washinawatok was benched by her coaches after her teacher, Julie Gurta, told them of Washinawatok’s “attitude problem.” The student had translated the words “hello,” “I love you” and “thank you” for classmates. Gurta had once before asked Washinawatok not to speak Menominee, claiming that because she couldn’t monitor what the student was saying it was inappropriate for her to be using the language in class.

Miranda Washinawatok was quoted by the Shawano Leader as saying, “We would have translated what the words meant if she asked. I want to be able to talk in Menominee because it’s part of my culture; I like to express that.”

The principal of the school and the teacher and coaches involved met last week with Washinawatok and her mother, Tanaes Washinawatok (who happens to be the director of the Language and Culture Commission on the Menominee reservation) and offered an apology.  Deacon Ray DuBois of the Diocese of Green Bay, however, has said that without getting a full account of the story from both sides he can not comment on whether or not the punishment was appropriate.

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18 Responses to Student Punished for Speaking Menominee

  1. says:

    Really? What would have happened if she spoke Yiddish or Spanish or French?

  2. Pingback: Student Punished for Speaking Native Language – American Indian College Fund

  3. Austen says:

    “Maybe them shoulda ‘learn tuh speak American’ or just go back home where they belong!”

    Wait, that doesn’t quite work in this situation does it? (For several reasons.) Where were those strict immigration laws when we REALLY needed ‘em?

    [Ahh, ignorance is bliss (and usually drunk) watching NASCAR or "big man wrestling in dem fancy tights" with a wad 'o fresh chaw, spat through duh missin' toofs on da frunt.]

    Go AMERICA, GO! ……..Go away.

  4. Renee Dillard says:

    At times it feels like our people have so far from racism and then I feel slapped in the face with it again. Hard lessons for young people to endure, but we all know what doesnt break you will make you stronger.

  5. Jerilyn says:

    yes if she was speaking French or Spanish it would have been ok. couldn’t the teacher just ask the yourn girl what she was saying, instead of blowing all out of preportion. FYI the Menominee Language has not swear words. Prejudice at it finest. Shawano has a long way to go on that one!!

  6. Jay Bee says:

    If the “norm” is circumvented their first reaction is to ban it, isn’t this suppossed to be an institution for learning? Iess the learning in their view is I know better and you shut up and be punished.

  7. Rob Simpsom says:

    Wow still happens in and during this day and age the ignorance and unapologetic attitude towards Americas indigenous peoples. If the world student was of Euraopean or Asian it descent it would be overlooked and an apology given right away. Is there any justice in the system or is it just us against the system!!!

  8. This problem has a long history in the US. Help support our film on the topic:

  9. Trina Starr says:

    Such irony that this punishment came from a Catholic school; can we say boarding school era – or better yet, can we say “Oppression”!! As much as most people want to think this is non-existant; we as minorities are always reminded on a daily basis. This is still truly an existing problem; mostly people try to cover it up but in this case, resorted back to historic times – out in the open!! I would truly like to see more than an “apology” for this UNACCEPTABLE behavior from faculty/staff/adults; there is too much history and education that could have prevented this; this is truly ignorance of prejudice & racism within a school system – from Deacon to a school board – you should be ashamed and want more from your faculty & staff and for your students!
    As for the young girl, keep you head up high and don’t let anyone bring you down especially for who you are and whatever language you speak – continue to be you; strong, proud, Native American young woman!!! :)

  10. Pingback: Seventh Grader Suspended For Speaking Menominee In Classroom

  11. Posoh says:

    Terrible, but not surprising. Strong Beautiful nation, she should be commended. Proud to know such a young native speaks her language. Good job for the family community friends who support using their native language.

  12. susan v says:

    Please share this story with the world. There is just no excuse for this burying of American Indian Culture to continue after all the assaults leveled on these people.

    I have written many petitions, but I’ve never seen one with so many comments — some are beautiful, even forgiving, but all are passionate. Language is important, vital, and it should be preserved.

  13. mark anderson says:

    yet another blot on the long and shameful history of american racism and arrogance. when will the descendants of the invaders finally get a little humility and apologize to the first peoples for the many wrongs committed against them and go out of their way to accommodate and elevate those precious native cultures?

  14. Sweet Cupcake says:

    How short the memory!!!! It wasn’t too many years ago—-We went to Mass in the Catholic church and heard the Priest speak all the prayers in Latin. Most folks didn’t understand those words. No one benched the Priest. So if some kids are learning French, Spanish and even Latin what is so horribly wrong with a young student using her language in fun. I’ll bet she would have been happy to go to the front of the class and teach the teacher to say her words and learn the meaning of I love you. Shame on you for this outrageous punishment.

  15. Proud Native says:

    One simple reflection: Where would America be now if it weren’t for the Navajo Code Talkers!!!!

  16. Rick Revelle says:

    As a proud Algonquin Native Canadian I find it irrepressible that in this day and age, there are yet teachers out there even now in spite of everything that has happened in the last 300 years, who still revert to Colonialism to embarrass our young children.
    Miranda’s brow beaten and subsequent punishment from her basketball team for speaking her language is unconsciousable. The subsequent teacher’s excuse is laughable.
    But, why would I expect anything more out of the Catholic Church?
    As a Native author who writes young adult books and intersperses Native Language throughout my novels as a teaching tool, I am stunned.
    I read about this because it was printed in the Toronto Star which is the biggest circulated paper in Canada.
    Congratulations your school just made the news for all the wrong reasons.

  17. Sharon (Dodge Waubanascum) Bond says:

    Where is Katie Couric now? If the interviews the CBS NEWS she and her journalists gave a few years ago to the leaders of the Shawano Community would have included tribal leaders from the Menominee and Stockbridge reservations, and educators and people of the Native Communities, they would have discovered the real “racism” that, I feel, exists in the Shawano area. Looking for employment in Shawano, as a minority, is very difficult.

    I am happy to see that the young Menominee student, Miranda Washinawtok, and her family have stood up for their rights. I hope that they will continue to go in this direction until they feel the apology from Sacred Heart is truly genuine. Sacred Heart is a private Catholic School, which shows that she has chosen to attend that school. The Menominee Reservation’s two Catholic Churches are part of the Diocese of Green Bay Catholic Diocese.

    I graduated from the Shawano Hight School in 1965. It was truly a diffcult time since racism ran rappant in the school sytem. After living away from the Shawano area for a number of years, there has been some change, in my observation, in the treatment of Native American people.

    There is no reason that any of the staff from Sacred Heart should be ignorant as far as the Native American culture is concerned. They could contact the Menominee Tribal Legislture, the Menominee Indian School District, the Menominee Tribal School, the Menominee Museum director, the College of the Menominee Nation, where they can learn about the our culture, our history, our language, among many other good things, to integrate into their teaching and understanding of the Menominee Nation.

    The Menominee people are indigenous to the United States. I am a member the Oneida Nation of Wisconsin, and a descendant the Menominee and Stockbridge tribes. I was born and raised on the Menominee Indian Reservation. I was opposed to the development of a separate school sytem (the Menominee Indian School District, established July 1976) simply because I felt it was very important that my children have the opportunity to face the challenges of attending a school system where they would have the opportunity to learn the culture of becoming educated away from the reservation. But, we chose to live on the reservation, where my four children attended the Menominee Indian School District. Looking back, I am content with their being educated in that school sytem. They learned about their history, their language and their culture, and were still able to develop friendships outside of the boundaries of the reservation.

    My parents and grandmothers spoke of the atrocities in attending the government boarding schools. My grandmother was forced to speak English and was brutally beaten if she chose not to speak English; my father told me of being severely punished after reporting to his mother about the discipline at the boarding school. They were also forced to cut their hair and were not permitted to wear their traditional attire.

    We cannot be sent back to any country, this is where I was born, and our ancestors were born, and this is where our “people” will live forever.

    Our Native language was lost by the use of extreme discipline in the boarding schools, and other educational institutions by the teaching of non-Native educators Currently, the Native American language is diligently being revived by Native American educators and the integration of bilingual programs as part of the curriculum in our schools other Native American educational institutes

    I wish the Miranda Washinawatok and her family success.

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