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.