Last month, a Wisconsin 7th grader was suspended from the basketball team for speaking in her family's native language. Her words: "I love you."
According to the Native News Network, Miranda Washinawatok is a student at Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, Wisconsin — the school is close to a reservation and is 60% Native American. On January 19, she was banned from playing on the school's basketball team due to an "attitude problem." The problem: Washinawatok taught a classmate how to say "hello" and "I love you" in her native language, Menominee. A teacher overheard them and asked, "How do I know you are not saying something bad?" Later, other teachers criticized her too.
No teacher likes kids talking in class, and if Washinawatok had just been reprimanded for that, this might have been a non-story. But by making it about Washinawatok's native language, teachers basically allied themselves with generation of Catholic and secular educators who have tried to get Native Americans to quit speaking their native tongues. The Menominee tribe is obviously not ignorant of this — after Washinawatok's mom complained, the school said it would issue an apology to her family and her tribe, but the apology was so vague that no one was satisfied. All this could've been avoided if school officials had a little more knowledge of the culture that makes up a majority of their student body. According to Native News Network, the school's answering machine has several language options, but none for Menominee. Maybe instead of apologizing, teachers should have to take a language class from Washinawatok. Sounds like they could learn something.
Menominee Seventh Grader Suspended for Saying "I Love You" in her Native Language [Native News Network]
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