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A Menominee Student’s School Experience

By Alan J. Caldwell (Awaesaeh Enaniew) - 02.15.2012

In Shawano County, Wisconsin a 7th grader was punished for speaking her native language at school.

The Sacred Heart Catholic School student, 12-year-old Miranda Washinawatok, was not allowed to play in a basketball game as punishment for speaking the Menominee language in class to a classmate.

When the story first broke my first thought was, “Here’s a first year or new teacher who over reacted, did not attempt to ask the student what she was saying, nor asked any questions about the
language that was being spoken, and then moved to punish the child because she spoke differently, with the student doing no more than using a language she learned from her parents and grandmother, who also happens to be one of our original Menominee language instructors.”

I thought, “Would the teacher have done this if the girl was speaking French or Spanish or Hmong –we have families in Shawano who speak these languages– or because it was something she did not
understand and made no attempt to find out”.

Then the school administrator claims in his apology and statements to the press that he suspended the Menominee girl from her basketball game that evening for having an “attitude,…”

Yet, he also did not notify the girl’s mother or family of his action.

He later claims that his action was due to miscommunication and a lack of knowing the facts surrounding the classroom incident and the teacher’s actions.

Richie Plass is working with the family and has offered to assist the school with setting up some cultural programs and sensitivity training for school staff.

I have told him I would be willing to assist in any way that I can.