UPDATE: Menominee Girl Punished for Speaking Native Language

UPDATE 02/09/2012: Over a week after the incident at the Sacred Heart Catholic School in Shawano County, Wisconsin, in which a student was punished for speaking her native language in class, the school has yet to offer a satisfactory apology to the student, Miranda Washinawatok. An online petition is circulating that demands that the Sacred Heart back its apology with action.

"Tell them to add American Indian languages and culture to their curriculum and stop violating rights of American Indian students."

To view the petition, click here.

02/03/2012

Controversy is stirring in Shawano County, Wisconsin as local headlines reveal that 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. Washinawatok told NBC that she translated “hello,” “I love you,” and “thank you” for a classmate when her teacher snapped at her.

“She sort of threw her hands down on her desk and said don’t be talking like that. How would you like it if I started talking Polish?” Miranda said.

Later that day Miranda learned that she would be benched from the upcoming basketball game for being disrespectful to her teacher.

Her punishment caused an uproar in the Sacred Heart community, which debated over discipline and discrimination. The majority of Sacred Heart Catholic School students are of Menominee descent.

The school’s principal sent a letter home to parents apologizing if the incident “promoted an atmosphere of cultural in discrimination,” ensuring that xenophobia was not a factor in the incident, rather it was “a breakdown of [the]internal process that is designed to offer protection for student, faculty, staff, volunteers and administrator.” Principal Dan Minter also announce that a cultural awareness program would be launched on campus to celebrate the school’s cultural diversity.

The Menominee tribe goes great lengths to preserve their culture and language. Elective coursework offered at their tribal school teaches students history, cultural traditions and Menominee language.

Tribal chair Randal Chevalier offered to create a dialogue with the Sacred Heart about the Menominee language.