February 3, 2012
SHAWANO, WISCONSIN – What’s love got to do with it? Not much, especially if you say the words “I love you” in the Menominee language in front of a certain Wisconsin teacher.
Seventh grader Miranda Washinawatok, Menominee, found this out.
Miranda speaks two languages: Menominee and English. She also plays on her basketball team. However, two Thursdays ago she was suspended for one basketball game because she spoke Menominee to a fellow classmate during class.
Miranda attends Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, Wisconsin. The school body is over 60 percent American Indian. The school is approximately six miles from the south border of the Menominee Indian Tribe Reservation.
“On January 19 I was told by Miranda she was being benched from playing that night. I found out at 4:20 and we were back at school at 6:30 pm so I could get to the bottom of why she could not play,” said Tanaes Washinawatok, Miranda’s mother.
“Miranda kept saying she was only told by her assistant coach she was being benched because two teachers said she had a bad attitude. I wanted to know what she did to make them say she had a bad attitude.”
At the school, the teachers and coaching staff seemed to want to cast blame on each other, according to Miranda’s mother.
“I wanted to talk to the principal, but he was not there before the game started,” stated Tanaes Washinawatok. Being a persistent concerned parent, Washinawatok was back at the school by 7:30 the next morning to speak to the principal.
The principal told Washinawatok that the assistant coach told him she was told by two teachers to bench Miranda for attitude problems.
The alleged ‘attitude problem’ turned out to be that Miranda said the Menominee word
in Menominee that means “I love you.”
Miranda and a fellow classmate were talking to each other when Miranda told her how to say “Hello” and “I love you” in Menominee.
“The teacher went back to where the two were sitting and literally slammed her hand down on the desk and said, “How do I know you are not saying something bad?”
The story did not end there. In the next session, another teacher told Miranda she did not appreciate her getting the other teacher upset because “she is like a daughter to me.”
By the time, Miranda was picked up by her mother she was upset for being suspended.
“Miranda knows quite a bit of the Menominee language. We speak it. My mother, Karen Washinawatok, is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe. She has a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona’s College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute. She is a former tribal chair and is strong into our culture,” states Tanaes Washinawatok.
Washinawatok has had a total of three meetings with school officials and was promised Miranda would receive a public apology, as would the Menominee Tribe, and the apologies would be publically placed.
“On Wednesday, a letter was sent to parents and guardians. A real generic letter of apology, that really did not go into specifics as to why there was this apology,” Washinawatok told the Native News Network Thursday evening.
“I still don’t think it was enough.”
Sacred Heart Catholic Academy is operated by the Diocese of Green Bay, which ironically has an option on its answering machine for Spanish, but not Menominee. A call put in late Thursday afternoon by the Native News Network was not returned by press time.