Menominee seventh-grader Miranda Washinawatok.

Support Pours in for Suspended Menominee Student


Tanaes Washinawatok, the mother of Miranda Washinawatok, the 12-year-old Menominee seventh-grader who was benched during a basketball game for speaking her Native language in class, says an apology from the school wasn't enough. Tanaes recently told Native News Network that school staff should be disciplined for their actions.

"I don't think it was handled properly. I think we were lied to about how things happened," Tanaes told Native News Network. "We were promised a public apology and that never happened. The principal put a letter in the teacher's file, and I was told there would be no further reprimands for the staff involved and no public apology."

And Miranda's mother isn't alone. She's received support for her daughter from a number of places.

A petition was started February 7 by “Susan V and Concerned Citizens” who feel the apology issued by Sacred Heart Catholic School in Shawano, Wisconsin, was an “insufficient response to the injustices involved.”

The petition is meant to put pressure on the school “to stop discriminating against American Indians and that you add American Indian languages and culture to your school's curriculum.”

The petition isn't the only support Miranda has received. The Indigenous Language Institute (ILI) also released a statement in support of Miranda and her family, saying that the January 19 incident shows that "racism is alive and well."

"That this happened in a parochial religious school makes this a wake-up call for everyone who believed that America has moved beyond such displays of ignorance," Jerry L. Hill, the Oneida ILI president, wrote in the letter. "This family, like many others in Indian Country, has been generationally dedicated to the preservation of the culture and sovereignty of their people and indigenous people everywhere. So this is more than moral support or a reaction to a single incident, it is resonating throughout Native communities in the U.S., Canada and the entire hemisphere."

Her grandmother, Karen Washinawatok, confirmed that this incident has resonated around the globe. She told the Native News Network that the family has "received emails, Facebook messages and letters from all seven continents in support of Miranda." Karen is the director of the Language and Culture Commission of the Menominee Tribe.

Hill also said in his letter that this incident has refocused attention on how language is still an active issue. "It is a sharp reminder that there are those whose ignorance would strike out at a child upon hearing words they don’t understand," he wrote. "ILI stands with the Washinawatok family, especially Miranda, the brave young woman who drew the wrath of her teachers, and the Menominee Tribe and Native people everywhere who have endured such undeserved abuse for simply using the language of their ancestors."

To sign the petition and “Tell Wisconsin That ‘Love’ in Menominee is Not a Four-Letter-Word,” visit

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greenriverkate's picture
Submitted by greenriverkate on
Leave it to the church to never learn from the past. This should be against the law!

chett2cleve's picture
Submitted by chett2cleve on
What The Hell. Courtesy U.S. Army War College. Student body assembled on the Carlisle Indian Industrial School grounds in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, ca. 1890 At best, it was a misguided social notion, at worst a prescription for cultural genocide. But in the late 1800s, this new approach to the "Indian problem" represented progress. Instead of being killed outright, Native Americans would be educated in the white man's ways. The infamous words were spoken by Capt. Richard Henry Pratt, a retired military officer, in response to Gen. Philip Sheridan's comment, "The only good Indians I ever saw were dead." Opposed to the federal government's ongoing promotion of Indian massacres, Pratt opened the first off-reservation Indian boarding school in 1879 in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, in the belief that integration, not eradication, was the answer. Over the next century, hundreds of thousands of Native American children would be educated in boarding schools that expressly prohibited students from speaking their native language in the hope that they could be assimilated into mainstream American culture. Antiquated thinking? Yes. Dusty history? Not really. Attendance at Indian schools peaked in the 1970s, when an estimated 60,000 Indian children were enrolled. "From 1880 to 1978 all of the Native traditions — spirituality, language, everything — were outlawed," says Albert White Hat Sr., director of the Lakota language program at Sinte Gleska University, a tribal university on the Rosebud Indian Reservation in Mission, South Dakota. "The law was enforced very effectively through the teachings of the missionaries. If they knew you practiced any spiritual or Native traditions, when you died they would bury you outside of the church cemetery and tell your family that you were burning in hell. When you are 5 years old and your uncle is buried outside of the cemetery wall, that will scare you for the rest of your life."

timothygeorge's picture
Submitted by timothygeorge on
Hi my self with other that agree with me this teacher should be fired and that school change things in that school so nothing like this will happen to our native kids .....

terrypowless's picture
Submitted by terrypowless on
my health is good, except my heart which mends slowly, & my mind which mends not at all. I must return as soon as possible to my occupation & when the imagination is well.

mustlovedogs's picture
Submitted by mustlovedogs on
It's a shame all the facts in this case have not been reported. Miranda had another issue with her behavior that her mother wanted kept quiet between the principal, herself and Miranda. Then there is the issue of MIranda coming to school with warpaint to intimidate the other students. Of course THIS won't be reported because the teacher in this case is white. She had nothing against the Menominees but was trying to instruct Miranda on what it means to be "RESPECTFUL". Obviously something MIranda's mother has failed to teach her. The other part that didn't get as much press was the meeting that was held at the school and parents, etc. attended and no one complained about the school but DID complain about the BEHAVIOR PROBLEMS AT THE SCHOOL. This student and her mother need to go before the Menominee elders and answer for their illegitimate sensationalizing of this situation and for riling up the Menominee tribe for nothing. The elder of the tribe need to discuss with Miranda what it means to RESPECT your elders. Something she obviously is not learning at home. In the teacher's letter, replace the "menominee" language with these one of these words and you will see what the teacher's point was: german, dutch, italian, chinese, french, japanese, russian, spanish. This was NOT a slam against the Indian tribe, it was a move by the teacher to AVOID further racism in the area. From the sounds of it to me, Miranda was behaving in a very arrogant fashion, disrespecting and trying to antagonize the teacher. Was the student guilty of being racist against the white teacher? Is that what this is REALLY about? I wouldn't doubt it.

mustlovedogs's picture
Submitted by mustlovedogs on
The petition started is absurd. This incident should NOT have refocused attention on the language issue because that is NOT the point in this case, but if the Menominees or other Indian tribes want to make it that, then they're wrong for doing so. You're not helping your cause by trying to fuel the fire to keep your "cause" alive. I see common sense is what is needed to be taught here.

mustlovedogs's picture
Submitted by mustlovedogs on
Too bad the media misrepresented the TRUTH and now the menominees are having their hatred refueled. This seventh grade student needs to be taught respect. Isn't that taught in the menominee tribe? Do you really think a 7th grader is to be believed over a teacher at a school where the parents report behavior problems as their biggest concern?????? Come on, let's get to the truth and not follow the pied piper who is lying.

mustlovedogs's picture
Submitted by mustlovedogs on
how unfortunate that the media takes two separate issues and makes them one. Let me share with you what is being missed in this story. MIRANDA'S SUSPENSION WAS NOT RELATED TO THE LANGUAGE INCIDENT THAT'S WHY THE TEACHER DID NOT APOLOGIZE. Miranda and her mother were trying to make it that. The media joined in and connected two dots that were not connected. MIRANDA'S SUSPENSION WAS RELATED TO HER BEING DISRESPECTFUL ALLLLLL DAYYYYYY. Read it and read it and read it again. How terrible that this teacher be the fall guy for an Indian issue that is not hers.