"Ketapanen" is NOT a four-letter word. Even though it means "I love you" in Menominee, saying it still got Miranda Washinawatok in trouble at school.
According to Native News Network, when Miranda's teacher at Sacred Heart heard her speaking her native language, she slammed her hand on the desk, angry that Miranda might have said something "bad." As punishment, Miranda was benched during her team's next basketball game.
Miranda was upset and confused by the reaction, as was her mother, who says the Menominee language is part of their lives and that Miranda's grandmother is a linguistics and cultural specialist for their tribe. And the school's apology, she said, doesn't properly address this injustice.
Given our nation's shameful history of depriving Native Americans of their culture, among other things, Sacred Heart should 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.
We, the undersigned, believe your apology to Miranda Washinawatok and her family is an insufficient response to the injustices involved.
There are such grievous violations involved in this one incident it is hard to know where to start with reparations, with the school having violated Miranda's freedom of speech, as well as discriminating against her culture and ancestry. Furthermore this one incident seems indicative of a systemic problem in your school.
Native Network News editor Levi Levi Rickert points out that "American Indian students have the highest school dropout rate of any racial/ethnic group," and "They dropout because of incidents like what happened to Miranda. The incident involving Miranda, a tender soon-to-be teen, is one clear example of things gone bad for Indian kids in the American educational system."
Additionally, Rickert noted the irony of this incident occurring just days before Navajo Code Talker, US Marine Corps Sergeant Jimmie Begay, passed away. "He was one of the courageous Navajo soldiers who were trained to speak in code language utilizing their Navajo language during World War II."
Rickert explains that many American Indians in his generation didn't have the ability to learn their Native languages after they were "beaten out of our grandparents by school officials, who felt it better if we did not learn it."
"That is the irony of Native Languages," adds Rickert. "The very languages that were seen as evil - or bad - helped to save the nation."
Sacred Heart and all other American schools should be teaching, not stifling American Indian languages and cultures.
A website on the Menominee language says this: "We Believe that ourMenomineeLanguage is a gift from the Creator. If we do not use it, we are not fulfilling our responsibility. If we do not give life to it, we are neglecting to perform our duties."
Your school should do all it can to respect and encourage these beliefs.
We request you stop discriminating against American Indians and that you add American Indian languages and culture to your school's curriculum. Perhaps you should invite Miranda's grandmother to speak, in Menominee, of course.
Thank you for your attention to these requests.
Additional note: Please go to this site and read the bottom of page 64 & top of page 65 of the book's section shared on Google to see how children were punished for speaking this language in the 1920s: (you'll have to copy and paste into the url slot)
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