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 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 Thepetitionsite.com.