7th grader suspended from school for saying “I love you” in native tongue
While I so often say around here that languages bring us together, it seems that there are many who disagree.
This story happened a few weeks ago, and was pretty upsetting. Happily this kind of thing is the exception rather than the rule. When a Wisconsin 7th grader, Miranda Washinawatok, decided to speak a few words of her native Menominee language to a classmate, her teacher decided to punish Miranda for her own ignorance.
“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.”
Miranda was later sent to the principal’s office and suspended from school for “attitude problems”.
The words she had said to her classmate? “Posoh”, meaning “hello”, and “ketapanen”, meaning “I love you”.
In typical backtracking fashion, the school administration sent a form apology letter to the parents once the media picked up the story of Miranda’s unfair treatment.
Although Menominee is one of many native American tribal languages that is slowly dying out in the USA, that certainly doesn’t mean that people should be punished for speaking it. Miranda’s mother, Karen, is in fact a former tribal chair, and the director of the Language and Culture Commission for the Menominee Tribe. With a degree in linguistics from the University of Arizona’s College of Education-AILDI American Indian Language Development Institute, it is no surprise that she is passing on her knowledge of the Menominee language to her daughter. Little did she know that this would be seen by some as a punishable offence.