Gresham School District Releases Statement After Native American Girl Forced To Remove Medicine Pouch
A 13-year-old Native American student was pulled from the lunch line at her school in Wisconsin and sent to the guidance counselor over a traditional Menominee medicine pouch, family says.
Rosella “Rose” Kaquatosh was wearing the pouch outside of her clothing when a kitchen employee at Gresham School in Gresham, Wisconsin, allegedly demanded Kaquatosh take it off.
“She saw her pouch [and] she started hollering at her, saying ‘take it off!’” Karen Gardner, Kaquatosh’s grandmother, told ICTMN. “[Kaquatosh] felt bullied. She told her it was ceremonial tobacco. [She] explained that she needed it to pray. She prays about four times a day. She respects the sacredness of the pouch.”
Kaquatosh told school officials the tobacco within the pouch was sacred, and not for chewing or smoking.
Principal Keary Mattson allegedly examined the pouch and removed some of the tobacco as Kaquatosh cried, Gardner said.
This all happened back on October 21.
Later, Kaquatosh was ordered to tuck the pouch in her shirt entirely.
Family and Native Americans in the Gresham community attended a school board meeting to speak in support of Kaquatosh.
Several of the speakers in the audience told the school board that Kaquatosh has the right to wear a Menominee medicine pouch as much as a Christian student is permitted to don a cross.
Gardner said she asked the school board for an apology.
The school board was slated to issue a response within 21 days.
This is an Official Statement from the Gresham School District in regards to the recent events at Gresham School:
The Gresham School District takes seriously its responsibility to maintain an open and supportive school environment. The District regrets that there have been misunderstandings in recent days regarding the religious practice of Native American students.
While not agreeing with all statements appearing in the media, the District’s response to this incident has been to undertake constructive actions that will promote greater knowledge and understanding within our school community.
The District has established a policy which allows students to wear medicine pouches in connection with sincerely-held religious beliefs. In addition, we are establishing training opportunities for our staff concerning cultural responsiveness.
We have appreciated the opportunity to develop an open dialogue with Native American tribal members, and will continue to work with our community to promote greater understanding and awareness. We are proud of our school, our staff and our students, and will continue to strive to support each and every one of our students.