A school in Wisconsin has forced a Native American teen to remove her traditional Menominee medicine pouch from her neck.
The traditional Menominee medicine pouch is used for prayers and is a common practice among many Native American tribes across the United States.
According to the Free Thought Project, on October 21, 2015 a 13-year-old Native American student named Rosella Kaquatosh, was removed from class before school administrators confiscated her sacred medicine pouch. The incident happened in the village of Gresham.
The girl was reportedly waiting in the school lunch line when a kitchen employee noticed her wearing the medicine pouch like a necklace. The kitchen employee then demanded that she remove the pouch.
With the help of other administrators in the school, Rosella was forced to remove the pouch. Although the pouch contained a sacred medicine that contained tobacco, the form of tobacco that was in the pouch could not be chewed or smoked. It is used only for sacred prayers and ceremonies.
The school took the tobacco out of the pouch and sent Rosella back to class. School authorities later forced her to tuck the pouch inside her shirt, even though the tobacco was removed.
The Free Thought Project reports, “It seems as if the school was as offended by the pouch itself as they were by the tobacco inside.”
Rosella’s grandmother, Karen Gardner, told the Indian Country that the school was against the pouch because it contained tobacco. She was quoted as saying, “She saw her pouch and she started hollering at her, saying ‘take it off!’ She 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.”
The activist, Sean Celtiad also explained how the school’s actions are offensive to the teen and rest of the Native American Society in the US.
“Sounds like more of that good old time religion at work. That woman reacted to the pouch as if she was seeing the devil itself, probably looks down on Native Americans as pagans, either way she had no right to demand the young woman to remove it, the principal had no right to open and remove any tobacco from it, if she knew anything about what she was dealing with she should have left the pouch and anything it contained alone, those pouches aren’t just ceremonial adornments, they are made in a sacred manner and the principal did just about the worst thing anyone could do by opening it at all, even worse by taking any tobacco out of it. Hopefully the young woman will not be affected by what was done and will make or be given another sacred pouch and defend her right to wear it however she wants to-it is no different than a person wearing a cross if they need a comparison,” Celtiad said.
In the past, activists have said that Native people in the US are heavily discriminated against and cannot freely express their heritage. Many have called for immediate action to be taken against the school.
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