On October a 13-year-old Native American student named Rosella “Rose” Kaquatosh was removed from class and had a sacred medicine pouch confiscated by school administrators. Kaquatosh was reportedly in the school lunch line when a kitchen employee noticed her wearing the medicine pouch outside of her clothing like a necklace.
The traditional Menominee medicine pouch is used for prayers that Kaquatosh does a few times per day, and is a common practice among many Native American tribes.
Karen Gardner, Kaquatosh’s grandmother told Indian Country that the school was upset about the fact that tobacco was in the pouch, but they had no way of knowing what the bag contained until after they reprimanded her.
“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,” Gardner said.
The form of tobacco that was in the pouch could not actually be chewed or smoked and is to be used only for sacred prayers and ceremonies.
The school ended up taking the tobacco out of the pouch, and they sent Kaquatosh back to class afterward, but they forced her to tuck the pouch into her shirt, even though the tobacco was removed. It seems as if the school was as offended by the pouch itself as they were by the tobacco inside.
On Indian Country Today, Sean Celtiad, explains how offensive this act by the school was to this little girl:
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 how ever she wants to-it is no different than a person wearing a cross if they need a comparison.
Native people are still heavily discriminated against, and it is terrible to see that schools are so strict that these children are not able to express their heritage. However, regardless of culture, children should be able to express themselves freely without a long list of limitations on how they dress.
Last month we reported on a similar story where a 7-year-old Native American student was sent home from school because he had a traditional mohawk haircut