Catholics Still Trying to "Kill the Indian"

At the Sacred Heart Catholic Academy in Shawano, WI, just off the edge of Menominee reservation, which holds about half the state’s Menominee population, a seventh grader was recently suspended from a basketball game for teaching a friend a few words of the dying Menominee language.

The principal told Washinawatok that the assistant coach told him she was told by two teachers to bench Miranda for attitude problems.

The alleged ‘attitude problem’ turned out to be that Miranda said the Menominee word

that means

and said


in Menominee that means “I love you.”

Miranda and a fellow classmate were talking to each other when Miranda told her how to say “Hello” and “I love you” in Menominee.

“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.”

That’s right: teachers ganging up on a student because she is part of a world they are not, because she dared to spend time in that world in front of them, because someone speaking a language they haven’t learned must be assumed to be doing something bad.

In this, of course, the Catholic school teachers were continuing the policies of Richard Pratt, the founder of the first U.S. residential school specifically designed to wipe out Native American culture. His is the infamous quote:

A great general has said that the only good Indian is a dead one. In a sense, I agree with the sentiment, but only in this: that all the Indian there is in the race should be dead. Kill the Indian in him, and save the man.

Remember that the next time someone wants to tell you that what happened in the boarding schools did not constitute genocide. It was explicitly intended to. Remember it also when you hear people talking about how immigration is acceptable as long as people assimilate. Remember the cultural heritage of people who insist those around them should speak only English.

The Menominee language is a highly endangered language as a direct result of the actions of Pratt and those who followed his lead–and of the Roman Catholic church. The church ran the boarding school on the Menominee reservation, a school where the native language was deliberately killed off.

Marie Warrington Floring doesn’t recall much of her childhood.

But some painful memories of growing up in a boarding school for Native Americans still linger.

Violating rules was met with harsh discipline; even worse punishment was meted out for speaking Menominee. For Floring and others — who went months each year without seeing parents or siblings — feelings of isolation were the worst of all.

Miranda is one of the few people of her generation to speak Menominee. Her grandmother is a linguist and very actively involved in preserving the Menominee language and culture. Miranda speaks Menominee at home with her family. But when she spoke it in public, when she tried to teach a fellow student (60% of whom are also Menominee), her Catholic school teacher decided she was doing something wrong.

Then, because it wasn’t enough to be told that anything the teacher couldn’t decipher must be something bad, Miranda’s pride in her heritage was marked as bad attitude. The punishment for that wasn’t simply meted out by this teacher, either. Two teachers ganged up on this child and persuaded the basketball coach to punish her for them. Instead of taking any interest in the heritage of 60% of their students, these teachers used their authority to try to wipe it off the map.

Ah, how far we’ve come.

Catholics Still Trying to "Kill the Indian"

D.J. Grothe on the Feminist and Atheist Blogospheres

In the discussion of my post suggesting D.J. Grothe has a bad habit of walking into arguments and taking a side without fulling understanding the implications (which he assures me he doesn’t), he signed off with the following:

This will be my last post on this topic. I’ll go back to believing what I have believed for a while now about some of these atheist blogs, now yours included: that fomenting movement controversy often seems to be prized over honest and sincere argument, that some folks are too quick to vilify and engage in destructive in-group/out-group thinking, that these online communities are exclusive rather than inclusive, and that unfortunately as a whole, the feminist and atheist blogospheres often operate quite separately from and counter the growing skeptical movement working to combat unreason and harmful pseudoscience in society.

Now, there are a few things to be noted about this statement. Continue reading “D.J. Grothe on the Feminist and Atheist Blogospheres”

D.J. Grothe on the Feminist and Atheist Blogospheres

It’s the Authority, Stupid

Massimo Pigliucci has a post up entitled “The goals of atheist activism.” *sigh*

I recommend PZ’s post deconstructing much of Massimo’s argument and note that Massimo is every bit as wrong about the confrontational tactics of the gay rights movement as he is about the civil rights movement. If he thinks people weren’t called “murderers” over their response to the AIDS crisis, he wasn’t paying attention. 

I’ll add a harumph of my own for the idea that atheists don’t experience “real discrimination.” Maybe Massimo and his friends have things cushy enough that the kinds of discrimination atheists face aren’t real to them. It’s a little different for those who had to fight to prove they were fit to be custodial parents. It’s different for those politicians who know they can’t aspire to higher office without facing de facto religious tests in their districts. It’s different for those who work for religious bosses or companies and get to choose between being quiet and fighting a lawsuit for discriminatory treatment or termination that they can’t actually afford.

But this post isn’t actually about atheists. This post is about the fact that Massimo still managed to miss my main goal in his list, despite me pointing him to my response to the Stedman article when Massimo linked it on Twitter. Continue reading “It’s the Authority, Stupid”

It’s the Authority, Stupid

The Alternatives to Confrontationalism

Chris Stedman has one of those posts up at The Huffington Post today. You know the sort: “But I’m the good kind of atheist. Not like them.”

The first “them” in this case is the set of the American Atheists No God Blog, PZ Myers, JT Eberhard, and Al Stefanelli. Their crime? Not mincing words in calling Islam particularly violent, cowardly, and misogynistic. The problem?

None of these are reasonable critiques of any specific Islamic beliefs. They are broad generalizations and they do nothing to further the discourse on ethics — atheistic or Islamic.

What Stedman cites as objectionable are (except for Stefanelli’s, which is in the middle of a post that cites relevant passages from the Koran, making it rather bizarre that Stedman would level that particular criticism at it) offhand remarks in blog posts about things like threatening the lives of cartoonists who have depicted Mohammed or condoning forced child marriage and rape. The actions being condemned are, in fact, spurred by specific beliefs with their basis in the Koran, even if the bloggers don’t stop to cite chapter and verse.

I’m not sure what Stedman thinks would be a “reasonable critique” of these situations that would “further the discourse on ethics.” Perhaps a nice roundtable discussion of the various accepted interpretations of the passages in question? We could have a fundamentalist representative or two, a few more liberal members who think this sort of behavior should be reserved for Allah only (who could argue amongst themselves whether it was also acceptable for the prophet or whether his flaws merely proved his humanity), and someone who insists it’s all poetry, highly suitable for meditation.

This is, of course, the problem with much of the accommodationist set. They purse up their lips and flutter their fingertips in the general direction of all that strife, but they never tell you what the alternatives are.

Continue reading “The Alternatives to Confrontationalism”

The Alternatives to Confrontationalism

With Faith, Nothing Is Impermissible

That’s right. Not “impossible.” Impermissible.

We’ve seen how far faith gets you when you want to defy the laws of physics or reproduce miracles. That would be “not very.” However, it appears to get you much, much further when all you want to violate is basic human decency, as Ophelia has spent a good chunk of the day documenting.

Ohhhhhh shit, how did I miss this – the House passed a bill in October that “makes it legal for hospitals to deny abortions to pregnant women with life-threatening conditions.”

Remember Thomas Olmsted, bishop of Phoenix? Who stripped St Joseph’s Hospital of its Catholic status because it aborted a fetus that was doomed in any case, in order to save the mother (who has four small children)? Remember the ACLU letter to the Feds urging them to enforce the law – the law that says hospitals can’t deny patients life-saving procedures?

As she points out, passed by the House is not the same thing as law, but it’s a damned important step along the way. and what are we stepping toward?

Continue reading “With Faith, Nothing Is Impermissible”

With Faith, Nothing Is Impermissible

Why I Will Not Be Adopted

If you haven’t already seen the whole to-do over Bill Donohue of The Catholic League suggesting that believers adopt atheists just in case their might be some undiscovered believers among us, check out Greta’s post on the topic. She’s got lots of juicy links and a righteous rant. She is also, like many, perfectly willing to be adopted.

Not me.

Continue reading “Why I Will Not Be Adopted”

Why I Will Not Be Adopted

How an Authoritarian Protects the Vulnerable

Sexual assault happens disproportionately to the most vulnerable among us, those without resources, those who aren’t trusted or heard, those who are despised, those whom the law stands against. Women are assaulted at higher rates than men. The poor and uneducated are more likely to be assaulted than the rich and educated, and the homeless…well. Ethnic minorities are more vulnerable than whites. The mentally ill are more likely to be assaulted than the generally sane.

Sexual minorities are more likely to be assaulted than the vanilla, heterosexual monogamous. The genderqueer are more vulnerable than gender-normative performers.

Those who break (enforced) laws are more likely to be assaulted than those who don’t, both inside and outside of incarceration. Illegal immigrants are more vulnerable than those who can go to authorities without fear of deportation.

Then there are children.

Continue reading “How an Authoritarian Protects the Vulnerable”

How an Authoritarian Protects the Vulnerable

Understanding Penn State

I’ve read very little of the mainstream media coverage of the corruption in the Penn State football program, largely because if I hear/read someone talking about what this means for the future of the program, I may have to commit homicide. As a result, and because I follow some excellent people on Twitter, I suggest the following reading if you want to know what’s going on.

Continue reading “Understanding Penn State”

Understanding Penn State

The Police Must Be Protected

Recently, I put up a picture of police in formation in riot gear, with the caption, “You can always tell who came to start a riot by how they dress.” I got comments like, “I protesters refuse to stop breaking a law, then they need to be arrested, and more power to the police if they chose to wear protective equipment.”

One of the things I appreciate about the Occupy movement is that it is actually televised (yay, internet!). That means you can see what the police need to protect themselves from. Like this:

Continue reading “The Police Must Be Protected”

The Police Must Be Protected

Evil Enough Already

One of the progressive activists I follow on Twitter posted a link last night.

In a story that is almost too horrific to believe, what looks to be a childrens’ mass burial ground has been discovered around the Mohawk Institute Indian residential school near Brantford, Ontario, Canada.

The International Tribunal into Crimes of Church and State continues:

“According to Rev. Kevin Annett, Secretary of the International Tribunal for Crimes of Church and States (, the Mohawk Institute was “set up by the Anglican Church of England in 1832 to imprison and destroy generations of Mohawk children. This very first Indian [First Nations] residential school in Canada lasted until 1970, and, like in most residential schools, more than half of the children imprisoned there never returned. Many of them are buried all around the school.”

Continue reading “Evil Enough Already”

Evil Enough Already