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Principal Removes Tobacco From Student's Sacred Medicine Pouch, Family Says

A 13-year-old Menominee student in Wisconsin cried as her school principal removed sacred tobacco from her medicine bag, family says.

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.

On October 21, 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.

Rosella "Rose" Kaquatosh wears her sacred Menominee medicine pouch. Photo courtesy Karen Gardner.

“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.

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Kaquatosh has since been ordered to tuck the pouch in her shirt, Gardner said.

On Monday, family and Native Americans in the Gresham community attended a school board meeting to speak in support of Kaquatosh.

Gardner said 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.

“They didn't say they would send any,” she said.

The school board is slated to issue a response within 21 days, Gardner added.

Principal Keary Mattson did not respond to ICTMN’s request for comment.