School Confiscates 13-Year-Old’s Medicine Pouch, Violates Her Religious Freedom

A 13-year-old Native American student was removed from class and had a sacred medicine pouch confiscated by school administrators.

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Credit: TheFreeThoughtProject

Last October, thirteen-year-old Rosella “Rose” Kaquatosh went to school like every other day.

The Native American student was harshly surprised, however, when school administrators removed her from class and confiscated her sacred medicine pouch. 

According to Indian County, Koquatosh was in the school lunch line when a kitchen employee noticed the satchel outside of her clothing and reported her to the administrators.

Traditionally, a Menominee medicine pouch is used for prayers and does contain tobacco – but not the kind you can either smoke or chew. Kaquatosh kept her pouch around her neck for her prayers that she does a few time per day. Such is a common practice among many Native American tribes. 

The young girl’s grandmother, Karen Gardner, was deeply upset by the action taken against her granddaughter. She told Indian County that the school was upset about the fact that tobacco was in the pouch. They had no idea of knowing what the bag contained, however, until after they confiscated it and reprimanded her.

Said Gardner:

“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 type of tobacco contained in the pouch could not actually be chewed or smoked. It is to be used for sacred prayers and ceremonies only.

The school ended up taking out the tobacco and giving it back to Kaquatosh, sending her back to class. They forced her to tuck the pouch into her shirt, however, even though there was no tobacco in it.

Such an event was incredibly offensive to the teenage girl and her family. She should be gifted another sacred medicine pouch and be supported in her right to wear it however she wants.

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