Published December 2, 2019
WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren, Democratic presidential candidate, has joined with Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) to introduce the Senate companion to the Remove the Stain Act. First introduced in the House by Representatives Denny Heck (D-Wash.), Deb Haaland (D-N.M.), and Paul Cook (R-Calif.), the bill would revoke the Medal of Honor from the soldiers who perpetrated the Wounded Knee massacre on December 29, 1890, when U.S. soldiers slaughtered hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children–most of them unarmed–on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota.
Disgracefully, twenty soldiers in the regiment received the Medal of Honor–the highest military decoration–for their actions at Wounded Knee.
Senators Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.), Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) are original cosponsors of the bill.
As the country’s highest military honor, the Medal of Honor is awarded in the name of Congress for “gallantry beyond the call of duty.” The soldiers’ acts of violence at Wounded Knee were not heroic, but rather tragic and profoundly shameful. The 101st Congress (1989-1990) adopted a concurrent resolution acknowledging the 100th anniversary of the massacre and “expresse(d) its deep regret on behalf of the United States” for the “terrible tragedy.”
“The horrifying acts of violence against hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children at Wounded Knee should be condemned, not celebrated with Medals of Honor,” said Senator Warren. “The Remove the Stain Act acknowledges a profoundly shameful event in U.S. history, and that’s why I’m joining my House colleagues in this effort to advance justice and take a step toward righting wrongs against Native peoples.”
“We have a responsibility to tell the true story of the horrific Wounded Knee Massacre,” said Senator Merkley. “We cannot whitewash or minimize the dark chapters of our history, but instead must remember, reflect on, and work to rectify them. The massacre of innocents could not be farther from heroism, and I hope this bill helps set the record straight.”
“History must reflect that Wounded Knee was a massacre of hundreds of defenseless Native men, women, and children at the hands of U.S. soldiers,” said Senator Harris. “We will never be able to remove the pain and trauma caused by these acts of violence, but we can continue to fight for justice. Revoking these Medals of Honor is one step forward and I am proud to join my colleagues to address our country’s wrongs.”
“While we can’t change history, we can change who we as a nation recognize as heroes,” Senator Wyden said. “The soldiers who attacked and killed indigenous peoples at Wounded Knee were no heroes, and they did not deserve to be awarded Medals of Honor. Revoking these medals is the least Congress can do to recognize the irreparable harm that the U.S. government caused to indigenous peoples.”
“Wounded Knee is part of our history, and nothing we do today can adequately make amends for the merciless slaughter that occurred there,” said Senator Patrick Leahy. “But rescinding the Medals of Honor, which were awarded for conduct that was the antithesis of honorable, is a small step and one that I’m proud to be part of.”
In June 2019, Representatives Heck, Haaland, and Cook introduced the bipartisan Remove the Stain Act as H.R. 3467.
“The Remove the Stain Act is about more than just rescinding Medals of Honor from soldiers who served in the U.S. 7th Cavalry and massacred unarmed Lakota women and children — it’s also about making people aware of this country’s history of genocide of American Indians. Senator Elizabeth Warren understands this, and I’m pleased we’ll be able to have these conversations and move bills forward in both chambers,” said Congresswoman Deb Haaland.
The Remove the Stain Act has earned the support of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, the Oglala Sioux Tribe, the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, the Shakopee Mdewakanton Sioux Community, the National Congress of American Indians, the Great Plains Tribal Chairman’s Association, the Coalition of Large Tribes, United South and Eastern Tribes Sovereignty Protection Fund, Heartbeat At Wounded Knee 1890, the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre Descendants Society, Four Directions, the Native Organizers Alliance, VoteVets, Common Defense, Veterans for Peace, Veterans for American Ideals, and the Friends Committee on National Legislation.
“Native people serve in the United States Armed Forces at a higher rate than any other group in the United States, and Senators Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley’s introduction of the Remove the Stain Act not only shows respect to these brave Native men and women who in some cases gave the ultimate sacrifice for this Nation with their lives, it also brings justice and healing to the Wounded Knee descendants,” said Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.