Elizabeth Warren To Introduce Bill Revoking Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee Massacre
The “Remove the Stain Act” would strip the highest military award from 20 U.S. soldiers who slaughtered hundreds of Native women and children.
WASHINGTON (August 22, 2019) ― Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) plans to introduce legislation this fall to rescind 20 Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. soldiers who slaughtered hundreds of Lakota Indians ― mostly women and children ― in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.
The bill, the Remove the Stain Act, was introduced in the House in June by Democratic Reps. Denny Heck (Wash.), Paul Cook (Calif.) and Deb Haaland (N.M.), one of two Native American women in Congress. Warren told Indianz.com on Tuesday that she’ll introduce a Senate version in the coming months.
“At the Wounded Knee massacre, hundreds of Lakota men, women, and children were slaughtered by soldiers who received Medals of Honor. These acts of violence were not heroic; they were tragic and profoundly shameful,” Warren said in a statement provided to HuffPost. “This bill respects and honors those who lost their lives, advances justice, and takes a step toward righting wrongs against Native peoples.”
Warren was one of several Democratic presidential candidates who participated in this week’s Frank LaMere Native American Presidential Forum in Sioux City, Iowa. The topic of the Remove the Stain Act came up frequently at the two-day event, due largely to one woman in the audience, 99-year-old World War II veteran Marcella LeBeau of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, asking candidates if they would sign it into law as president.
“Back home on the Cheyenne River Reservation, I believe that there is a pervasive sadness that exists because of unresolved grief,” LeBeau said each time she raised the issue. “Back in 1890, at the massacre at Wounded Knee, there were innocent women and children who were killed there by the 7th Calvary. Even Bigfoot, who was the leader, he laid there with pneumonia, unarmed, under the white flag of truce. He was killed.”
Every Democratic candidate at the event said they would sign the bill into law, though former Maryland Rep. John Delaney hedged. He said he first wanted to research each medal awarded at “the battle” to decide whether to rescind some or all of them. (Wounded Knee was not a battle ― it was a massacre, which several attendees were quick to point out after Delaney used the word.)
The Remove the Stain Act isn’t quite moving yet in the House. Heck is currently focused on getting cosponsors and endorsements from veterans and Native American groups, per Heck spokesman Bobby Mattina.
“The level of support we’re able to build will likely help determine the best course of action to get the bill passed,” Mattina said.
Native Americans Slam Trump For Racist ‘Wounded Knee’ Dig At Sen. Elizabeth Warren
Memories of the dead should “not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line,” said the president of the National Congress of American Indians.
Trump made fun of an Instagram video post by Warren, a 2020 presidential candidate, in her kitchen. “If Elizabeth Warren, often referred to by me as Pocahontas, did this commercial from Bighorn or Wounded Knee instead of her kitchen, with her husband dressed in full Indian garb, it would have been a smash,” Trump mocked on Twitter.
Native Americans weren’t laughing.
Not only was the reference to Pocahontas insulting, as people have complained repeatedly, but the casual reference to Wounded Knee — and the Battle of Little Bighorn — as part of a disdainful joke astounded many.
“We condemn in the strongest possible terms the casual and callous use of these events as part of a political attack,” said Jefferson Keel, president of the National Congress of American Indians. “Hundreds of Lakota, Cheyenne, and Arapaho people lost their lives at the hands of the invading U.S. Army during these events, and their memories should not be desecrated as a rhetorical punch line.”
The chairman of the Rosebud Sioux tribe, Rodney Bordeaux, called the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre in South Dakota “one of the darkest and most tragic chapters in the history of the Sioux Nation” in which as many as 400 unarmed Native Americans, many of them women and children, were slaughtered by U.S. soldiers. Bordeaux called Trump’s tweet “racist and disrespectful,” and demanded the president apologize for his “shameful and ignorant misstatement.”
Sioux tribal lawyer and writer Ruth Hopkins tweeted: “This isn’t funny. It’s cold, callous, and just plain racist.”
Congress formally apologized to the descendants of the victims of the Wounded Knee massacre 100 years after the fact and expressed “deep regret” in a resolution that made no mention of reparations.
In the Battle of Little Bighorn, hundreds were killed in 1876 in what is now Montana when the Lakota Sioux, Northern Cheyenne and Arapaho tribes fought the U.S. Cavalry led by Lt. Col. George Custer.
The anger by the Native Americans is particularly sharp given Trump’s ongoing campaign against immigrants and his insistence on a government shutdown until he gets $5.7 billion to build a wall along the southern border. To Native Americans, Trump is an immigrant.
“Flippant references to deadly historical conflicts and name-calling that mocks Native identity have no place in our political discourse,” said Keel. “I urge the president to focus instead on doing the people’s business, including ending the needless government shutdown that is harming so many Native people.”
Storm Reyes, 69, a member of the Puyallup tribe in Washington state, told The New York Times that the president’s use of Wounded Knee was “equivalent to making a ‘joke’ about 9/11, Pearl Harbor or the Holocaust.” She said it was “awful that not only did Trump use this tragedy as a joke, weapon and insult, but that his ignorance of American history is so great that he didn’t even know that Wounded Knee was a massacre and not a battle.”
Warren has been repeatedly mocked by Trump as “Pocahontas” because of her past claims that she has Native American ancestry, based on family stories.
She released results of a DNA test last year that she said showed “strong evidence” of Native American heritage and indicated she may have had an American Indian ancestor as long as 10 generations ago. But she was criticized by a leader of the Cherokee Nation for conflating a blood test with tribal affiliation.
“A DNA test is useless to determine tribal citizenship,” Secretary of State for the Cherokee Nation Chuck Hoskin Jr. said in a statement after Warren released the test. “Sovereign tribal nations set their own legal requirements for citizenship.”
Warren acknowledged the distinction. She tweeted in response that she agreed “DNA and family history has nothing to do with tribal affiliation … which is determined only by tribal nations.”
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.