November 27, 2019
Soldiers got Medals of Honor for massacring Native Americans. This bill would take them away.Breaking News
tags: Wounded Knee, Native American history, Medal of Honor
On Dec. 29, 1890, the U.S. Army’s 7th Cavalry opened fire on hundreds of Native Americans in one of most shameful and bloody acts of violence against indigenous people in American history.
“I have never heard of a more brutal, cold-blooded massacre than that at Wounded Knee,” wrote Maj. Gen. Nelson A. Miles, who served as an Army commander during the Indian wars. A majority of the dead were women and children.
For these acts at Wounded Knee, 20 Medals of Honor were awarded to the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry. Over a century later, some lawmakers are trying to take those awards away.
On Wednesday, two Senate Democrats unveiled legislation to strip the Medals of Honor from the American soldiers who participated in the Wounded Knee massacre. The bill, known as the Remove the Stain Act, was announced Wednesday by Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) and Jeff Merkley (Ore.), and serves as the Senate equivalent of a House bill introduced this year.
In a statement, Warren said the bill was “a step toward righting wrongs against Native peoples.”
In December 1890, Chief Big Foot, leader of the Minneconjou Lakota, was leading his people to refuge in South Dakota when they were intercepted by the U.S. Army. They surrendered, were brought to an encampment at Wounded Knee Creek and surrounded by 470 soldiers and their formidable artillery, according to historian Mark Hirsch.
Precise details on the battle have been difficult to ascertain, but historians believe that on Dec. 29, a disagreement broke out as U.S. soldiers attempted to disarm Big Foot’s men; a shot was fired, and then the Americans attacked. Estimates of the number of deaths range from fewer than 200 to more than 400, but there’s consensus that most of the Native Americans killed were women and children.
“We have a responsibility to tell the true story of the horrific Wounded Knee Massacre,” [Oregon Senator Jeff] Merkley said in a statement on Wednesday. “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.”
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