Warren Introduces Act to Strip Medals of Honor Awarded for Wounded Knee Massacre: 'Horrifying Acts of Violence'

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Jeff Merkley are expected to introduce the Senate companion to the Remove the Stain Act which would remove the Medal of Honor from 20 U.S. soldiers who participated in the killing of hundreds of unarmed Lakota Sioux people at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota in 1890, according to a press statement. The Medal of Honor is the highest military decoration.

In 1990, Congress passed a resolution to "express its deep regret to the Sioux people and in particular to the descendants of the victims and survivors of this 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," Senator Warren said. "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."

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Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren speaks to guests during a campaign stop at the Val Air Ballroom on November 25, 2019 in West Des Moines, Iowa. Scott Olson/Getty

Originally introduced in the House by Representatives Denny Heck, Deb Haaland and Paul Cook, the act states that the actions of U.S. soldiers during what has come to be known as the Wounded Knee Massacre do not deserve to be celebrated with a military decoration.

"Allowing any Medal of Honor, the United States highest and most prestigious military decoration, to recognize a member of the Armed Forces for distinguished service for participating in the massacre of hundreds of unarmed Native Americans is a disservice to the integrity of the United States and its citizens, and impinges on the integrity of the award and those who have earned the Medal since," read the act.

Sioux leaders have expressed their support for the act. Rosebud Sioux Tribe President Rodney Bordeaux said the Remove the Stain act was an "honorable gesture towards formally acknowledging a historical wrong and fostering healing."

"After 129 years," Bordeaux continued, "the massacre is still a subject of sorrow for the Lakota, and I believe an embarrassment to the United States. This Act is a symbol of continued reconciliation efforts and what the United States continually aspires to be."

In many ways, the massacre at Wounded Knee was an attempt to squash the belief system known as Ghost Dancing. Native Americans believed that their consignment to reservations happened because of their abandonment of traditional customs.

Soldiers near Wounded Knee Creek surrounded a group of Ghost Dancers, demanding the Native Americans give up their weapons. After a scuffle broke out, a shot was fired. In the end, between 150-300 Sioux were killed while the U.S. Cavalry suffered 25 losses.