Lawmakers call on Biden to revoke medals awarded for Wounded Knee Massacre, when hundreds of Lakota people were killed by the US army


Elizabeth Warren

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on September 28, 2021. Patrick Semansky-Pool/Getty Images

  • A group of lawmakers is asking Biden to revoke Medals of Honor given to soldiers from Wounded Knee.

  • Hundred of unarmed Lakota people were killed during the Wounded Knee Massacre in December 1890.

  • The effort, led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren, includes 16 Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent.

A group of lawmakers has asked President Joe Biden to revoke Medals of Honor that were awarded for the Wounded Knee Massacre, when US army solders killed hundreds of Lakota people, including unarmed women and children, in 1890.

Led by Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the lawmakers sent Biden a letter Tuesday, asserting his executive authority grants him the power to have the medals revoked, The New York Times reported. It was signed by 16 Democrats and Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent.

“For the families and descendants of those massacred, the revocation of these 20 Medals of Honor would have a profound and lasting impact – as has the federal government’s ongoing choice to allow these wrongly bestowed honors to stand,” the letter said, according to The Times.

The Medal of Honor is the highest and most prestigious decoration American soldiers can receive, and is awarded for acts of valor.

The Wounded Knee Massacre occurred on December 29, 1890, when US forces surrounded a group of Lakota people near Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota. The Lakota surrendered and were being disarmed by the soldiers when a shot was fired.

In the massacre that followed, hundreds of unarmed Lakota people were killed, with nearly half being women and children. Historical estimates put the Lakota death toll between 150 to 300, or even higher. It marked one of the deadliest days for Native people against US forces, and was one of the last armed confrontations between the US and the Indigenous peoples of the Great Plains.

In 2019, Warren first introduced a bill to the Senate that would revoke the medals from 20 soldiers who participated in the massacre, The Times reported. The letter urging Biden to act was sent as the bill has stalled.

In February, the South Dakota Senate unanimously supported a resolution calling on the US Congress to launch an investigation into the Medals of Honor awarded to soldiers who participated at Wounded Knee.

“It’s not going to change the stain of what happened there,” state Sen. Troy Heinert, a member of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe, said at the time, the Associated Press reported. “This will give us a chance to start a new history – that will recognize what we did that day was wrong.”

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