WASHINGTON ― 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.