Posted on August 22, 2019

Presidential Candidates Support Rescinding Medals for Wounded Knee Massacre

Lisa Kaczke, Sioux Falls Argus Leader, August 21, 2019

Some of the Democratic presidential candidates said they support rescinding the 20 Medals of Honor awarded to U.S. soldiers for the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre.

Marcella LeBeau, a member of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe, {snip} is part of the group asking Congress to pass the Remove the Stain Act to rescind the medals for Wounded Knee, in which nearly 300 Native Americans were killed by the U.S. Army on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. The Remove the Stain Act has remained in the U.S. House Armed Services Committee without action since it was introduced in June. It has a dozen cosponsors, although South Dakota’s congressional delegation hasn’t signed on to it.

U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont hung his head down as LeBeau described the impact Wounded Knee has had on Native Americans in South Dakota. He received loud applause when he immediately answered that the medals should “absolutely” be rescinded. The time is overdue for people to have the discussion about the “terrible and horrible things” that were done to Native Americans when Europeans arrived in the United States, although it won’t be easy because there’s a lot of pain, he said.


It’s appropriate to frame the issue around the despair felt in South Dakota stemming from the massacre because it’s important to have reconciliation to resolve that despair, said former U.S. Rep. John Delaney of Maryland. More needs to be done, and if he’s elected, Delaney said he’ll sign the Remove The Stain Act if it passes. However, he said each medal will need to be considered on its own when it comes to rescinding them.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said he would do everything in his power as president to rescind the medals and “finally make history move in the right direction.” The country needs to acknowledge Wounded Knee and say that it no longer has those values, he said. The Wounded Knee Massacre didn’t have anything to do with honor, he said.


California’s U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris said she supports the Remove the Stain Act. History needs to reflect the fact that is was a massacre, and she supports acknowledging the wrongs that populations have experienced in the country’s past, she said.

Former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julian Castro said rescinding the medals is the right thing to do because Wounded Knee is a “shameful part of this country’s history.”

Independent presidential candidate Mark Charles, a member of the Navajo Nation, said he would “absolutely” rescind the medals. Like many moments in American history, most of the country doesn’t know the history of what took place at Wounded Knee. Three of the medals were given to soldiers because they flushed the Lakota people out of the ravine during the massacre, he said. In addition to rescinding the medals, the country needs to understand why it celebrates massacres such as Wounded Knee.