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Seeking Justice for Native Americans Killed at SD's Wounded Knee

Nine South Dakota Native Americans traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to participate when legislation was introduced to revoke medals of honor awarded to U.S. soldiers following the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. (newsmaven.io)
Nine South Dakota Native Americans traveled to Washington, D.C., on Tuesday to participate when legislation was introduced to revoke medals of honor awarded to U.S. soldiers following the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre. (newsmaven.io)
June 26, 2019

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. - Legislation was introduced Tuesday in the U.S. House of Representatives to rescind medals awarded to soldiers following the massacre of nearly 300 women and children at South Dakota's Wounded Knee in 1890.

The legislation followed a letter-writing campaign that began earlier this year by U.S. Navy veteran Oliver "OJ" Semans of the Rosebud Sioux Tribe. If passed, said Semans, co-executive director of Four Directions Inc., the "Remove the Stain Act" would acknowledge wrongs committed by the U.S. Army on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation by the 20 soldiers who were later awarded medals.

"Our culture is never about money," he said. "Our culture has always been about justice and what is right, and repatriation to us on these medals is rescinding them."

The "Remove the Stain" effort to take back the medals began after a controversial tweet by President Donald Trump earlier this year, mocking Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., as "Pocahontas." Semans said it represented the perpetual disdain for Native Americans that has led to their marginalization in U.S. society.

At a news conference, Native American descendants of Wounded Knee from South Dakota presented sponsors U.S. Reps. Denny Heck, D-Wash., and Paul Cook, R-Calif., with blankets and Rep. Deb Haaland, D-N.M., with a feather. Semans said he was glad to hear the lawmakers say their bill is intended to right a wrong, and to begin the process of healing and reconciliation.

"As a veteran, I do not believe that any medal should be awarded to any solider that kills women and children," he said. "That's why it should happen."

None of South Dakota's congressional delegation was part of the news conference, but spokespeople for U.S. Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds, both R-S.D., told the Argus Leader they would review the bill when the text becomes available. At the time, Rounds criticized the president's tweet, saying the Wounded Knee Massacre should not be used as a punchline.

The bill's number and text had not been posted by deadline.

Roz Brown, Public News Service - SD