Rescind the Medals of Dishonor

Simon Moya-Smith

They murdered men, women and children. An estimated 300 died. Some were killed on the spot. Others, mostly kids, were chased down and shot. All of the dead, even the babies, were left on the field that winter day and froze. Four days later, a party of men arrived to bury the iced corpses in a large pit. They were paid two dollars for every body dumped into the trench. Sometime later, 20 of the soldiers involved in the massacre were awarded the Medal of Honor. The day was December 29, 1890. The incident: Wounded Knee Massacre.

It has been more than 120 years since the U.S. 7th Calvary (George Armstrong Custer’s men) opened fired with rifles and Howitzers on the camp of Lakota. Yet, those 20 “Medals of Dishonor”, as they’ve oft been referred to, remain. And although there have been numerous calls by Native American leaders and celebrities, including filmmaker and veteran Oliver Stone, to have the medals rescinded, no action has been taken on the part of any president or Congress since that day of carnage.

The debate surrounding these 20 medals has again surfaced since President Barack Obama will today bestow 24 veterans of Vietnam, Korea and World War II with the Medal of Honor. Nineteen of these veterans were originally passed over due to their race or ethnic background, and only three of the total 24 are alive today.

Obviously, this is a move on the part of the presidency to right the wrongs of history, to pay honor and tribute where honor and tribute is due, regardless of color or creed. But this ceremony, which is to be held in the East Room of the White House, appears to me to be quite, let’s say, ironic.

Here we have two-dozen deserving veterans of several wars. Nearly a third of them were unjustly overlooked to receive the Medal of Honor because they are African American, Jewish or Hispanic. And although they are to be justly recognized for their valor decades later, the medal they are to be given is tainted by this moment in history.

Since the Medal of Honor was created in 1861, it has been reserved for those military personnel who have exhibited selflessness, bravery and heroism on the field of battle, but Wounded Knee was not a battle. It was a massacre, and to award 20 U.S. soldiers who acted in stark contrast to what the Medal of Honor stands for tarnishes its purpose and diminishes its value.

Native Americans continue to feel the pierce of what occurred that deplorable winter day. The story of the brutality and the inhumanity of what occurred is passed down to us from our elders because, quite unfortunately, these dark moments of American history are not shared in our schools as much as they should be.

To be sure, a great many of you who read this column are only learning of the Medals of Dishonor because I write of them. And that begs the question as to why. I’ll tell you: because it is very difficult for this country to fully recognize what it has done to its indigenous population. Well, it is time to start recognizing, and in so doing a time of healing (and learning) can begin.

Still, the fact that President Barack Obama would bestow the Medal of Honor to the 19 commendable veterans who were, at the time, discriminated against all the while refusing to revoke the 20 awarded to the soldiers who indiscriminately murdered hundreds of free Lakota, is hypocritical.

It is imperative that we restore the integrity to the Medal of Honor by revoking those medals awarded to the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry. If we truly seek to do what’s right and just, then let’s do what’s right and just and revoke the 20 medals from those who exhibited the antithesis of honor.

You need to be logged in in order to post comments
Please use the log in option at the bottom of this page




sophielauren's picture
Ok, let's do it. Can we start a petition or something? I'm not a seasoned activist. Someone help get it started. My children have and always will be taught the serious mistakes in American history so they may know what humans are capable of. Yes, this was a massacre. No argument.
Two Bears Growling's picture
Every single coward who took part in this mass murder should have every honor they were bestowed revoked & their names stricken off all records. Having known a survivor of this horrendous event in history & listened to their eye-witness account of this all I can tell you it deeply affected them for the rest of their lives. Every December the closer it would come to the anniversary of this horrible event this survivor always became depressed & would cry hours on end. December was a month of yearly mourning till the day they joined the ancestors. This was not a victory, this was a mass murder carried out & approved by both the military & politicians with the president's blessing. This is one of the most, among many, shameful & dark times in the history of the USA. What is even more sad today is that lies & cover-ups are STILL going on in the USA with the blessings of those in power in politics & the military. STILL our peoples are being harmed in many ways with blind eyes turned away, minimal punishments for those who harm our peoples. In the end of time all things will be made right by the Creator who will punish evil ones as He hands out His justice. No one will get away with any evil they have committed. The Great Judge makes no mistakes with His verdicts.....................
Two Bears Growling
Two Bears Growling's picture
Sophielauren, I will add that this even was not a serious mistake, it was pre-meditated murder on a mass scale. Interesting thing for you to think about: When the white people defeated we native people in wars or battles they called it a victory. When we native people defeated these cowards we were called murdering savages. We were not any such thing. We were defending our loved ones by those who had invaded our lands that were given to our peoples by the Creator thousands of years ago. We never asked to be abused, mistreated & lied about. We welcomed all who would live in peace & harmony with us to be treated as one of our own. What would you have done had evil ones come into your land & homes doing what was done to our peoples? I believe you would have defended them as well my friend.
Two Bears Growling
Yonashawn@gmail.com's picture
I have started a petition for our use. I have 30 days to get 100,000 signatures in order for the petition to be reviewed by the White House. Until the petition has 150 signatures, it will only be available from the following URL and will not be publicly viewable on the Open Petitions section of We the People: http://wh.gov/lvBAT A few tips to help you promote the petition and get to 100,000 signatures: 1. Email: Email your petition to your friends, family and others who care about this issue. Above is a sample email you can copy and forward to your friends right now. we petition the obama administration to: Rescind 20 Medals of Honor given the U.S. 7th Calvary for slaughter (300 Lakota men, women & babies) Wounded Knee 1890. This petition is to rescind the 20 Medals of Honor given to the U.S. 7th Calvary for their slaughter of approximately 300 Lakota men, women and children (including babies) at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890. The recipients of this massacre tarnish the meaning of the Medal of Honor and what it stands for all other recipients as there is no honor in using Howitzers and rifles to murder old women and children or in letting 2 year old babies freeze to death at the side of their murdered mother. 20 soldiers involved in the Wounded Knee massacre were awarded a Medal of Honor. It is difficult for this country to recognize what it has done to its indigenous population. It is time to start that recognization and in so doing a time of healing (and learning) can begin. Please Help & support Created: Apr 06, 2014 Issues: Veterans and Military Families
[email protected]
Sam Russell's picture
Inform your opinion on why the Army and the U.S. Government bestowed those medals. Look beyond the "citations" which were by design pithy enough to engrave on the back of the medal. Commanders detailed the reasons for recommending their soldiers often in great detail. Learn more at: ArmyAtWoundedKnee.com
Sam Russell