Merkley, Wyden Urge Biden to Rescind Medals for Perpetrators of Wounded Knee Massacre

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Oregon’s U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley is leading a bicameral letter, along with Senator Ron Wyden, urging President Biden to rescind the Medals of Honor awarded to soldiers involved in the Wounded Knee Massacre, when hundreds of unarmed men, women, and children were slaughtered. U.S. Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and U.S. Representative Kaiali’l Kahele (D-HI-02) co-led the letter with Merkley.

On December 29, 1890, U.S. soldiers descended upon Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota and inflicted horrific and deadly violence on Lakota families. Twenty soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor—the nation’s highest military honor—for helping carry out the massacre. The federal government has not made any official acknowledgment of the tragedy since a concurrent resolution was passed in 1990 marking the 100th anniversary.

The lawmakers believe that President Biden has the power to use his executive authority to rescind the country’s highest military honor from the perpetrators of the event, and are urging him to do so.

“It has been over 130 years since the Wounded Knee Massacre, and yet, the actions of the U.S. Army and the bestowment of 20 Medals of Honor upon the perpetrators of the massacre remain a persistent shame on the nation. 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. It is well past time to remove this stain from our nation’s history, and we call on you to do so,” the lawmakers wrote.

Along with Merkley, Wyden, Warren, and Kahele, the letter was signed by Senators Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Tina Smith (D-MN), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and Alex Padilla (D-CA), and Representatives Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ-03.), Daniel Kildee (D-MI-05.), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR-03), Nikema Williams (D-GA-05), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ-07), Sharice Davids (D-KS-03), and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC).

Prior to the letter, Merkley and Warren reintroduced the Remove the Stain Act, which would revoke the Medals of Honor from the soldiers responsible for the Wounded Knee Massacre. The bill has received widespread support from tribal nations, direct descendants of the Wounded Knee Massacre, tribal organizations, and veterans’ associations.