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Rep. Denny Heck: Bury the medals of Wounded Knee

Jun 26, 2019
In The News

Legislation to rescind 20 Congressional Medals of Honor awarded after the 1890 massacre at Wounded Knee in South Dakota was unveiled Wednesday by U.S. Rep. Denny Heck, D-Wash., and two House colleagues.

"We're 129 years late, but we still can act," said Heck, in Washington, D.C., introducing the Remove the Stain Act.

An estimated 250 Native Americans, many of them women and children, were killed by 7th Cavalry troops on Dec. 29, 1890.

Heck was a close friend of the late Native American leader Billy Frank, Jr., and was the driving force of renaming the Nisqually National Wildlife Refuge after Frank.

A native group called Four Directions began the campaign to rescind the Wounded Knee medals, reacting to President Trump's mocking of Sen. Elizabeth Warren as "Pocahontas" over her now-documented native ancestry.

"No medals were awarded at My Lai," its leader O.J. Semans said Wednesday, referring to the Vietnam War massacre.

Congress in 1990 passed an apology for the massacre, but did not rescind the Medals of Honor.

"We are here today because we think that the descendants of those who were present and all associated deserve some healing and deserve this recognition that what happened then was not right," said Heck.

Rep. Deb Haaland, D-New Mexico, a member of the Pueblo of Laguna tribe, described the legislation as "a marker that shows our country is finally on its way to acknowledging atrocities committed against our native communities."

The legislation is also sponsored by Rep. Paul Cook, R-California, winner of a Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts in Vietnam.