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State legislators hope to open investigation into Wounded Knee service members

Published: Feb. 19, 2021 at 7:39 PM CST
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RAPID CITY, S.D. (KOTA) - Twenty U.S. Service Members still hold Medals of Honor for their actions at the Wounded Knee Massacre in 1890, despite a long effort to have those medals revoked.

Some South Dakota lawmakers are now getting behind a resolution to open an investigation into those awards.

Two years ago, the Remove the Stain Act was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation aimed to revoke Medals of Honor from U.S. troops who participated in the Massacre at Wounded Knee more than 130 years ago.

South Dakota Senate Minority Leader Troy Heinert introduced Senate Resolution 701 to open an official inquiry into who received those medals.

Juliann Spotted Bear and Bernardo Rodriguez Jr. are District Representatives of the Oglala Sioux Tribe who spoke in support of the resolution in Pierre.

Rodriguez said that the legislation would determine if those medals were rightfully given in the first place by looking at documents surrounding the event.

“There would be a nice letter accompanying that citation of your act of valor and gallantry,” Rodriguez said. “So, what we’re doing is we want to investigate those stories and documents written about those men that received the Medals of Honor for the Wounded Knee Massacre, and did they really earn them?”

Both representatives are former service members who are discouraged by the stain the Wounded Knee Massacre has on the U.S. military.

Spotted Bear said that as someone who wore the uniform honorably, it weighs heavy on her that members of the 7th Cavalry received the medals when other service members didn’t.

“We’ve had men and women go into battle in Iraq and Afghanistan and do far more and come back with an Army Achievement Medal or an Army Accommodation Medal or a Mandatory Service Medal,” Spotted Bear said. “Far more actions were done to receive that than what those soldiers in 1890 did to receive that award.”

The Senate Resolution passed the Military and Veterans Affairs Committee on Tuesday.

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