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WASHINGTON — The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed the National Defense Authorization Act, which includes legislation to address the slaughter of hundreds of Lakota men, women and children at the Wounded Knee massacre a century ago.   

Included in the Defense Authorization Act for fiscal 2022 is an amendment that comes from the ‘Remove the Stain Act’ (H.R. 2226), which calls for revoking the Medal of Honor from members of the U.S. 7th Calvary who killed hundreds of Lakota people at Wounded Knee on December 29, 1890 on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.

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The Remove the Stain Act was reintroduced in March of this year by Rep. Kaiali'i Kahele (D-HI), a Native Hawaiian citizen, along with several co-sponsors including Rep. Sharice Davids (D-KS), a tribal citizen of the Ho-Chunk Nation.  

The Medal of Honor was created by Congress during the Civil War. Since then the Medal of Honor has been awarded 3,522 times. It was awarded 1,523 to those who fought in the Civil War. The Medal of Honor was awarded 126 for World War I; 473 for World War II; 145 times for the Korean War. The remainder for other wars.

For the Wounded Knee Massacre 20 Medal of Honor Awards were given.

“The Wounded Knee massacre was one of the deadliest attacks on Native American people in history. It shouldn’t be remembered with honor or prestige for the perpetrators, but rather with compassion for the men, women, and children whose lives were taken,” Davids said to Native News Online. “The Remove the Stain Act is a step towards righting a tragic wrong and, hopefully, helping families start or continue to heal from that generational trauma.” 

When still a member of Congress, then Rep. Deb Haaland (D-N.M.) introduced the Remove the Stain Act in the 116th Congress. She said the act was “about more than just rescinding Medals of Honor from soldiers who served in the US 7th Cavalry and massacred unarmed Lakota women and children [in 1890] – it’s also about making people aware of this country’s history of genocide of American Indians.”

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With the Remove the Stain Act passage within the defense bill, which passed the House with wide bipartisan support, the legislation now moves to the U.S. Senate for consideration in conference.

For O.J. Semans (Rosebud Sioux), co-director of Four Directions, Thursday’s vote was met with excitement.

“Four Directions Native Vote is very excited that the ‘Remove the Stain Act’ is included in the House National Defense Authorization Act by Congressman Kaiali'i Kahele who is also a veteran and is still active in the Armed Forces,” Semans said to Native News Online.

“We are very excited that this bill will now be part of the conference. We now encourage the Senate as a whole to adopt the House version that did not have a single voice in opposition. Four Directions Native Vote along with the Wounded Knee Massacre Descendants and the Wounded Knee School will continue to strongly urge the Senate to do the right thing and be on the right side of history and remove that bloody stain from the Congressional Medal of Honor,” Semans said.

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