Lakota~WOUNDED KNEE: A Campaign to Rescind Medals
Twenty U.S. soldiers received Medals of Honor for their actions in the Wounded Knee massacre. Trying to correct history, Native Americans want the medals rescinded.
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20 Medals of Honor
On Dec. 29, 1890, American soldiers slaughtered more than 350 Lakota men, women and children in an event known to history books as the Battle at Wounded Knee.
Twenty of those soldiers were awarded Medals of Honor -- later renamed the Congressional Medals of Honor -- for their actions.
One hundred years later, the U.S. government changed Wounded Knee's designation from a battle to a massacre and issued a statement of regret to the Lakota people. However, the Medals of Honor remained.
Now, a handful of American Indian activists are trying to change that.
'This was butchery'
The Wounded Knee massacre happened on the Pine Ridge Reservation of South Dakota, just south of the rolling Black Hills.
In 1890, life was bleak for the Lakota. Broken treaties had shrunk their land. Government-run boarding schools had taken many of their children. Buffalo were scarce, and the area was experiencing a two-year drought. Congress had cut back on food rations.
"It was the middle of December, and people were literally starving," says Native American activist Bob Smith, a Vietnam veteran and now a program analyst for the Environmental Protection Agency in Washington, D.C. "Babies were dying. People were super, super desperate."
A phenomenon known as the Ghost Dance had gained popularity among many Lakota; it promised a return to their native Black Hills and the end of conflict with white settlers.
But the Ghost Dance worried the U.S. army, who referred to it as "dangerous" and a "strange religious hallucination."
On Dec. 29, 1890, U.S. soldiers from the 7th Cavalry opened fire on Lakota camps. They outnumbered the Lakota two to one. Eyewitness accounts recall the executions of women and children.
"It was reported that four babies had their heads crushed in," Smith says. "When people surrendered, they were summarily executed. This was wholesale butchery."
Twenty members of the 7th Cavalry received Medals of Honor for deeds described in Army papers as "heroic."
"The big question," says Smith, "is how can you give the Medal of Honor for a massacre? If you do, then you did something wrong. And if it's wrong, it should be corrected."
Smith and others are working with Army historians to build the case for the annulment of what they call the "medals of dis-honor" and for a formal apology to the Lakota people from the U.S. government.
Federal law dictates that the Congressional Medal of Honor be awarded to soldiers who "distinguish (themselves) conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at risk of ... life above and beyond the call of duty."
"The Medal of Honor is meant to reward soldiers who act heroically," says William Thunder Hawk, member of the Lakota tribe and resident of the Rosebud Reservation, just east of Pine Ridge. "But at Wounded Knee, they didn't show heroism; they showed cruelty."
In 2001, the National Congress of American Indians passed two resolutions condemning the Medals of Honor and calling on the U.S. government to rescind them.
So far, their efforts have been met mostly with polite refusal.
An online petition to the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs resulted in this response from Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., committee chairman:
The policies and decisions ... that led to the Army's being at Wounded Knee in 1890 doubtless can be characterized as unjust, unwise, or worse. Nevertheless, a retrospective judgment that the Government's policies and actions were dishonorable does not warrant rescinding the medals awarded to individual soldiers for bravery in a brief, fierce fight in which 25 soldiers were killed and 45 others wounded.In 2004, Sen. Sam Brownback, R-Kan., introduced legislation to formally apologize to Native Americans. The bill, praised by some tribal leaders as a good first step, was delayed by the Bush Administration and never reached the Senate floor.
Some question the relevance of the Wounded Knee medals and any formal apology, but Thunder Hawk argues that the failure to address either "shows my people that our history doesn't matter."
By Carrie Kilman | Staff Writer, Tolerance.org
As an ex-Marine infantryman (1961-1965) with considerable exposure to flying pieces of metal, I must admit that I take the Medal of Honor seriously. Yet, the awards discussed previously, and now herein, were not Medals of Honor, but Medals of dis-Honor.
"The Medal of Honor, established by Joint Resolution of Congress, July 12, 1862 (amended by Acts of Congress, July 9, 1918 and July 25, 1963), is awarded in the name of Congress to a person who, while a member of the Armed Forces, distinguishes himself or herself conspicuously by gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty while engaged in an action against any enemy of the United States; while engaged in military operations involving conflict with an opposing foreign force; or while serving with friendly foreign forces engaged in an armed conflict against an opposing armed force in which the United States is not a belligerent party. The deed performed must have been one of personal bravery or self-sacrifice so conspicuous as to clearly distinguish the individual above his or her comrades and must have involved risk of life. Incontestable proof of the performance of service is required, and each recommendation for award of this decoration is considered on the standard of extraordinary merit.
"Prior to World War I, the 2,625 Army Medal of Honor awards up to that time were reviewed to determine which past awards met new stringent criteria. The Army removed 911 names from the list, most of them former members of a volunteer infantry group during the Civil War who had been induced to extend their enlistments when they were promised the Medal."
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan PublicationsAll specifics as to who received what, and why, came from the reference tome The Congressional Medal of Honor, The Names, The Deeds, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications, 1984, ISBN 0-918495-01-6, Medals of Wounded Knee by Jerry Green, Nebraska History, Summer 1994, and America's Medal of Honor Recipients, Brave and Gallant Men We Should Know and Remember, Highland Publishers, 1980, Golden Valley, Minnesota.
All First Nations/First Peoples annotations [excepting those peculiar to me] came from The Last Days of the Sioux, Robert M. Utley, Yale University Press, 1970, ISBN 0-300-00245-9
The first of all Army Medals of Honor was earned in February 13-14, 1861 by Assistant Surgeon General J.D. Irwin who 'Voluntarily took command of troops and attacked and defeated hostile indians he met on the way." Surgeon Irwin volunteered to go to the rescue of 2nd Lieutenant G.N. Bascom, 7th Infantry, who with 60 men was trapped by the Chiricauha Apaches under Cochise. Irwin and 14 men, not having horses began the 100 mile march riding mules. After fighting and capturing Indians, recovering stolen horses and cattle, he reached Bascom's column and helped break his siege. Note (1.21.95): Since this article was written Grosvenor Pollard has provided new information regarding the above mentioned J. D. Irwin. Sadly, this recipient of the U. S. Army's first Medal of Honor was party to the unjustified hanging of First Nations prisoners:Mulligan, Raymond A. "Sixteen Days at Apache Pass," _The Kiva_, vol. 24, # 2, Dec. 1958, pp. 1-13.
Sacks, Benjamin H., editor and annotator. "New Evidence on the Bascom Affair," _Arizona and the West_, vol. 4, # 3, Autumn 1962, pp. 261-278. [based on the official reports of Bascom and 1st Lt. Isaiah N. Moore, who reinforced Bascom with troops from Ft. Breckenridge, Arizona Territory]:
Assistant Surgeon Bernard J. D. Irwin had been sent from Fort Buchanan to tend to a wounded soldier and a wounded Butterfield employee holed up with Bascom's command in the stage station in Apache Pass. He and his escort overtook three Coyotero (i.e., Western) Apache warriors driving a herd of 13 stolen cattle and 2 horses on the way and took them prisoner. Thirteen days after arriving at Apache Pass, Bascom and Moore found the bodies of four American hostages Cochise had been holding, hoping to exchange them for the five members of his extended family Bascom was holding: a brother, two nephews, a wife, and his youngest son, Naiche [his great-granddaughter on the Mescalero Rez identified him as the boy held by Bascom]. Irwin declared that he was going to hang his three captives in retaliation and advised Bascom to do the same with his hostages.
Bascom protested until Moore, who outranked him, stated he would take full responsibility. Cochise's wife and son were taken to Fort Buchanan and later released, but Bascom's hanging of his brother and nephews caused the Chiricahua leader to make war on Americans - vowing to kill 10 for every one of his people slain - for the next nine years and seven months.The last Army Medal of Honor awarded in an Indian campaign was granted to Private O. Burchard on October 5, 1898:
"For distinguished bravery in action against hostile Indians for action during the uprising of Chippewa Indians on Leech Lake, northern Minnesota."Now...as to Wounded Knee. American Horse set the stage:
"They turned their guns, Hotchkiss guns [breech-loading cannons that fired an explosive shell], etc., upon the women who were in the lodges standing there under a flag of truce, and of course as soon as they were fired upon they fled...There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce [which flew over the Lakota camp], and the women and children of course were strewn all along the circular village until they were dispatched. Right near the flag of truce a mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing, and that especially was a very sad sight. The women as they were fleeing with their babes were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were very heavy with child were also killed...After most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there...Of course it would have been all right if only the men had been killed; we would feel almost grateful for it. But the fact of the killing of the women, and more especially the killing of the young boys and girls who are to go to make up the future strength of the Indian people, is the saddest part of the whole affair and we feel it very sorely."
James Mooney, "The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890," in Fourteenth Annual Report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1896) Part Two, p. 877W.H. Prather, "a colored private of I troop of the 9th calvalry [was inspired to write a ballad] The Indian Ghost Dance and War...It became a favorite among the troops in camp and the scattered frontiersmen of Dakota and Nebraska, being sung to a simple air with vigor and expression and a particularly rousing chorus, and is probably by this time a classic of the barracks":The Red Skins left their Agency, the Soldiers left their Post,
All on the strength of an Indian tale about the Messiah's ghost
Got up by the savage chieftans to lead their tribes astray;
But Uncles Sam wouldn't have it so, for he ain't built that way.
They swore that this Messiah came to them in visions sleep,
And promised to restore their game and Buffalos a heap,
So they must start a big ghost dance, then all would join their band,
And may be so we lead the way into the great Bad Land.Chorus:
They claimed the shirt Messiah gave, no bullet could go through,
But when the soldiers fired at them they saw this was not true.
The Medicine man supplied them with their great Messiah's grace,And he, too, pulled his freight and swore the 7th hard to face.
About their tents the Soldiers stood, awaiting one and all,
That they might hear the trumpet clear when sounding General call
Or Boots and Saddles in a rush, that each and every man
Might mount in haste, ride soon and fast to stop this devilish band
But Generals great like Miles and Brooke don't do things up that way,
For they know an Indian like a book, and let him have his sway
Until they think him far enough and then to John they'll say,
"You have better stop your fooling or we'll bring our guns to play."Chorus:
They claimed the shirt, etc.The 9th marched out with splendid cheer the Bad Lands to explo'e-
With Col. Henry at their head they never fear the foe;
So on they rode from Xmas eve 'till dawn of Xmas day;
The Red Skins heard the 9th was near and fled in great dismay;
The 7th is of courage bold both officers and men,
But bad luck seems to follow them and twice has took them in;
They came in contact with Big Foot's warriors in their fierce might
This chief made sure he had a chance of vantage in the fight.Chorus:
They claimed the shirt, etc.A fight took place, 'twas hand to hand, unwarned by trumpet call,
While the Sioux were dropping man by man - the 7th killed them all,
And to that regiment be said "Ye noble braves, well, done,
Although you lost some gallant men a glorious fight you've won."
The 8th was there, the sixth rode miles to swell that great command
And waited orders night and day to round up Short Bulls band.
The Infantry marched up in mass the calvalry's support,
And while the latter rounded up, the former held the fort.Chorus:
They claimed the shirt, etc.E Battery of the 1st stood by and did their duty well,
For every time the Hotchkiss barked they say a hostile fell.
Some Indian soldiers chipped in too and helped to quell the fray,
And now the campaign's ended and the soldiers marched away.
So all have done their share, you see, whether it was thick or thin
And all helped break the ghost dance up and drive the hostiles in.
The settlers in that region now can breathe with better grace;
They only ask and pray to God to make John hold his base.Chorus:
They claimed the shirt, etc.
[The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890, Mooney, ISBN 0-486-26759-8]>The Medals of dis-Honor recipients...a short time after:"...One woman, Blue Whirlwind, received fourteen wounds but lived. Another woman, maddened by wounds, crawled from the edge of the village. With a butcher knife between her teeth, she made her painful way over a distance of ten yards to where a soldier lay on his back, wounded. She raised the knife over him and, as he screamed, plunged it into his breast. Another soldier, in the square, saw the act and sent a bullet into her head. She dropped next to her victim.(1) Austin, William G., Sergeant, Company E, 7th calvalry, issued June 27, 1891:"While the Indians were concealed in a ravine, assisted men on the skirmish line, directing their fire, etc., and using every effort to dislodge the enemy."
Entered service at New York, N.Y. Born, Galveston, Tex.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications:
d. Jul. 15, 1929
Buried: Cremated, Location of ashes is unknown(2) Clancy, John E., Musician, Company E, First U.S. calvalry, issued January 23, 1892:His citation stated that he had rescued wounded soldiers, twice. Clancy was courtmartialed eight times during his career, twice between the fight at Wounded Knee and the receipt of his medal.
Entered service at ? Born, New York, N.Y.
Medals of Honor, Green(3) Feaster, Mosheim, Private, Company E, 7th calvalry, issued June 23, 1891 for"Extraordinary gallantry."
Entered service at Schellburg, Pa. Born, Schellburg, Pa.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications"...the officer who who recommended him was more than a quarter of a mile away at the time of Feasters's heroic action. However, three affidavits were given atteting to his acts. The three men who signed these statements were friends of Feaster and fellow members of Troop E. These witnesses also received Medals of Honor."
Medals of Honor, Green(4) Garlington, Ernest A., 1st Lieutenant, 7th calvalry, issued September 26, 1893 for"Distinguished gallantry."
Entered service at Athens, Ga. Born, 20 February 1853, Newberry, S.C.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications: SEE ARTICLE BELOW(5) Gresham, John C., 1st Lieutenant, 7th calvalry, issued March 26, 1895 because he"Voluntarily led a party into a ravine to dislodge Sioux indians concealed therein. He was wounded during the action."
Entered service at Lancaster Courthouse, Va. Born, Virginia.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications"A unsigned, undated letter in Gresham's file states that no records could be found of Gresham's wounds, and curiously, the regimental returns for January 1891 show him "on duty." There is, however, mention elsewhere that during the fighting Gresham 'received an abrasion on the nose from a passing bullet.'
Later in his career Gresham was implicated in a case where funds belonging to a student in his charge were missing. There is no record of the outcome, but he was ordered to retire with in six months after these allegations were made. A medical report tells of his 'outbreaks of fury over trivial matters...[and]...mental depression objectively shown by a permanent expresion of dissatisfaction.'"
Medals of Honor, Green(6) Hamilton, Mathew H., Private, Company G, 7th calvalry, issued May 5, 1891for "Bravery in action."
Entered service at ? Born, Ireland.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications...[medal granted for] "conspicuous bravery in rounding up and bringing to the skirmish line a stampeded pack mule...Company G was not in a direct line of fire. Common sense would suggest animals frightened by gunfire would run away from the shooting. It almost seems Hamilton was awarded the Medal of Honor for riding away from the fighting."
Medals of Honor, Green(7) Hartzog, Joshua B., Private, Company E, 1st Artillery, issued March 24, 1891 because he"Went to the rescue of the commanding officer who had fallen severely wounded, picked him up, and carried him out of range of the hostile guns."
Entered service at ? Born, Paulding County, Ohio
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications"All of the indians opened fire on us. One of my men went for ammunition and didn't come back. ...My captain called to me to come back, but I kept moving nearer the indians, and kept shooting. Lieutenant Hawthorne came toward me and was calling, when suddenly I heard him say: 'Oh, my God!' Looking around, I saw him lying of his side, and then I knew he had been hit. Hartzog ran to him and carried him back behind the hill. .."]
(8) Hawthorne, Harry L., 2nd Lieutenant, 2nd US Artillery, issued 10.11.1892,"Distinguished conduct in battle with hostile indians."
Entered service in Kentucky. Born, 1860, Minnesota.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications[Hawthorne was responsible for two "Hotchkiss Breech-loading Steel Mountain Rifles, caliber 1.65 inches; length of bore, 24.72 calibers; weight of tube, 116.6 pounds; weight of carriage, 220 pounds; weight of exploding cartridge, 2 pounds 10 ounces; effective range, 4,200 yards."]
[Hawthorne's] "wound was so severe that he was forced to spend several years away from field duty. One of his assignments was as professor of military science at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. He eventually gave up that post because of teasing he received from the students. This harassment was directed toward the army in general and at Hawthorne in particular...[because] The students believed there had been a massacre at Wounded Knee and blamed Hawthorne and the Army."
Medals of Honor, Green
["...The bursting artillery rounds churned up the earth and caved in banks. ...a Hotchkiss shell punch[ed] a six-inch hole in the middle of a man's stomach. Up and down the ravine the People sang death songs..."An occasional shot came from the teepees. To stop this, the battery raked the Miniconjou camp from one end to the other. Flying shrapnel shredded the lodges and sought out every living thing.]
(9) Hillock, Marvin C., Private, Company B, 7th calvalry , issued April 16, 1891 for
Entered service at Lead City, S. Dak. Born, Michigan.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications(10) Hobday, George, Cook, 7th calvalry, Company K, issued for
"Conspicuous and gallant conduct in battle and [because he] was noticed by several officers.
Information from draft copies of his recommendation indicated his primary act of bravey was 'voluntarily leaving his work as a cook.'"
Entered service at ? Born, Pulaski County, IL.
Medals of Honor, Green(11) Jetter, Bernhard, Sergeant, 7th calvalry, Company A, issued April 4, 1891 for
Entered service at ? Born, Germany. Date of issue: 24 April 1891.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications(12) Loyd, George, Sergeant, Company I, 7th calvalry , issued April 16, 1891 for
[Loyd] "was a veteran of the Little Big Horn campaign [and] on his sixth enlistment. Two years, almost to the day [of receipt of his medal], he committed suicide. The only mention in the regimental record is that he died by 'shooting himself through the head.'"
Entered service at ? Born, Ireland.
Medals of Honor, Green
"Bravery, especially after having been severely wounded through the lung."
America's Medal of Honor Recipients, Highland Publishers (13)
McMillan, Albert W., Sergeant, Company E., 7th calvalry, issued June 23, 1891 because
"While engaged with Indians concealed in a ravine, he assisted the men on the skirmish line, directed their fire, encouraged them by example, and used every effort to dislodge the enemy."
Entered service at Baltimore, Md. Born, Baltimore, Md.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications
"He was promoted to sergeant major prior to April 6, 1891. For reasons not found in his records, he was demoted to private before his discharge on September 21, 1892."
Medals of Honor, Green(14) Neder, Adam, Corporal, Company A, 7th calvalry, issued for
"gallantry in action...One of the citations says Neder was wounded; then that entry is struck through."
Entered service at ? Born, Bavaria.
Medals of Honor, Green(15) Sullivan, Thomas, Private, Company E., 7th calvalry, issued June 23, 1891 for
"exposing [himself] to the enemy"
Entered service at Newark, N.J. Born, Ireland.
Medals of Honor, Green(16) Toy, Frederich E., First Sergeant, Company G, 7th calvalry, issued May 26, 1891 for
"bravery."(17) Trautman, Jacob, First Sergeant, Company I, 7th calvalry, issued March 27,1891 because he
Entered service at ? Birth, Buffalo, N.Y.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications
SEE ARTICLE BELOW:
"Killed a hostile indian at close quarters, and, although entitled to retirement from service, remained to the close of the campaign."
Entered service at ? Born, Germany.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications(18) Ward, James, Sergeant, Company B, 7th calvalry, December 29, 1890, award issued April 16, 1891, because he
"continued to fight after being severely wounded."
Entered service at Boston, Mass. Born, Quincy, Mass.
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan Publications
"Ward was reported as having been severely wounded, though no other records, medical or otherwise, could be found to support this.
Medals of Honor, Green(19) Weinert, Paul H., Corporal, Battery E, First U.S. Artillery , award issued for advancing with Hotchkiss gun into ravine in pursuit of women and children... Weinert later commented:
"With his gun less than 300 yards away Weinert's firing inflicted terrible damage, undoubtedly killing and wounding many women and children...Later in the decade Weinert adorned with his Medal of Honor, toured with Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West show as a member of it's color guard.
"I expected a court martial, but what was my surprise when gruff old Allyn Capron, my captain, came up to me and grasped me by the shoulders and said to the officers and men: 'That's the kind of men I have in my battery.'"
Entered service at Baltimore, Md. Born, Germany.
Medals of Honor, Green
Taking the place of his commanding officer, who had fallen severely wounded, hr galantly served his piece, after fire advancing it [the Hotchkiss gun] to a better position.
America's Medal of Honor Recipients, Highland Publishers(20) Ziegner, Hermann, Private, Company E, 7th calvalry, Wounded Knee, 1890, issued 6.23.91 for
Entered service at ? Born, Germany
The Congressional Medal of Honor, Sharp and Dunnigan PublicationsGallantry, Bravery, Distinguished...
"In 1916 the U.S. Congress required the War Department to review all 2,625 Medals of Honor awarded to that date...In January 1917 the panel concluded its work...[while some medals were recommended for rescindment] None of the medals given for service at Wounded Knee was recinded."
Medals of Honor, Greenthe People sang death songs...
Proposed Wounded Knee National Tribal Park.
On 3.9.95 Joe Quickie reposted the text of a Wasichu proposal (congressional) to the newsgroups soc.culture.native and alt.native. The proposed memorial would commemorate the "armed struggle between the Plains Indians and the U.S. Army that culminated in the death of over 300 Lakota Sioux men, women, and children at Wounded Knee, SD, on December 29, 1890." Of course, the land "would be owned by the National Park Service and "held in trust" for the Oglala and Cheyenne River nations." 1890. Not so very long ago.
Areas considered for inclusion in the park are "such sites relating to the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre and Ghost Dance Religion, including the campsite of Chief Big Foot [Si Inskokeca] at Deep Creek, a cultural center and museum complex, the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre site...and such other sites relating to the 1890 Wounded Knee Massacre..." Over these, interestingly, Wasichu dictates that the "Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe shall have no jurisdiction or authority..."
I have spent much time ashore in Israel. Germany, as part of it's amends program, provides Mercedes Benzs to Israel at manufacturers cost. What should Wasichu provide the First Nations/First Peoples? Land, memorials, words or, perhaps, reparation for the desecration on Mount Rushmore?
Much has been written about the Wounded Knee Massacre. But, perhaps, for those not familiar with this "military action," this final, formal extinguishment, we should turn to the words of one, American Horse, who survived the massacre:
"They turned their guns, Hotchkiss guns [breech-loading cannons that fired an explosive shell], etc., upon the women who were in the lodges standing there under a flag of truce, and of course as soon as they were fired upon they fled...There was a woman with an infant in her arms who was killed as she almost touched the flag of truce [which flew over the Lakota camp], and the woman and children of course were strewn all along the circular village until they were dispatched. Right near the flag of truce a mother was shot down with her infant; the child not knowing that its mother was dead was still nursing, and that especially was a very sad sight. The women as they were fleeing with their babes were killed together, shot right through, and the women who were very heavy with child were also killed...After most all of them had been killed a cry was made that all those who were not killed or wounded should come forth and they would be safe. Little boys who were not wounded came out of their places of refuge, and as soon as they came in sight a number of soldiers surrounded them and butchered them there...Of course it would have been all right if only the men had been killed; we would feel almost grateful for it. But the fact of the killing of the women, and more especially the killing of the young boys and girls who are to go to make up the future strength of the Indian people, is the saddest part of the whole affair and we feel it very sorely." [James Mooney, "The Ghost Dance Religion and the Sioux Outbreak of 1890," in Fourteenth Annual Report of the United States Bureau of Ethnology (Washington, D.C.: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1896) Part Two, p. 877]
"No one knows how many Indians were killed on this miserable field, because by the time anyone could count the bodies, some had already been removed. But the number was very close to three hundred, about two thirds of them women and children...Women and children attempted to escape by running up a dry ravine, but were pursued and slaughtered - there is no other word - by hundreds of maddened soldiers, while shells from the Hotchkiss guns, which had been moved to permit them to sweep the ravine, continued to burst among them. The line of bodies was afterward found to extend for more than two miles from the camp - and they were all women and children. A few survivors actually found shelter in brushy gullies here and there, and their pursuers had scouts call out that women and children could come out of their hiding places because they had nothing to fear...some small boys crept out and were surrounded by soldiers who butchered them." [Agents of Repression, The FBI's Secret Wars Against the Black Panther Party and the American Indian Movement, Ward Churchill and Jim Vander Wall, South End Press, ISBN 0-89608-294-6]20 medals of dis-Honor were awarded to soldiers of the 7th calvalry for their valiant efforts in defense of the great American way.
Can one apologize for such activity? Can one ever really say, "I am sorry," "I was wrong," "Forgive me," "Please, please forgive us." Can the pain, the blood, the shrieks, the rips, tears, sadistic barbarity, the weeping, the inhumanity and blood shed ever be compensated for? In any way shape or form?
While I am not Lakota, I respectfully suggest that the Lakota need no Wasichu memorial. Need no underlining from this country's colonizers. Need no involvement now from those who continue to persecute the First Nations/First Peoples on every imaginable level.
Justice fled from Wounded Knee more than 105 years ago. Wasichu can not run from his past and he has no right to attempt this memorial. If he wishes to make a point, then he should start by voiding those Medals of dis-Honor and begging for a forgiveness that should never be given.
Heroes of Wounded Knee
What happened to the Army officers in command of the soldiers that committed these massacres? The answer is; they were forgiven and neither Colonel Forsyth nor Lieutenant Calley spent a day in jail.
Colonel Forsyth was under house arrest for 18 months while the Army conducted an investigation of the massacre and was cleared of all charges. Taken from a publication entitled "Annual Reunion, June 14th 1910, ...for his disposition of his troops in this affair, General Forsyth was placed in arrest by the Commanding General of the Military Division of the Missouri, and afterward brought before a Court of Inquiry. The finding of the Court did not meet with the approval of the Commanding General although the Court was of his own ordering. What the findings of the Court were the writer does not know, as he has been unable to obtain a copy of them and only writes from hearsay, but he understands that they were satisfactory to the friends of General Forsyth as well as to the Secretary of War." In the following years he was promoted and attained the rank of Major General. In 1892 he established the Cavalry and Light Artillery School for the Army at Ft. Riley , Kansas, retiring in 1897. Ft. Riley Kansas is the site of the U.S. Cavalry Museum. The Director of the museum in a letter dated 6 October, 1997, wrote: "It should also be remembered that the Indian used both women and children as a shield while the warriors tried to annihilate one of the cavalry troops."
by Bob Smith
Leonard Little Finger
WOUNDED KNEE, SOUTH DAKOTA -
As hawks swoop lazily in the vast sky and a raw wind whips across the barren hills, Leonard Little Finger makes his way to the sacred ground. Then, slowly, he kneels before the mass grave. He murmurs a prayer in his native tongue, then sprinkles an offering of food to the spirits of the Lakota Nation that once ruled this land. The silence is powerful. There is no echo of the shots and screams that twice filled this air.
More than 100 years ago, Little Finger's great-great-grandfather, Chief Big Foot, and 300 followers were massacred under the withering fire of the U.S. Cavalry in a day that forever marked Wounded Knee in history and blood. (Incidentally, the Cavalry unit that massacred old people, women and children in cold-blood at Wounded Knee, was the 7th Unit, Custer's unit; the unit that was massacred solely due to the arrogance and poor judgment of General George Armstrong Custer.
Pine Ridge Reservation, it also will mark one more milestone in the life of Leonard Little Finger. His family's story is the story of Wounded Knee, and he is the keeper of that flame. "We are survivors," said the soft-spoken 58-year-old descendant of Lakota warriors. "Ours is a story of pride and survival."
Leonard Little Finger's legacy is drenched in the agony of the Little Big Horn and Wounded Knee, and animated with the spirit of a people at one with the sun and stars. Five generations of his family have left him a heritage of both laughter and sorrow. "There's still a grief that I have when I go to Wounded Knee," Little Finger said. "I have this sickness that mankind can do that to one another."
For all but eight years, Little Finger has called this reservation home. "Life is hard here," he said simply. It is an understatement. Pine Ridge is one of the poorest patches in America. Shannon County has a median income of $11,000, almost $20,000 less than the national median. Diabetes, alcohol and traffic accidents all kill here. Indian men die at an average age of 56.5, younger than any other place in the nation. Even the overcrowded Loneman Elementary School on the reservation, where Little Finger is painstakingly nurturing a Lakota cultural research center, was condemned as unsafe by the government in 1990. But Little Finger sees beyond poverty to the richness of his heritage. "To know who we are, we have to know where we came from," he said.
He teaches Lakota history at Oglala Lakota College. And last spring he began collecting oral histories from Indians who, like him, can trace their bloodlines back to an era when their ancestors shared this earth with the buffalo.
One day in the late '70s, he visited an Indian art museum exhibit in Santa Fe, N.M., that featured photos of the 1890 massacre. He found himself staring at a gruesome picture of his ancestor, Chief Big Foot, lying dead in the snow. He had seen it before. This time it was different. "I cried," he says. Today, in his house, he keeps a photo of Big Foot in his early days, along with a portrait of his grandfather, John Little Finger, who was just 14 when he saw his family gunned down in the slaughter. John, shot in the right calf, survived by hiding in a ravine. He then holed up in a cave for three months.
He grew into a bear of a man, 6-foot-5 and nearly 300 pounds, working as a featured performer in Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show. In his dying days, he taught his young grandson a lesson he remembers a half-century later. "He could not go to the spirit world carrying any hatreds, any type of hard feelings," Little Finger said. "He had to make forgiveness… The world needs to take a lesson from that."
It's a message Little Finger carries with him in his travels to Paris and Geneva, talking about his tribe. And he hopes to pass that wisdom on to his five children and his baby grandchild, Leland, the eighth generation to grow up here. Little Finger already has taken his sons and daughters to the hilltop, the site of two historic moments in Lakota history. Today, much of the hamlet that was seized in '73 is gone. So is the trading post. And the church, though its charred foundation remains, a new church has been built.
In the cemetery, a gray marble obelisk commemorates the massacre. One of Little Finger's grandfathers raised money to build it. Sixteen of his ancestors died that day; four of their names are etched in the monument. A few feet away is a tombstone where one of the two Indians murdered in 1973 is buried. Little Finger played with him as a child. The headstone is carved with the words: "2000 and 500 came to Wounded Knee in '73. One Still Remains."
Little Finger remains too. This is his homeland. "Having understood the world around me, I don't particularly care for that world," he said. "I feel more comfortable here. I feel like I belong."
First Sergeant Frederick Toy
Frederick E. Toy is a name honored at a memorial in Main Street's Epitaph Park for local boys who won the Medal of Honor. Toy won his as a sergeant in the Seventh Cavalry during the Indian Wars.
That's all the information engraved on the stone monument. But a trip across the street to the library reveals a darker side to the man, as well as our nation's history.
Sgt. Toy's medal resulted from his participation in the massacre of as many as 300 men, women and children at Wounded Knee, perhaps the worst massacre ever perpetrated by the U.S. Army. Currently, a nationwide movement is under way to rescind all of the 20 Medals of Honor that were handed out for that vicious slaughter.
Toy was a 26-year veteran of the Seventh Cavalry when, along with 500 other soldiers and Indian scouts, he was sent to the Lakota Sioux camp at Wounded Knee Creek in South Dakota.
And trouble was in the air. Just a few weeks earlier, the Nebraska State Journal had published a story stating, "The Seventh Cavalry was itching for a fight. These are the same Indians who mercilessly shot down Custer and 300 of the Seventh Cavalry, and it is safe to say the Sioux will receive no quarter should an opportunity occur to wreak out vengeance for the blood taken at the Battle of the Little Big Horn."
The night before the fateful morning of Dec. 29, 1890, the 470 soldiers and 30 Indian scouts partied with a barrel of whiskey over their glee at capturing Chief Big Foot and his band.
The soldiers, lead by Col. James Forsyth, formed an armed square around the camp. A council of Indians formed in front of the tent of the dying Chief Big Foot. They were immediately ordered by Forsyth to surrender all their weapons, and they complied.
But Forsyth feared that some of the Lakota men were hiding weapons and ordered a physical search of the men, as well as their tents. During the search, the troopers became agitated, lifting the skirts of the women to look for weapons and laughing, still half drunk from the night before.
The Indians became scared and confused, and within a matter of minutes all hell broke loose. Historians still can't say whether an Indian or a soldier fired first. But with that shot, every soldier surrounding the camp began discharging his weapon at a rapid pace, barely bothering to aim.
The small arms fire was supplemented by the chatter of four Hotchkiss repeating cannon dug in on the hilltops overlooking the Sioux camp. The big guns were capable of firing 50 two-pound explosive shells per minute and had a devastating effect on the largely unarmed Indians.
Women picked up their babies and tried to flee, only to be gunned down by mounted troops. The men tried to defend themselves and their families with no luck. The firepower facing them was too great. At some point, Sgt. Toy spotted two Indians fleeing from the camp and shot them both in a ravine.
Sgt. Toy originally was cited "for bravery displayed while shooting hostile Indians,"but this wording was changed on the final citation after the original was rejected by the War Department.
Capt. Winfield S. Edgerly, Sgt. Toy's commanding officer at Wounded Knee, altered the recommendation to state that Toy did "deliberately aim at and hit two Indians who had run into a ravine." Edgerly deliberately avoided mentioning the age or sex of the Indians.
When it was all over, more than 300 Indians lay dead or dying, mostly women and children. Most of the 31 troopers killed died as the result of friendly fire, a result of the odd square they had formed facing each other, combined with the fact that most of the soldiers were from the east, new to the frontier and with little experience.
There were also some bizarre incidents reported in which a few soldiers apparently displayed some sense of morality. According to one Lakota survivor, after a soldier shouted "Remember Custer"and shot an elderly woman and then a child, one of his fellow troopers turned and shot him.
General Nelson Miles, commander of the Seventh Cavalry, reviewed accounts of the so-called "battle." "I have never heard of a more brutal, cold-blooded massacre than that at Wounded Knee," he said.
Nevertheless, Medals of Honor were handed out like candy afterwards. In fact, Wounded Knee resulted in the most Medals of Honor ever awarded for one battle in the history of the U.S. Army.
And one was handed to Sgt. Frederick E. Toy on May 26, 1891. He was cited for bravery, and now stands memorialized in his home town forever. Little in Niagara Falls is what it seems.
In 1916, Congress, acting on reports such as Miles' on Wounded Knee, decided to review all the medals awarded in the history of the U.S. Army. By 1917, the review panel acknowledged that the medals had been given out too freely in the past, and the guidelines for awarding the Medal of Honor were greatly tightened.
In 1990, a hundred years after the massacre, the U.S. Congress finally acknowledged the grave mistake made at Wounded Knee with this apology: "It is proper and timely for the Congress of the United States to express its deep regret to the Sioux people [for the massacre]."
Now, Tilly Black Bear, a Lakota from the Rosebud Reservation, has begun advocating to rescind the 20 Medals of Honor given out for the action that bloody morning. There is also an on-line petition at www.dickshovel.com/RescindMedals.html that Americans can sign to ask Congress to rescind the Wounded Knee Medals.
But for now, if you happen to pass by the monument in Epitaph Park on Main Street, look for the one name listed under the Indian Wars. It's Sgt. Fred E. Toy, hometown boy and Medal of Honor winner.
General Ernest Albert Garlington
He was commissioned a Second Lieutenant, 7th United States Cavalry, June 15, 1876 and was subsequently promoted through the grades to Brigadier General, Inspector General of the Army, October 1, 1906.
He commanded the Greely Relief Expedition in 1883; was severely wounded in battle with hostile Indians at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, December 29, 1890. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for distinguished gallantry in that action.
He was a member of a board which established Cavalry drill instructions, 1894; Inspector General in Cuba during the Spanish-American War, 1898; was present at the battle and siege and then surrender of Santiago de Cuba in that war; was Inspector General of the Division of the Philippines during the Insurrection there, 1899-1901 and May 2, 1905-June 4, 1906; served on the General Staff of the Army from October 1, 1906. He was the author of "Historical Sketches of the Seventh Cavalry Regiment: A Catechism:" "Cavalry Outposts,"; "Advance and Rear Guards Reconnaissance."
He died on October 16, 1934 and was buried in Section 3 of Arlington National Cemetery. His first wife, Anna Buford Garlington (1864-1954) and his daughter, Sally Chamberlain Garlington (1890-1949), are buried with him.
It is interesting to note that he was assigned to the Seventh Cavalry too late to have taken part in the Battle of the Little Big Horn.
Ernest Albert Garlington of South Carolina
Appointed from Georgia, Cadet, United States Military Academy, 1 July 1872 (30)
Second Lieutenant, 7th United States Cavalry, 15 June 1876
First Lieutenant, 25 June 1876
Regimental Adjutant, 6 June 1877 to 30 November 1881
Captain, 3 December 1891
Major, Inspector General, 2 January 1895
Lieutenant Colonel, 7 July 1898
Colonel, 1 Mar 1901
Awarded the Medal of Honor 26 September 1893 for distinguished gallantry in action against hostile Sioux Indians on Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, 29 December 1890 where he was severely wounded while serving as First Lieutenant, 7th United States Cavalry.
Indian Wars Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Served during the Indian Wars in the American West as a Private in Company E, 7th United States Cavalry. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. His citation simply states “Extraordinary gallantry”. His Medal was issued on June 23, 1891. (bio by: Russ Dodge)
Birth: May 27, 1867Death: Mar. 18, 1950
Golden Gate National Cemetery
San Mateo County
Plot: Section O, Grave 319
Joshua B. Hartzog
Indian Campaigns Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He was a Sergeant in the United States Army. He was awarded the Medal of Honor as a Private in Company E, 1st US Artillery for action at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. His citation reads "Went to the rescue of the commanding officer who had fallen severely wounded, picked him up, and carried him out of range of the hostile guns." (bio by: Don Morfe)
Gum Springs Cemetery
Harry Leroy Hawthorne
Indian Wars Congressional Medal of Honor recipient. Served as a Second Lieutenant with the 2nd United States Artillery, and he was awarded his medal on October 11, 1892, for Distinguished conduct in battle with hostile indians, at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890. He was a career military officer and was promoted through the ranks to Colonel with the United States Army. He later served in World War II, and was also awarded the Purple Heart and the Silver Star. (bio by: Gravedude97)
Arlington National Cemetery
Plot: Section 3, Lot 1952
In March of 1891 another letter was submitted asking for the honorable mention of certain individuals. One was 2nd Lt. Harry L. Hawthorne who was serving with Light Battery E of the First Artillery at Wounded Knee. Brevet considerations were turned over to Col. Edward M. Heyl of the Inspector General's office for investigation. He never recommended, nor were any of these officers accorded, a brevet promotion. General Miles disapproved rather forcefully in both cases, stating: "The recommendations for brevets or for honorable mention for such field officers is, in the opinion of the department commander, an insult to the memory of the dead, as well as to the brave men living."(22) However, Hawthorne was awarded the medal nonetheless. Miles later caved in and changed his recommendation. What forced Miles into such a contradictory stance?
Pulaski County, USADeath: Dec. 22, 1891
St. Louis County
Indian Wars Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery in action at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota, on December 29, 1890. His citation reads: "Conspicuous and gallant conduct in battle." He re-enlisted a number of times in several infantry and cavalry units. He was discharged from the 7th United States Cavalry at Fort Riley, Kansas, on October 4, 1891, and re-enlisted at the St. Louis Powder Depot on October 12, 1891. He died there two months later of "double pneumonia." He was buried under the name of "George Holday," but that has now been corrected, and he has a new Medal of Honor headstone. (bio by: Kent Kooi)
Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery
St. Louis County
Plot: Section 59, grave 11649
Private George Hobday, Cavalry, was given a Medal of Honor for conspicuous and gallant conduct in battle at Wounded Knee. Pvt. Hobday was a cook from Company A, whose gallantry "was noticed by several officers." Information from draft copies of his recommendation seemed to indicate that his primary act of bravery was "voluntarily leaving his work as cook."
Indian Wars Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Served in the Wars with the Plains Indians as a Sergeant in Company K, 7th United States Cavalry. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery in the Sioux Campaign of December 1890. His citation reads "Distinguished bravery". His Medal was awarded to him on April 24, 1891. (bio by: Russ Dodge)
Cypress Hills National Cemetery
New York, USA
Plot: Section 5, Grave 1
George A. Loyd
Civil War Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He served as a Private in the Union Army in Company A, 122d Ohio Infantry. He was awarded the CMOH for action on April 2, 1865 at Petersburg, Virginia. His citation reads "Capture of division flag of Maj. Gen. Henry Heth, (C.S.A.)." (bio by: Don Morfe)
Spring Grove Cemetery
Plot: Section 121, Grave1345
Indian Campaigns Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. A native of Germany, Neder earned his CMOH as a Private in the 7th United States Cavalry during the Sioux Campaign in December of 1890. His citation simply reads: “Distinguished bravery.” Neder would retire from the army at the rank of Corporal. (bio by: GravePhotographer87)
San Francisco National Cemetery
San Francisco County
Plot: Section NAWS, Grave 1805
Indian Wars Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. Served during the Indian Wars as a Private in Company E, 7th United States Cavalry. He was awarded the CMOH for his bravery at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota on December 29, 1890. His citation reads "Conspicuous bravery in action against Indians concealed in a ravine". His Medal was issued on December 17, 1891. (bio by: Russ Dodge)
Holy Sepulchre Cemetery
New Jersey, USA
Plot: Section 3, Tier O, Grave 14
Indian Campaigns Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He was a First Sergeant in the United States Army in Company I, 7th US Cavalry. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on December 29, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. His citation reads "Killed a hostile Indian at close quarters, and, although entitled to retirement from service, remained to the close of the campaign." (bio by: Don Morfe)
South Side Cemetery
Indian Campaigns Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He served as a Sergeant in the United States Army in Company B, 7th U.S. Cavalry. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on December 29, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. His citation reads "Continued to fight after being severely wounded." (bio by: Don Morfe)
New Calvary Cemetery
Plot: Section 1, Lot 793
Paul H. Weinert
Indian Campaigns Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He served as a Sergeant in the United States Army in Battery E, 1st U.S. Artillery. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on December 29, 1890 at Wounded Knee Creek, South Dakota. His citation reads "Taking the place of his commanding officer, who had fallen severely wounded, he gallantly served his piece, after each fire advancing it to a better position." (bio by: Don Morfe)
Plot: Linden Path, Lot 906
Corporal Paul H. Weinert, the gunner from Company E, 1st U.S. Artillery, received a Medal of Honor.
The Army's Medal of Honor Web page lists the citation as: "Taking the place of his commanding officer who had fallen severely wounded, he gallantly served his place, after each fire advancing it to a better position.
This is interesting when compared to the Internet essay, "Medals of Dishonor," which states, according to the actual record, that Weinert was cited for "firing his howitzer at several Indians in the ravine." The essay also states: "This ravine was adjacent to the Lakota's camp, and many noncombatants sought shelter there. With his gun less than three hundred yards away, his firing inflicted terrible damage, undoubtedly killing and wounding many women and children. It seems astonishing that Weinert was not wounded in the hail of fire from the besieged Indians. According to his own account the Indians in the ravine were firing furiously as he worked his gun: 'Bullets were coming like hail from the Indian's Winchesters. The wheels of my gun were bored full of holes and our clothing was marked in several places.' Contrary to Weinert account, other sources state that a rear guard of only three or four Indian men holed up in this 'pit' or 'pocket,' as it has come to be called."
Indian Campaigns Congressional Medal of Honor Recipient. He served as a Private in the United States Army in Company E, 7th United States Cavalry. He was awarded the Medal of Honor for action on December 29 and 30, 1890 at South Dakota Wounded Knee Creek and White Clay Creek. His citation reads "Conspicuous bravery." (bio by: Don Morfe)
New York, USA
Plot: 3rd Calvary, Section 17, Range 8, Plot F, Grave 9 UNMARKED
Gen. Nelson A. Miles
Miles was a staff officer under General O. Howard. He was wounded four times and himself received the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Miles had successfully defeated Crazy Horse who was killed by a bayonet in the back while a POW at Ft. Robinson, one year after the defeat at the Little Bighorn.
The Indian Rights Association criticized him for being unjust by sending his own Apache scouts off to prison at Fort Marion, Florida in 1886. Despite these charges he was still given command of the entire Division of the Missouri which led him to Wounded Knee.
In the December 20, 1890 issue of Judge magazine which published a color political cartoon to expose the corruption of the reservation system. It shows a fat cat Indian agent in spats, fur coat and top hat, lugging three bags of "profits" while a gaunt-looking Indians, wrapped in a painted robe, holds a meager sack of "starvation rations" as they both stand in from of several tepees. The caption reads: "The Reason of the Indian Outbreak - General Miles declares that the Indians are starved into rebellion." Miles was seen as an Indian sympathizer, which might have fueled military resentment against him when he later charged Forsyth.
In 1895 Miles was named commander in chief of the army. He retired from the Army in 1903 with the rank of lieutenant general. But the story does not end there. In 1916, Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles was appointed president of the board of five retired generals that reviewed all of the Medal of Honors cases up to that time.
Congress had passed an act to create the Medal of Honor Roll. They were to assure that the awards were warranted and reviewed all 2,625, of which 911 were stricken from the record because they did not meet the definition of valor above and beyond the call of duty. Many had been issued for reasons of re-enlistments and special honor guards. Ironically that law stated that only those who had been involved in "actual conflict with an enemy, distinguished by conspicuous gallantry or intrepidity, at risk of life, above and beyond the call of duty" would have the honor of being on that Honor Roll. It is difficult to understand how the twenty Medals that were originally given for the massacre at Wounded Knee withstood this new review. By their own definition, the review commission should have rejected these along with the others.
It was politics back then, as it is politics today, that allowed the twenty Wounded Knee Medals of Honor to pass muster and are still being honored today as they remain on the Congressional Medal of Honor List. Ironically, this is the most Medals given, followed by the eighteen Medals of Honor given for the Battle of Little Big Horn. In 1917 a delegation of the Minniconjou survivors of Wounded Knee visited Washington, DC. Apparently, upon hearing of their mission General Miles felt compelled to write to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs to tell his side of the story of Wounded Knee. I found a copy of this letter on the Internet but there was no reference as to where the original is located. However, it contains some interesting items. He calls the Ghost Dance movement the "Messiah craze" that he feels was the result of "misrepresentations of white men" who "wrote secret messages to different tribes" promising a return of the "Happy Hunting Grounds." (23) In a letter to the to the Commissioner of Indian Affairs dated March 13, 1917, Lt. Gen. Nelson A. Miles stated, "not only the warriors but the sick Chief Big Foot, and a large number of Women and children who tried to escape by running and scattering over the prairie were hunted down and killed." (24) The press at the time capitalized on the mistaken notion that Wovoka, the Paiute man who had the original visions that led to the Ghost Dance, claimed to be the Messiah. This image promoted more resentment against the Indians. Many reporters were on the scene of the massacre, some even participated in the actual killing. The media had a role in perpetuating hatred towards the Lakota and helped to justify the massacre.
As result of some abuses during the Indian Wars the army added new regulation to clarify who was entitled to receive the award. The following phrase was added to army regulations: "Neither a Medal of Honor nor a Certificate of Merit will be awarded in any case when the service of the person recommended, subsequent to the time when he distinguished himself, has not been honorable." (25) The Army further modified the regulations on the Medal of Honor to include the following stipulations:
(a) Medals of Honor will not be awarded to officers or enlisted men except for distinguished bravery or conspicuous gallantry, which shall have manifested in action by conduct that distinguishes a soldier above his comrades, and that involves risk of life, or the performance of more than ordinarily hazardous duty. Recommendations for the award will be governed by this interpretation of extraordinary merit.
(b) Recommendations should be made only by the officer in command at the time of the 'action,' or by an officer having personal cognizance of the specific act for which the medal is granted. The recommendation must be accompanied by a detailed recital of the circumstances, and by certificates of officers, or affidavits of enlisted men, who were eye-witnesses of the act. The testimony must. . . describe specifically the act or acts by which the person in whose behalf the recommendation is made 'most distinguished' himself, and the facts in the case must be further attested by the official reports of the action. . ." (26)
On April 27, 1916 Congress approved an act which provided for the creation of a "Medal of Honor Roll" upon which honorably discharged medal recipients who had earned the medal in combat and had attained the age of 65 years were to be recorded. The act required a standard of excellence in order to be included in this exclusive commemoration. Those requirements stated that the only ones to be on the Honor Roll was those who met the definition of valor above and beyond the call of duty. To this day the twenty names of the "Wounded Knee heroes" continue to be listed. This is more unusual when you consider the fact that the images of the 1913 holocaust of the death of one million Armenians at the hands of the Turks was still fresh in the American mind. The 1915 sinking of the Lusitania by a German submarine and the loss of 139 Americans lives caused a moral outrage in this country. Innocent civilians were killed in an unprovoked attack. World War I, the "Great War," in which millions were killed did not appear to force the military to rethink Wounded Knee and the mistreatment of Indians. Instead, in 1917, General Hugh L. Scott stated that ironically, Indians were patriotic soldiers during World War I, considering that only a few years earlier they were fighting the U.S. army.
The only precedence for striking names from the Medal of Honor Roll occurred in a 1916 Congressional Act. This Act provided for the appointment of the Secretary of War of a board of five retired general officers for the purpose of investigating and reporting upon past awards or issue of the medal of honor by or through the War Department. Between October 16, 1916, and January 17, 1917, all of the 2,625 Medals of Honor which had been awarded up to that time were considered by the Board. However the minutes of the review board were confidential and the little time spent on the actual reviews diminish the seriousness of the effort. On February 15, 1917, 911 names were stricken from the list. Among those who lost their medal was William F. Cody, better known as Buffalo Bill, and Mary Walker, a Civil war surgeon and the only woman ever to receive the honor. Buffalo Bill had been given the Medal for his service as a scout with the Third Cavalry in Nebraska which had a skirmish with some Lakota who had stolen seven horses in 1872. Cody was considered ineligible for the Medal because he was a civilian.
Buffalo Bill Cody was involved in Wounded Knee to a degree. He was sent to try to talk Sitting Bull into calming down. He was also traveling with a troupe of Lakota in his Wild West Show. His hired Indians were asked to swear allegiance to the federal government and were used as "role models" to visit with the Ghost Dancers and try to convince them that resistance against the whites was futile. After the killings at Wounded Knee, Cody sought permission from the Bureau of Indian Affairs to hire some of the known Ghost Dancers for his traveling troupe. Ever the showman, Cody realized that these Indians would be a great drawing card. He reasoned that it would be important to remove these potential trouble makers from the reservation. Miles had the same idea, but for different reasons. He removed thirty Lakota with him when he returned to his headquarters in Chicago. He wanted to hold them at Fort Sheridan to prevent any further outbreaks. Miles wanted Cody to hire the prisoners he held and take them to Europe. They were to be overseas nearly a year. On April 1, 1891 Cody, with 21 Ghost Dance prisoners and 75 other Lakotas headed by steamer for Germany. Upon their return, Kicking Bear, the principle Lakota Ghost Dance disciple, and ten other "ringleaders" were detained and not allowed to go back to their reservation.
The Medals given for Wounded Knee withstood the review and were still considered valid. Where was the gallantry and intrepidity when women, children, including toddlers and infants were shot at point blank range in this homicidal craze for revenge. Clearly, this was not heroism, it was nothing short of cold-blooded murder. The recommendations for the Medals of Honor for Wounded Knee passed through the Army chain of command. First the troop commander made the recommendations, then most went to Colonel Forsyth for his concurrence, then to General Miles. Once he gave his recommendation, it then went to the War Department in Washington, DC. In ten of seventeen cases Miles looked at he made a notion of "no remarks." It seems strange that he did not comment on these given his other testimony on the insanity of that day. When you consider that General Miles was also awarded a Medal of Honor in 1892 for gallantry in the Civil War Battle of Chancellorsville, it would appear the price for his silence was his own medal, awarded almost thirty years after the action. A skeptic would view this as a way to silence his objections to the Medals for Wounded Knee.
Strangely, Miles did support many of the awards. More strangely, little if any, evidence exists of the review committee thinking, except that they decided to apply the standard of merit that was in place at the time the Medals were awarded. This left the Wounded Knee medals in tact. Miles never wrote about his thinking behind that decisions. This leaves us with more suspicions than answers, especially when you consider the rationale behind some of the medals that were issued.
While no formal investigation took place on the killing of Lakota as POW's public reaction to Cody's adventure was more complicated. Indian reformers objected strenuously to allowing Indians to perform their old dances in public. They wanted Indians to forget the old ways, become Christians and lead productive lives. In a strange twist, the reformers, who were strangely silent about the massacre at Wounded Knee, blew a gasket over the show Indians. They accused Cody of mistreating the Indians. Upon their return, Secretary of the Interior Noble ordered an investigation into the charges. Cody was given a clean bill of health.
In 1989, Buffalo Bill's grandson, William G. Cody and the senators from Wyoming successfully petitioned Congress to reinstate Cody and four other civilian army scouts and the Army Board of Correction of Military Records ruled that for all intents and purposes, Cody was a soldier. Ironically Cody himself had sold his medal and the Buffalo Bill Historical Society had to purchase it from a collector in 1983.