Wounded Knee – Bury My Heart under a Pile of Medals


The Wounded Knee medals of honor should be rescinded


Congress has apologised for the 1890 massacre of Lakota Sioux, so why do 20 of the nation’s highest awards still stand?


[Dear Readers, I had missed this completely…had no idea that 20 MoHs were ‘awarded’ for this crime. I could not help but think that there are those who would like the Iranians treated this way…where the discharge of one gun was used to slaughter this whole village. We have it on record that all the provocations against Iran, including the murdering of their scientists, was done to get them to retaliate, which could then be used to launch a general attack. Those that wanted to do this also gave themselves medals. They walk among us, but we can still spit on them when they go byJim W. Dean]

… by Dana Lone Hill,  The Guardian, UK   … first published February 18th, 2012


“Bury my heart….”

One hundred and twenty-two years ago, the Pine Ridge Reservation witnessed the end of an epoch: the end of a people fighting for their way of life. Many see it, in Wikipedia’s words, as “the last battle of the American Indian wars”.

Except it wasn’t a battle; it was a massacre. And it was the end of life as Indians knew it. No more were the days of riding and hunting freely.

Treaties had been broken, time and again, by the United States government; millions of buffalo had been killed for their hides and for sport; land was being taken left and right.

The US government recognized the Black Hills as belonging to the Sioux tribe by the Treaty of Laramie in 1868, but this treaty, too, was violated thanks to prospectors who kept coming to search for gold. By 1874, there was a full-fledged gold rush near Deadwood, South Dakota.

The fight for the land that was sacred to the Lakota – and which was coveted for its gold by the white incomers – came to a boiling point on 25 June 1876, when General George Armstrong Custer took his 7th cavalry regiment into an ambush led by Lakota leader Crazy Horse and their allies, the Cheyenne and Northern Arapahoe.

The battle at Little Bighorn, often referred to as “Custer’s Last Stand”, did not sit well with the government as the whole regiment perished and the flags of the cavalry and the United States were captured.

A mere 14 years later, after the death of Crazy Horse and Chief Sitting Bull, the Lakota people were facing annihiliation. Their leaders were being killed by members of their own tribe who were scouts and police agents for the US government. They themselves were starving. Chief Spotted Elk (often referred to as Chief Big Foot) and his band traveled to the Pine Ridge agency in the hopes that a ghost dance would be an answer to prayers.

Final Pose – for Chief Big Foot

The chief was sick with pneumonia thanks to the bitter winter of 1890. His band was reduced to about 350 people, the majority being women and children. They were joined with some people from the Hunkpapa Lakota band from Fort Yates, who had left after the murder of their chief, Sitting Bull.

The group was intercepted at Porcupine Butte on 28 December 1890 by a detachment of the 7th cavalry. They made camp that night at Wounded Knee Creek, five miles west of the butte.

Here, the Indian encampment was surrounded by the full muster of the 7th cavalry regiment, armed with an artillery battery of four Hotchkiss guns.

Under the command of Colonel James Forsythe, the troops began entering the Lakotas’ tipis the next morning, 29 December, and disarming the Indians: confiscating the men’s guns and even the knives that the women used to cook.

As cavalrymen tried to take a rifle from a deaf man who was trying to exclaim he paid a lot for it, the rifle discharged accidentally. At that, the men of the 7th cavalry started shooting indiscriminately on the encampment.

With fire from the four Hotchkiss guns and with over 500 soldiers encircling the tipis on all four sides, several of the soldiers of the 7th cavalry fell to friendly fire. The men from Chief Spotted Elk’s tribe fought back, the ones that were further out on the ridge ran forward to help, but were soon outnumbered.

The women and children, who were standing to the side of the camp, began to run for the ravines. Some were later found up to two miles away from the camp after soldiers had hunted them down and killed them. Four babies were found alive beneath their mother’s bodies.

Burial Party

By the time the incident was over, the US army estimated that about 150 men, women, and children had died that day, including Chief Spotted Elk, gunned down in the snow. The army counted another 50 Indians injured.

Some 25 troopers were killed and 39 injured, the majority as a result of friendly fire. Alternative estimates count the massacre far higher, at between 300 and 400 killed.

General Nelson Miles, who had overall command of this final act in the Indian wars, joined his troop a day later. He was deeply dismayed at the atrocity and, suspecting that Colonel Forsyth had deliberately engineered the massacre, relieved him of his command. The Lakota dead were thrown into a mass grave and buried.

The Lakota were stunned that this could happen to them. But public opinion – the opinion of majority white America – was not on their side. Then a young newspaper editor, later the author of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, L Frank Baum editorialized for the Aberdeen Saturday Pioneer on 3 January 1891:

“The Pioneer has before declared that our only safety depends upon the total extermination of the Indians. Having wronged them for centuries, we had better, in order to protect our civilization, follow it up by one more wrong and wipe these untamed and untamable creatures from the face of the earth.

In this lies future safety for our settlers and the soldiers who are under incompetent commands. Otherwise, we may expect future years to be as full of trouble with the redskins as those have been in the past.”

Shot in the face multiple times

Lending the United States’ official stamp to such attitudes, 20 troopers were awarded the congressional medal of honor for the action – an extraordinarily triumphalist endorsement. Forsyth was later exonerated and promoted to major general.

To put those awards for military valor – the nation’s highest honor – in context, as Joseph Huff-Hannon points out in the Huffington Post, only seven such medals have been awarded to members of the US armed services during the more than decade-long conflict in Afghanistan.

There have been many previous attempts to rescind these medals, awarded for a war crime that has been compared with the 1968 My Lai massacre, when the rampaging soldiers of Charlie company killed between 300 and 500 unarmed villagers in Vietnam. These men, though, were not awarded medals. They were court-martialed and their commander was convicted of murder.

Senator John McCain, ranking member of the US Senate’s armed services committee, has acknowledged the great wrong of Wounded Knee, but defended the medals in a letter addressing a 1996 campaign for their rescindment.

“The policies and decisions of the United States government that led to the army’s being at Wounded Knee in 1890 doubtless can be characterized as unjust, unwise, or worse.

Nevertheless, a retrospective judgement 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.

Neither today’s standards for awarding the medal nor policies of the United States with regard to Indian tribes are what they were in 1890.”

The mindset was different then, I agree with McCain; the same views are not prevalent now. In 1990, on the centenary of the incident, the 101st Congress passed a resolution that apologized to the Sioux people for the Wounded Knee massacre and expressed support for the establishment of a “suitable and appropriate memorial to those who were tragically slain at Wounded Knee”.

And yet, here we are, 23 years later, and still there is no memorial. Calvin Spotted Elk, a descendant of the Lakota chief, has started a petition in an effort, once again, to argue for justice and have these medals of honor rescinded.

There is no vengeful spirit in the petition to rescind the medals; the soldiers who participated in that action are long gone. There is also precedent for rescindment: in 1917, 911 medals of honor (most relating to the American civil war) were rescinded, for a variety of reasons.

[Editors Note: The ‘variety’ of reasons generally all involved corruption. A repeat of the mass giving out of combat medals was not to be repeated until Vietnam, where a close review would rescind many of those, for example like ‘not being present for the action’.]

Rather, the petition is about making a gesture of reparation for the fact that a long genocidal war was waged by the United States against its own indigenous peoples.

The fact that 20 medals of honor were so readily awarded for such a dishonorable action is seen as wrong by many living US military veterans, including film director and Vietnam veteran Oliver Stone. He has tweeted about Calvin’s petition and encouraged people to sign it via his Facebook page.

Editing:  Jim W. Dean

The ultimate cover up – buried under a pile of medals of honor


Comments Closed


  1. He did his own mini-massacre on the Washita, against the same tribe that had previously been butchered at Sand Creek by the notorious Colonel Chivington (“nits make lice”) and his Colorado volunteers.

  2. Dear Readers, Thanks for your support in spreading this article around. The reads we get on VT are usually just a fraction as our material gets ‘borrowed’ quite frequently. I have started following this more to see which one die out on their Google count, and which build. This has done well:

    Google Count … “Wounded Knee – Bury My Heart under a Pile of Medals” …pub 03-09 VT

    03-10-13 About 4,370 results
    03-12-13 About 13,500 results

    Some of the count is roboblog activity, commercial sites linking to a lot of stuff to boost up their Google ranking for traffic. But it is the best general measure we have for the visibillity of an article. Using the quotes it list the number of times the title appears on the Net. God Bless Al Gore for inventing the Internet !!! 🙂

  3. I doubt that anything will be done about the 20 medals or the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre memorial, until there is a resolution of the 1973 false flag killing of the 2 FBI agents there. I don’t know who did it, but it’s extremely unlikely to have been Leonard Peltier or any other American Indiana there that day. More likely, it was an alphabet agency. When the truth about that comes out, the rest should be easier.

  4. We have to be careful with references to Indians as if they are of one nation. There were many different tribes and nations within the Americas. Some were very peaceful and spiritual and some were very violent and primitive. The Lakota were more of the later. I am from South Dakota and have known many Lakota, some of who are Vietnam Vets. The Lakota vets tend to think of their Vietnam experience of killing as an honor, as a warrior who has been tested in the battle of kill or be killed.

    This is the way many of the plains natives were before the whites came. Tribes from other areas have very different views of the Vietnam war and see it as another violent colonial occupation of another lands, with nothing honorable about it. Even considering that some of these tribes were proud of war did not give another group who is proud of war (US Military) the right to wipe out these people with their high tech weaponry.

    Thanks Jim for reminding us of how this country was WON. Same as it ever was.

  5. His name was Spotted Elk, not Bigfoot. Bigfoot was a name given to him by the scumbags in the Army, and like Crazy Horse and Sitting Bull, he was murdered by the terrorist U.S. Military.
    Murder Inc. hasn’t stopped murdering. Now they have taken their murdering rampage worldwide. Any wonder why other countries want nuclear weapons?

    • …from the article…” Chief Spotted Elk (often referred to as Chief Big Foot) and his band traveled to the Pine Ridge agency in the hopes that a ghost dance would be an answer to prayers.”

      This was covered in the article PD. Ms. Dana Hill did a great job on this article, and I just made my additions as it is the classic kind of story that we look for. Whether to post it was an instant decision. Others go in the pile for a while to compete for publishing space.

  6. Mr. Dean thanks for illustrating the ongoing struggle First People are living with . I have known many Indians during my life and served with pride in a recon outfit with Nicholas Black Elk , a Lakota and one of the few to serve. While not being perfect , Natives still possess knowledge in traditional ceremonies that connect people to the positive aspects of life , the importance of honesty , and the spirit of reciprocity , values sadly lacking in much of modern life. Ah Ho.

  7. Can we petition to have McCains pardon rescinded? The great American genocide…how many were murdered? No one seems to argee on the numbers…between 3-10 million, my ffriend the former Senior Ethnomusicoligst from the Smithsonian put the number at about 5 million..yet we seem to have more Jewish holocaust museums than monuments for the indigenous people’s…..if we don’t know our history we are doomed to repeat it…history is repeating itself thus we don’t know our history…

  8. It’s quite a while since I have read an article that has moved me as much as this. Well done VT.

  9. Mr. Dean,
    The history of American western expansion can never be truly understood, mostly because the history is so heavily politicized, that no attempt at truth telling can find the light of day.

    For example, the underdog award must by default go to the Indian, and together with that award go all sorts of unearned assumptions, so much so that the Indian ceases to exist, and is replaced by a fictional character. Any attempt to clarify that fiction results in the labels of racist, bigot, and worse.
    If this sounds familiar, it does because it is-WW2, esp. in regards to Hitler and the Jews.

    Lets get something clear here that hopefully everyone can grasp. The Indian was not a peaceful person. War was a way of life, and killing was both a sport and an event of everyday life. Its easy to moralize with today’s climate, and to make excuses for, or simply overlook this fact.

    The truth of the matter is that when killing becomes matter of fact, life itself has little value. In today’s world, we are used to the attitude among leaders to send the peasants to war, and find them expendable, but we recoil at the statement that killing is a mundane matter, and so we refuse to conceive of this reality.

    For an illustration, I refer you to Kit Carson’s attempt to rescue a captured woman and child, fallen victim to Indian raiders on the Santa Fe trail. The core of the event is such, Col. Carsons’ pursuit placed stress on the Indian captors, forced them to move, and to move ever more quickly. Finally they murdered their captives and scattered across the prairie, making good their escape. Obviously, the Indian found their captives to be both a hindrance to movement, and the source of Col. Carson’s interest, so they killed them and moved on.

    In light of all the movies, the overly romantic chronicles, and the neo-PC historian peddling the goods of reverse racism, perhaps what can best be said is this: War between the Indian and the European was inevitable. The Indian refused to accommodate a more sophisticated, and organized society. This society, other than in Romantic literature and idle fantasy, had no more use for the Indian than for the Voyageur, or the Mountain Man. All were doomed to serve the whims of that society, and then perish.

    Perhaps people should abandon their romantic fantasies, and take a look at the world today, because those same forces that came for the Indian are now coming for the citizen.

    • Mike, American Indians are in denial of their own contribution to killing off Indians, which was a ‘sport’ on the western plains. When Lewis and Clark were holed up there for a while looking for horses to buy to cross the Sierras, they waited in a village for a raiding party to come back. They brought lots of horse and the scalps of the men, and their women and childern as slaves.

      The horses of these murdered Indians became part of American history unwillingly. But that said, they might have done exactly the same thing to the other village if they could have pulled it off.

      The shame for America though rests primarily with the breaking of treaty after treating. That is carved in stone. I felt like a dummy about these medas of honor…having completely missed the story about them. But we live and learn, editors included.

      If you ever want a good one book read about the censored PC Indain history try Scalp Dance…grusome photos and all. Their big mistake is what they did to the women, and even the children captives. In those times they could not even put in into print.

      I remember a sad story about the last wild Indian they caught in California. There had been three, but got whittled down to one by locals wanting to bad one while they could. The last one got caught and saved and lived out his days as the last of his tribe, a sad fate indeed.

      Thomas Jefferson is on record of telling the Mississippi Valley Indians that with the expected War of 1812, if they sided with the British, when the war was over he would exterminate them. They stayed out of it. This letter was kept in the closet by the court historians, as have so many throughout history.

      The large numbers killed by disease were left out of the record. Small pox was a big killer, wiping out entire villages. Trappers would often find them with just a few last ones hanging on.

    • To be fair, it varied by tribe, and even within tribes to some degree, some were real savage, wiping out whole other tribes, some more peaceable. There were also some other calls for genocide from whites, especially in places like Colorado and California, and Sherman and Sheridan both spoke of extermination, though with qualifications. What’s well documented though is the massive genocide the Conquistadors dished out, which was heavy-duty stuff, see for example Bartolome de las Casas who actually witnessed quite a bit of it. Of course the Aztecs were in the same game before, and the Incas were not exactly humanitarian either. And disease did for the largest number overall, though the survivors were often either killed or worked to death in the thousands.

      Did not know about the Medals of Honor either, despite having read a fair bit of American-Indian history, it certainly brings the award into disrepute as long as it stands, Wounded Knee was as blatant a one-sided massacre as ever stained the soil of the US.

    • Well, at least I wasn’t called a racist-this time.
      First of all, the issue of medals is one to provide a smoke screen for what occurred, in my opinion, promotions, and medals after military failures are often moved forward to camouflage misdeeds, incompetence, and other embarrassing circumstances. This is not dumping on the military, its simple human nature.
      In terms of the Indian living in harmony with nature, this fantasy has been propogated to the point of absurdity. We know the Indian drove multiple species of wildlife into extinction, and was fond of mass slaughter of various species all the way into the historical period.
      The assumption is that facts conflict with romantic notions and race worship, so why bother collecting and interpreting any? Much better to assault the dominant society.
      Unfortunately, worshipful states require no reality to persist, all we need is lots of mythic exceptionalism and lack of context, and pretty soon we have a superior race, living as one with All, destroyed by a heartless group of horribles who must always pay for their ancestors’ transgressions.
      The question here, EY, has nothing at all to do with current conditions. Discussing them merely reveals your own desperate attempt to ignore those inconvenient truths.

    • EY,
      This is not the forum to examine all the fascinating aspects of history-or how they relate to current conditions, however, you feel its important to attempt to make this reality an issue. Blanket characterizations are of course just that, yet they ARE correct if indeed such characterizations reflect the general norm.
      For example, in one encounter with the Spanish, a Pueblo elder in New Mexico commented that the one good thing about the arrival of the Europeans would be that the Pueblos would stop fighting each other.
      I can cite lots of specific documented events and eyewitness testimony to support my analysis, how about you?
      Frankly, if you wish to propose that your world view exists and is valid in defiance of the facts, then you had better invent a new system with some pretty impressive internal logic, or it appears that you just don’t like reality.

    • EY,
      If you get shot, or lit up by a roadside bomb, you are in a world of hurt, or you are dead. I really don’t care how many realities you believe exist, these are the facts. Honestly, your fractal reality nonsense is becoming nothing short of absurd.
      I go back to my original point to Mr. Dean, it is impossible to arrive at a clear and truthful picture of the westward expansion of this country.
      I do wish you would understand that the engineered collapse, and resulting dung heap that our society is being driven to has been accomplished by traitors and 5th column operatives working across the board in multiple disciplines, NOT by those people who wish to maintain value, virtue, and the higher possibilities of human functioning.
      The fact that there is still outrage over the award of medals for an act like wounded knee illustrates that the people in this society have not abandoned their ethics, nor their efforts to correct wrongs. To sit back and smirk over the coming disaster speaks rather poorly of yourself, since you make zero room in your heart for the kind of suffering and tragedy that this will unleash.
      I wish you well, EY, and hope that you will find yourself less an object of modern destructive jewish thought-the relativism of everything-and more of a willing observer and participant in your life, and those lives you touch.

  10. In 1990, the Congress passed a resolution for a memorial at Wounded Knee, and nothing has been done? This, to me, has a higher priority than getting some Medals of Honor rescinded.

    One thing that the US government could do to show good faith, would be to give back to the Lakota, the body of Crazy Horse that was stolen long ago from the Wounded Knee area. While they’re at it, they could get Geronimo’s skull away from Secretary of State John Kerry’s friends at Skull & Bones, and give it back to the Apache.

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