WASHINGTON — Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on Wednesday introduced legislation to revoke Medals of Honor from 20 United States soldiers who killed hundreds of Native American women and children in the Wounded Knee Massacre of 1890.
The proposal from Ms. Warren, a leading candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, follows a House bill on the same subject that was introduced in June by Representative Denny Heck of Washington. It has yet to receive a vote.
“The horrifying acts of violence against hundreds of Lakota men, women and children at Wounded Knee should be condemned, not celebrated with Medals of Honor,” Ms. Warren said in a statement released Wednesday by her Senate office. “The Remove the Stain Act acknowledges a profoundly shameful event in U.S. history, and that’s why I’m joining my House colleagues in this effort to advance justice and take a step toward righting wrongs against Native peoples.”
Congress has rescinded more than 900 Medals of Honor since enacting legislation in 1916 to create a board of retired military officers to review previously awarded medals, according to Ms. Warren’s Senate office.
Ms. Warren’s proposal, which is co-sponsored by Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden of Oregon, Kamala Harris of California, and Patrick Leahy and Bernie Sanders of Vermont, has the support of several Native American tribes, along with groups of descendants of victims of the massacre. Liberal veterans groups like VoteVets and Veterans for Peace are also backing the bill.
The House bill was co-sponsored by several other members, including Representatives Sharice Davids of Kansas and Deb Haaland of New Mexico, the first two Native American congresswomen. Ms. Haaland is a co-chair of Ms. Warren’s presidential campaign. It is the first time legislation of this nature has been introduced in Congress, Ms. Warren’s office said.
Native American issues have long been thorny for Ms. Warren, who has been dogged by questions about her past claims of Native American ancestry since her first Senate campaign in 2012. The controversy hampered the start of her presidential campaign, which posted poor fund-raising numbers during the first three months of 2019 before rebounding.
In October of last year, as she was preparing to seek the presidency, Ms. Warren released the results of a D.N.A. test that showed she had at least one Native American ancestor. But the test led to more criticism from some Native Americans, who argued that the test undermined Native sovereignty. She later apologized for taking the D.N.A. test and introduced a suite of policy proposals to protect tribal lands and bolster funding for programs that serve Native Americans.
“Like anyone who’s being honest with themselves, I know that I have made mistakes,” Ms. Warren said in August, speaking at a presidential forum on Native issues in Sioux City, Iowa. “I am sorry for harm I have caused. I have listened and I have learned a lot, and I am grateful for the many conversations that we’ve had together.”