Posted by on Jan 7, 2013 in Archives

Reclaiming Their Honor

Reclaiming Their Honor

There is a phrase that makes every Indigenous person cringe.

“Get over it, it’s in the past.”

And yet each and every one of us had heard it or read it, whether it was directed at us or indirectly.  Colonizers tend to think that the horrid past all  Indigenous share in the name of greed and manifest destiny is only that, the past to be forgotten and kicked away, as if it is a can in the street.

We all know the reason they want us to forget our ancestors, those who are directly related to us, is because their ancestors were responsible for every murder, every rape, every theft of everything our great nations of relations stood for.

I guess, maybe if I had no connection at all to any of the atrocities brought on by the government, maybe it would be easy for me to say ”Forget all that.  Push it under the rug.”  But I do have a connection, as does every single Indigenous person of Turtle Island.

They don’t want us to honor our ancestors who died defending our way of life, while they honor soldiers who “defended freedom.”  Or even our ancestors who only died for being who they were and for being here first.  Think of how many times we hang the flags half mast.  For example, on Pearl Harbor Day when 2,402 American soldiers were killed.  On September 11, when 2,996 people were killed by terrorist attacks.

9/11 is known as the day terrorists attacked on this soil but many people seem to forget that they were not the first terrorist attacks.  Columbus was the first terrorist.  Pearl Harbor Day is known as The Attack on Pearl Harbor, which it was.  However many massacres of Indian women, children, and elders across America are referred to by the government as battles and always have been.

On the National Parks Service website they refer to The Wounded Knee Battlefield, where they say the Lakota held rifles up to the 7th first.  However, they seem to forget that there were some survivors and the story of the massacre was passed down.   Stories of soldiers brutally murdering babies and women on that cold December day.  My children’s great grandmother often talks of how her grandmother escaped but lived in pain her whole life with a bullet in her leg, while knowing her little three brothers died that day.  She was 14 years old.

Twenty Medals of Honor were given that day to the soldiers of the 7th Cavalry who committed the same crimes as the soldiers in Vietnam and massacred somewhere between 300 and 500 unarmed civilians of the village of My Lai on March 16, 1968.  26 U.S. soldiers were initially charged with criminal offenses for their actions at Mỹ Lai, only Second Lieutenant William Calley, a platoon leader in Charlie Company, was convicted. Found guilty of killing 22 villagers, he was originally given a life sentence, but only served three and a half years under house arrest.
So even though justice was never brought to both incidences, why is one set of soldiers given medals of honor and the other court martialed?   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 National Park Service still lists the site as a battlefield.   And the Medals of Honor remain.

It is now time for use to reclaim the honor of the ancestors who passed that day and petition the President and the United States Government to rescind the Congressional Medals of Honor that were given to the 20 soldiers of the 7th Cavalry for the mass murder of our ancestors.  Why should their descendants take pride in that medal that killed our  ancestors?

Don’t ever tell an Indian to get over their past.  We never forget but we move on., we move on for those who came before us  This is for all our relatives who gave their lives and made us the strong nations we are now.  Pilamaya, thank you.  We will never forget.

*Dedicated to the memory of Alice Horn Cloud, who passed away an elder, but passed away knowing soldiers were decorated for murdering her three little brothers.