July 8, 1999
Subject: Use of the Army Flag at EPA Events
From: Michael J. Hartnett, Chair, National American Indian Advisory Council
To: Ann E. Goode, Director, Office of Civil Rights
The Charter of the National American Indian Advisory Council (the Council) states that the purpose of the Council is to serve as a staff advisory group to the Administrator and that Council shall recommend actions that address the concern of American Indians in the EPA workforce. It also states that one of the objectives of the Council is to assist the U.S. EPA in promoting a culturally sensitive work environment. The purpose of this memo is to advise you that Agency employees should be made aware of the impact on American Indian employees when including the U.S. Army flag with "Battle Streamers" at an EPA ceremony. We recommend that the Agency avoid the inclusion of the Army flag and battle streamers at Agency functions and that a memo should be issued to all EPA employees stating why this policy will be implemented.
At many EPA events a military color guard is invited to participate to display the American flag and to honor America's veterans. At the recent EPA Headquarters awards on April 12, 1999 the U.S. Army color guard was invited to participate as part of the military color guard. The U.S Army flag, and "Battle Streamers," was displayed in the ceremony. The U.S. Army "Battle Streamers" includes a streamer which is inscribed "Pine Ridge 1890-1991." This streamer refers to the Army campaign in December and January of those years. The streamer honors thew only significant military action, the MAssacre at Wounded Knee Creek on December 29, 1890 on the Pine Ridge, South Dakota Indian Reservation. Although this is sometimes referred to as the "Battle of Wounded Knee Creek" it is widely recognized that it was actually a massacre of mostly defenseless Indian people that included innocent women, children and infants, many of whom were pursued for miles and then slaughtered. The Dead were buried a few days later in a mass grave on the Pine Ridge Reservation at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
This massacre is still fresh in the minds of Indian people and is considered a symbol of the unjust and inhumane treatment of Indian people in this country. Although many Indian people have served honorably in all branches of the armed service of this country, the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek is considered by many people to be a blot on the record of the U.S. government and the U.S. Army in particular. Therefore, the parading of this symbol of injustice and atrocity, particularly at an honoring ceremony, is considered insulting to American Indians and any tribal leaders present.
There have been, and continues to be, many efforts to recognize and correct this improper honoring of such an atrocity. For example, 101st Congress passed Continuing Resolution SCON 153 acknowledging the Wounded Knee Massacre. The Executive Committee of the National Congress of American Indians (NCAI) passed resolution #97-001 on September 5, 1997. The NCAI resolution stated in part; "...that any battle streamers representative of the Wounded Knee Massacre at Wounded Massacre be removed from any active flag and archived as necessary." These actions indicate that there is recognition, both inside and outside of government, that the Massacre at Wounded Knee Creek should not continue to be honored by the U.S Army or any other U.S. government agency.
For all the reasons described above, the Council recommends that the Agency should avoid the inclusion of the Army flag and battle streamers at Agency functions, as long as the Pine Ridge battle streamer is included, and that a memo should be issued to all EPA employees stating why this policy will be implemented. If we may provide any assistance in drafting the memo please call me at (405) 562-8661 or Edna Paisano, of the Office of Civil Rights at (202) 260-3084.
Michael J. Hartnett, Chair, National American Indian Advisory Council
Responses of the United
States Army to the NCAI statement
concerning Wounded Knee Battle Streamers
A Petition To Rescind The Wounded Knee Medals...
Massacre at Wounded Knee
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