[Note: A version of this post was published in the May 1, 2021 print version of the Buffalo News “Everybody’s Column” under the headline, “Congress, Niagara Falls must remove Sgt. Toy’s name.” Here’s a link to the on-line letter:
The massacre by the U.S. Army at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, occurred 130 years ago and more than 1,100 miles from the Niagara Frontier. But the repercussions of that infamous slaughter of hundreds of Lakota Sioux, including unarmed women and children, are felt right here in Western New York.
Twenty Medals of Honor – meant to recognize “conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity at the risk of life above and beyond the call of duty” – were awarded to troops involved in the violent actions at Wounded Knee. One of the recipients, Frederick E. Toy, was born and worked in Buffalo, and settled with his family in Niagara Falls subsequent to his retirement from the Army.
Toy was a First Sergeant at the time of the tragic events. His commander, Capt. Winfield Scott Edgerly, used the following words when recommending the Buffalo native for the Medal of Honor: “The fight was unexpected and I saw the sergeant deliberately aim at and hit two Indians who had run into the ravine; his coolness and bravery exciting my admiration at the time.”
Sgt. Toy is one of eight residents of the Cataract City with individual monuments as Medal of Honors winners at the American Veterans Monument in the city’s Hyde Park. Nationally, members of the Lakota tribe are lobbying Congress to enact the “Remove the Stain” bill to rescind all 20 medals awarded to Wounded Knee participants. Locally, Paul Winnie, a member of the Tonawanda Seneca Nation, and Niagara Falls Councilman Bill Kennedy, Jr., would like to see Sgt. Toy’s name removed from the Hyde Park monument. As Kennedy has stated, “There is no honor in genocide.”
Congress and Niagara Falls’ Council must demonstrate respect for the Lakota – and the medal – by removing the stain.
With All Due Respect,