DNA confirms Sitting Bull was the South Dakota man's great-grandfather

For years Ernie LaPointe, writer and Vietnam veteran, claims that he was Sitting Bull’s great-grandson , Chief Hunkpapa Lakota famous ...


For years Ernie LaPointe, writer and Vietnam veteran, claims that he was Sitting Bull’s great-grandson, Chief Hunkpapa Lakota famous for resisting federal government efforts to capture the Great Plains.

He got his mother’s oral history checked by Smithsonian researchers, and a lock of hair and woolen leggings owned by Sitting Bull, whose birth name was Tatanka Iyotake, returned to the family.

But Mr LaPointe, 73, said he never felt he had enough evidence linking him to Sitting Bull to help him achieve his ultimate goal of moving the remains of the chief from a place of burial in South Dakota, in an area he says has been desecrated. , to a last home worthy of his great-grandfather’s legacy.

This week, his efforts to overcome opposition to the exhumation may have received help from an unlikely source: Danish researchers.

Researchers at the University of Copenhagen said on Wednesday that DNA evidence confirmed that Mr. LaPointe, who lives in Lead, SD, is the direct descendant of Sitting Bull. The discovery was made by testing a one-inch piece of Sitting Bull’s hair using a new sequencing method that scientists say first confirmed parentage using “ancient DNA” from small old and damaged samples.

“The method can handle what previous methods couldn’t handle,” said Eske Willerslev, one of the study’s lead authors, which was published Wednesday in Science Advances. “It can work on very, very small amounts of DNA, and it can go back generations.”

The research opens up the possibility, he said, for people whether they are the direct descendants of kings like Henry V, who died centuries ago, or famous historical figures like the outlaw Jesse. James. It could also help solve cold cases that might have seemed hopeless before because the physical evidence had deteriorated, Dr Willerslev said. It could even help solve centuries-old cases, he said.

Dr Willerslev said it was possible, for example, that the methodology could help solve one of England’s most puzzling cold cases: the fate of the two young nephews of Richard III, was accused of ordering them to kill so that he could assume the throne in 1483. The boys disappeared that year.

Almost 200 years later, the skeletal remains of two people were found in the Tower of London, but they have never been identified. Dr Willerslev said the methodology used on Sitting Bull’s hair could be used on these remains, assuming Richard III’s relatives are alive and can be traced.

Mr LaPointe said he believes DNA confirmation could bolster his campaign to exhume and re-bury the chief’s remains.

“We are going to put it elsewhere,” he said on Thursday. “Where he will be respected.”

Mr LaPointe said his mother told him and his three sisters who their great-grandfather was when they were children. In 2007, this oral history was checked by the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, which concluded that Mr. LaPointe and his sisters were Sitting Bull’s only living parents. The same year, the museum returned to the family a lock of hair and woolen leggings that a military doctor had taken from Sitting Bull’s body after he had been shot dead by tribal police in 1890.

Sitting Bull was the leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota. For years he fought the United States Army as the federal government encroached on tribal lands. One of his most famous battles was against the army of General George Armstrong Custer, which was defeated in 1876 in the Battle of Little Bighorn.

Sitting Bull surrendered to the US government in 1881 and was allowed to live on the Standing Rock Reservation.

He then toured briefly with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show, but a booking agent feared he was planning another campaign of resistance and decided to arrest him in 1890. Sitting Bull was shot in the botched arrest and buried at Fort Yates in North Dakota.

If his remains are still there has been contested.

The Town of Mobridge, SD, said on his site that in 1953, a group of businessmen along with a descendant of Sitting Bull and one of the Native American officers who arrested the chief moved his remains to the southern part of the Standing Rock Reservation, overlooking the Missouri River.

Mr. LaPointe said he believed his great-grandfather’s remains were there.

Over the decades, the site has been neglected, Mr LaPointe said, and every time he visited the area reeked of urine and was littered with broken beer bottles and used condoms.

“People would go up there to party,” said Mr. LaPointe.

Mr LaPointe said he plans to ask the state to allow him to exhume the remains of Standing Rock so that the bones can be tested for DNA to confirm they belonged to Sitting Bull.

Jon Eagle, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribal History Preserver, said removing Sitting Bull’s remains would be a big affront.

“We are protecting them – we are not digging them up or moving them,” he said. “It really violates our spiritual beliefs.”

Mr. LaPointe said he was not discouraged by these concerns. He said he didn’t know where Sitting Bull’s remains would ultimately be buried, but if he was allowed to have them exhumed, they wouldn’t stay in Mobridge.

“We won’t put it back in this hole,” he said. “They can say whatever they want.

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Newsrust - US Top News: DNA confirms Sitting Bull was the South Dakota man's great-grandfather
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