LEAD, S.D. — More than a decades worth of scientific advancement culminating in the formal identification of Hunkpapa Lakota leader Sitting Bull’s great-grandson and closest living relative.
“I’ve known this since the ’50s when I was a little boy…my mother told me who my grandfather was and how my relatives are,” says Ernie LaPointe of Lead.
Sitting Bull, famous chief and medicine man, was born in 1831. He led the Lakota during the Battle of Little Big Horn and was killed by Indian Agency Police in 1890.
Using a lock of hair – no more than a couple inches long – a Dutch researcher and a team of scientists developed a new method to look for autosomal DNA – which people inherit from both their mother and father.
The tests resulted in the identification of 73-year-old Ernie LaPointe – an author and Vietnam Veteran – who was born on the Pine Ridge Reservation.
LaPointe, who has written a book and finished a documentary on his ancestors life and legacy, says he wasn’t always so open about the relation.
“I always knew that my great-grandfather was Sitting Bull, but I remember my mother used to get attacked by people from Standing Rock Reservation because they wanted to be related too – and they’re not,” LaPointe says. “She always told me don’t ever tell anybody or brag anybody that you’re related to Sitting Bull.”
His mother also helping to covertly remove Sitting Bull’s remains from Fort Yates in North Dakota, where they were reburied near Mobridge.
LaPointe says the formal identification will help in his journey to relocate Sitting Bull to a proper burial site, along with full ceremony and honors.
“Our culture dictates to us that we need to give this certain honor to our ancestors when they pass away – but he never got that privilege – he never got that – he was just buried in a box, you know?”