The Great Grandson of Sitting Bull Has Been Identified

The Great Grandson of Sitting Bull Has Been Identified

Dakota Creel, Staff Writer

The great-grandson of Sitting Bull has been identified through DNA testing. Sitting Bull was a Hunkpapa Lakota leader in the late 1800s. He led his people through a time of rebellion against certain U.S. government policies. Sitting Bull was well known because of his involvement in the Battle of Little Bighorn. Before the Battle of Little Bighorn had taken place, Sitting Bull had a vision. His vision consisted of a large number of soldiers landing upside down on the Lakota tribal grounds. His people took that as a sign of a defeat and great loss on the American’s side. On June 25th, 1876, roughly three weeks after the vision, the Lakota tribes in combination with the Northern Cheyenne defeated the 7th U.S. cavalry. In an attempt to make an arrest, Sitting Bull was killed by an India Agency police on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in 1890, for they were worried that he would soon be joining the Ghost Dance movement. 

The last known living descendant has been found through DNA analyst testing. Scientists were able to navigate through years of lineage and trace back to any living relatives. 73-year-old Ernie LaPointe of South Dakota has been identified as not only Sitting Bull’s closest living relative, but also his great-grandson. The results of the information found have been published in the Journal Science Advances as of Wednesday. This has likely been done in an attempt to aid the fight to move Sitting Bull’s remains, which are currently in Mobridge, South Dakota, to a location that has been said to have more cultural significance to Sitting Bull himself. 

Eske Willerslev, a professor of ecology and evolution at the University of Cambridge stated that “his research normally focuses on piecing together ancient DNA to understand human genetic diversity and how different groups of people around the world are similar and distinct. But he couldn’t pass up the opportunity to study Sitting Bull’s DNA.” Willerslev is also a director of the Centre of Excellence in GeoGenetics at the University of Copenhagen. Willerslev went on to say, “I’ve always been extremely fascinated by Sitting Bull because in many ways he was the perfect leader — brave and clever, but also kind.” 

A lock of hair that had been taken from SItting bull himself, after his death, was displayed in a National Museum. This lock of hair is how the DNA was traced to Ernie LaPointe. More than a decade ago, Willerslev reached out to LaPointe to help aid in LaPointe’s attempts to have Sitting Bull’s remains relocated. Willerslev showed great difficulty obtaining the lock of hair in order to have the DNA tested. “There was very little DNA in the hair — way too little for established methods of DNA analysis. So we had to develop a new method,” said Willerslev. The DNA was eventually tested and the results were analyzed and released. The remains of Sitting Bull will hopefully be returned to the appropriate burial grounds.