Ernie LaPointe, the great-grandson of the leader Tatanka Iyotake, said he hoped the DNA confirmation would bolster his campaign to move the chief’s remains.
By Maria Cramer
For years, Ernie LaPointe, a writer and Vietnam veteran, claimed that he was the great-grandson of Sitting Bull, the Hunkpapa Lakota leader famous for resisting the federal government’s efforts to seize the Great Plains.
He has had his mother’s oral history verified by Smithsonian researchers, and a lock of hair and wool leggings belonging to Sitting Bull, whose birth name was Tatanka Iyotake, returned to the family.
But Mr. LaPointe, 73, said that he had never felt he had enough evidence linking him to Sitting Bull to help him achieve his ultimate goal: moving the chief’s remains from a burial site in South Dakota, in an area he says has been desecrated, to a final resting place worthy of his great-grandfather’s legacy.
This week, his effort 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, S.D., is the direct descendant of Sitting Bull. The discovery was made by testing a one-inch piece of Sitting Bull’s hair through a new sequencing method that, the scientists said, made it possible for the first time to confirm kinship 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 lead authors of the study, which was published in Science Advances on Wednesday. “It can work on very, very tiny amounts of DNA, and it can go back further generations.”