American man revealed to be Sitting Bull’s great grandson via DNA test

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Thanks to a new DNA testing method and 14 years of long research, a South Dakota man has proven to be the true descendant of the legendary Lakota warrior leader Sitting Bull.

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Native American author, 73-year-old Ernie LaPointe, has long said that he was Sitting Bull’s great-grandson.

Mr LaPointe produced his birth certificate, a detailed family tree and other historical records to substantiate his claim, but some questioned his paternal ancestry.


“I think this DNA research is another way to identify my lineage relationship with my great-grandfather,” said Mr. Lapointe, who has three sisters.

“For as long as I can remember, people have been questioning our ties to our ancestors. These people are just a pain in your seating area — and will probably doubt these findings as well.”

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A group of scientists led by Professor Eske Willerslev at the University of Cambridge ended the debate and revealed the findings published in the journal. science advance on Wednesday.

Researchers used a new technique that compared DNA from a piece of a sitting bull’s scalp lock to Mr LaPointe’s genetic data.

It took them 14 years to find a way to extract DNA from a 5-6 cm piece of sitting bull hair because it was so bad. The hair was stored at room temperature at the Smithsonian Museum in Washington for more than a century before being returned to Mr. Lapointe and his sisters in 2007.

The scalp hair of Lakota Sioux leader Sitting Bull, from which DNA was extracted for analysis

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The scalp hair of Lakota Sioux leader Sitting Bull, from which DNA was extracted for analysis

“To our knowledge, this is the first published example of a familial relationship between a contemporary and a historical individual that has been confirmed using a limited amount of ancient DNA in such distant relatives,” the researchers said.

Tatanka Iotek, nicknamed the Buffalo Bull Who Sits Down and known to English speakers as Sitting Bull, was the leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota Sioux tribe in the 1800s.

He led the resistance against American military forces, who were trying to drive out Native Americans with the help of more than 1,000 Lakota warriors who had eliminated American troops at the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876. In the territory that is now under the US state. Montana.

The battle cemented Sitting Bull’s legacy on December 15, 1890, before he died at the hands of Native American police at the behest of the US Army.

It was because of Dr Willerslev’s admiration for Sitting Bull that led him to Mr Lapointe and offered to help conduct the DNA analysis.

“The sitting bull has always been my hero, ever since I was a boy. I admire his courage and his campaign. That’s why when I read in a magazine in 2007 that the Smithsonian Museum on the repatriation of museum objects According to the new US law, Ernie LaPointe and his three sisters had decided to return Sitting Bull hair, I almost choked on my coffee,” Dr. Willerslev said in a press release.

“I wrote to Lapointe and explained that I specialized in the analysis of ancient DNA, and that I was a fan of Sitting Bull, and if I may be allowed to compare the DNA of Ernie and his sisters, I would consider it a I would take a big honour. The DNA of the Native American leader’s hair when it was returned to him,” he said.

But the poor condition of the hair meant that scientists had to invent a new method. Willerslev and team used autosomal DNA, or non-gender-specific DNA. This DNA was then matched to samples from Mr. Lapointe and other individuals.

Portrait of a sitting bull in 1885

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Portrait of a sitting bull in 1885

The technique using non-gender-specific DNA was used because Mr LaPointe claimed to be related to the sitting bull’s mother’s side and the traditional analysis includes specific DNA in the Y chromosome that goes down the male line. goes.

After cross-checking Mr Lapointe’s autosomal DNA with that of the sitting bull, Dr Willerslev said his team was “delighted to find that it matched.”

The new technology paves the way for testing the DNA of long-dead historical data and potential living descendants in cases where there is limited genetic data, the researchers said.

Mr Lapointe’s struggle to prove their relationship was part of his possible plans to replace his great-grandfather’s final resting place and bury him formally.

However, the current burial site of Bull is disputed. One site is in Fort Yates, North Dakota, while the other is in Mobridge, South Dakota. Mr Lapointe believes his remains are in Mobridge.


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