DNA testing of Sitting Bull’s hair confirms a 73-year-old man in South Dakota is his great-grandson

Nerd Of All
3 min readOct 28, 2021
DNA testing of Sitting Bull's hair confirms a 73-year-old man in South Dakota is his great-grandson

- DNA testing of Sitting Bull’s hair

- Ernie LaPointe has long claimed to be the great-grandson of the Lakota Sioux leader Sitting Bull.

- Scientists said on Wednesday that they had confirmed a DNA link.

- They said it’s the first time DNA from a dead person was used to establish a link with a living one.

After DNA testing of Sitting Bull’s hair, the test on hair from the head of the Native American leader Sitting Bull confirmed that a 73-year-old man in South Dakota is his great-grandson, scientists said.

Ernie LaPointe, the president of the Sitting Bull Family Foundation (their website is currently hacked it looks like. Avoid for now), has long maintained that he was descended from Sitting Bull, also known as Tatanka Iyotake, citing evidence from family archives.

Scientists said this week that they confirmed that link thanks to groundbreaking techniques in DNA research. Their peer-reviewed article was published on Wednesday in the journal Science Advances.

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

In the late 19th century, Sitting Bull banded together several Sioux tribes as they faced attempts from white settlers to seize tribal lands on the Great Plains.

Most famously, he led Native American forces in defeating Gen. George Custer at the Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876. He died in 1890.

To prove the biological connection between Sitting Bull and LaPointe, researchers took DNA from a sample of Sitting Bull’s hair that had been stored at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

“People have been questioning our relationship to our ancestor as long as I can remember. These people are just a pain in the place you sit — and will probably doubt these findings, also,” LaPointe said, according to Reuters.

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This study of Sitting Bull’s hair was the first time that DNA from a deceased person was used to prove a biological connection to a living person, the researchers said.

The new method was developed by Eske Willerslev, the director of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Centre at the University of Copenhagen and a professor at the University of Cambridge.

“LaPointe asked me to extract DNA from it and compare it to his DNA to establish relationship,” Willerslev told Reuters.

“I got very little hair and there was very limited DNA in it. It took us a long time developing a method that, based on limited ancient DNA, can by compared to that of living people across multiple generations.”

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