Identifying a living great-grandson of the Lakota Sioux leader Tatanka Iyotake (Sitting Bull)

Sci Adv. 2021 Oct 29;7(44):eabh2013. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.abh2013. Epub 2021 Oct 27.


A great-grandson of the legendary Lakota Sioux leader Sitting Bull (Tatanka Iyotake), Ernie LaPointe, wished to have their familial relationship confirmed via genetic analysis, in part, to help settle concerns over Sitting Bull’s final resting place. To address Ernie LaPointe’s claim of family relationship, we obtained minor amounts of genomic data from a small piece of hair from Sitting Bull’s scalp lock, which was repatriated in 2007. We then compared these data to genome-wide data from LaPointe and other Lakota Sioux using a new probabilistic approach and concluded that Ernie LaPointe is Sitting Bull’s great-grandson. 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. Hence, this study opens the possibility for broadening genealogical research, even when only minor amounts of ancient genetic material are accessible.