He always felt different from other boys his age. He loved nature, animals and pondered the past rather than thinking of the future. But he had no idea how far trying to find the truth would take him.
And when he finally got word from his father that he could finally pursue the mysteries of his family, he found something he could never have anticipated.
Ernie LaPointe grew up in Lead, South Dakota all his life and always thought about his roots. Being Native American meant that he had a rich heritage to look back on.
He felt he had a deep connection with nature and was often criticized for it. But he would prove them wrong when he figured out the truth behind everything.
Growing up 73-year-old Ernie loved animals, nature, and mountain ranges more than people, buildings, and the future.
As a child, he often looked back and thought about his heritage. But everything would change when his mother told him a secret that would have him chasing the truth all his life. And end in an unexpected way.
LaPointe’s mother tragically passed away when he was only 10-years-old. But on her death bed she told him a dark family secret that would change his outlook on life forever.
She told him not to tell a soul, that was her dying wish. He knew he had to respect his mother and keep it from everyone. But that secret would affect him greatly on the inside.
LaPointe was sad to see that throughout his life the traditions around his people slowly faded away. He was so proud of where he came from so it was hard to see.
He needed to find the truth behind everything. He needed to explore the secret his mother confessed to him. But then his father stood in his way.
His father sadly passed away, but before he did he had a confession of his own that would be entirely different from his mother’s.
He told LaPointe that a day would come when he would have to tell everything about his heritage and what his mother had confessed. His great-grandfather was Sitting Bull, but was that really true?
Sitting Bull was the leader of the Hunkpapa Lakota tribe in the late 19th century. He led his people through years of resistance against the United States government policies.
Sitting Bull was a ferocious leader who inspired his people to battle major victories. In response, the US government sent thousands of soldiers to his territory. Many warriors had no choice but to surrender – but not Sitting Bull.
Sitting Bull continued his resistance for years until 1877 when he eventually surrendered due to the starvation of him and his family.
He was later shot by an Indian agent in 1890 out of fear that he’d spark another rebellion. His rebellion is why LaPointe’s mom didn’t want anyone to know they were his descendants. She feared for their lives. But time had changed.
With his father’s blessing, LaPointe arrived at the induction of the Sitting Bull conference in Anadarko, Oklahoma where they were introducing him into the Hall of Fame of American Indian Chiefs.
He declared himself to the crowd as his great-grandson but was never able to fully prove it – until now.
LaPointe had faced a backlash of criticism ridiculing his claim. He faced a torrent of accusations online and could only provide four things that many questioned the authenticity of – Birth and death certificates, a family tree, and a review of historical records.
But he was determined to prove himself. He wasn’t shying away from his identity any longer.
His first break came not too long after he reached the headlines for his claim. He received a mysterious call from a scientist who specialized in the analysis of ancient DNA and wanted to work on his case.
Sitting Bull had always been his hero and a small lock of his hair sat in the Smithsonian Museum which was enough to work with. Was it proven?
It didn’t take long for the scientists to figure out a new innovative technology that allowed them to extract the DNA from Sitting Bull’s chemical-preserved hair.
LaPointe waited in quiet confidence until his claim was indeed proven to be true. He was a living descendant of the renowned historic leader. This is what he had to say…
“I feel this DNA research is another way of identifying my lineal relationship to my great-grandfather,” LaPointe said.
“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.” Scientists also had something to say…
“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 concluded.
“It’s cool from a forensic point of view,” Keolu Fox, a geneticist at the University of California said. “But the real question is, would Sitting Bull have been comfortable with this?”
LaPointe had no qualms and wanted the verification. Instead, he used his elevated voice to found and run a non-profit organization called the Sitting Bull Family Foundation.
His mission is to offer a more accurate oral history of Sitting Bull by sharing his exemplary cultural and spiritual way of life. He also strives to awaken cultural awareness in the traditional Lakota way of life.