A scalp sample from the Sitting Bull, a legendary 19th-century Native American leader, has allowed a group of scientists to confirm that a man in the US state of South Dakota is indeed the grandson of India.
Scientists collected DNA from a small piece of Sitting Bull’s hair that was stored in Washington, DC.
And laboratory analysis showed that 73-year-old Ernie Lowpoint is indeed the leader’s grandson.
The new method the researchers used allows analyzing family lineages with the genetic parts of people who died long ago.
This opens up the prospect of finding living descendants of other historical figures.
“I think this DNA investigation is another way to determine my direct relationship to my great-grandfather,” LaPointe, who has three sisters, told Reuters news agency.
“People have wondered about the relationship we had with our ancestors for as long as I can remember. These same individuals are bothered about where we are? And they’re likely to be suspicious of these new discoveries, too.”
The new method was developed by a group led by geneticist Eske Willerslev, director of the Lundbeck Foundation’s Center for Genetics at the University of Cambridge, UK.
The new technique is based on what is known as chromosomal DNA, which has been extracted from the genetic parts of hair. It took scientists 14 years to perfect this method.
Willerslev said he’s been fascinated by Sitting Bull since childhood, and he provided services to LaPointe about a decade ago. His great-grandson repatriated the legendary Indian leader’s scalp lock in 2007. It is stored at the Smithsonian Institution in Washington.
But before handing over the materials, Lapointe asked Willerslev to take part in a party in which a therapist and musicians participated, where the Sitting Ball’s spirit gave its blessing to the study, the scientist reported to AFP.
Lapointe burned most of the scalp – following the instructions of the spiritual ritual – leaving the researchers only 4 centimeters of the substance, which Willerslev considered “disastrous” at the time.
However, this forced the team of experts to develop a new method, the geneticist said.
Sitting Bull, real name Tatanka-Iyotanka, led the famous Battle of the Little Bighorn in 1876, in which 1,500 Native American warriors participated, in which General George Armstrong Custer died and five companies of American soldiers were defeated.
Iutanka was killed in 1890 by the “Indigenous Police”, a force acting on behalf of the United States government.
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