A hair sample belonging to the legendary 19th-century Native American leader Sitting Bull allowed scientists to confirm that a South Dakota man is his great-grandson.
The scientists took DNA from a tiny sample of Sitting Bull hair that had been stored in Washington DC.
He proved that Ernie LaPointe, 73, is his great-grandson.
The new method allows for the analysis of family lineages with DNA fragments of long-dead people.
It opens the door to the prospect of matching other historical figures with their living descendants.
“I feel this DNA research is another way to identify my direct relationship with my great-grandfather,” LaPointe, who has three sisters, told Reuters news agency.
“People have questioned our relationship with our ancestor for as long as I can remember. These people are just a pain in the place you sit – and they will probably doubt these results as well.”
The new method was developed by scientists led by Eske Willerslev, director of the Lundbeck Foundation GeoGenetics Center at the University of Cambridge.
The new technique is based on what is known as autosomal DNA in the genetic fragments extracted from the hair. It took 14 years to perfect the method.
Mr. Willerslev said he had been fascinated with Sitting Bull since he was a child and offered his services to Mr. LaPointe about ten years ago. Sitting Bull’s scalp block was repatriated to LaPointe by the Smithsonian Institution of Washington DC in 2007.
But before handing over the lock, LaPointe asked Willerslev to take part in a ceremony involving a medicine man, drummers and chants, where Sitting Bull’s spirit gave its blessing to the studio, the scientist told the agency. AFP print.
Mr. LaPointe burned most of the lock, in line with the spirit’s instructions, leaving researchers only 4 cm, which Mr. Willerslev at the time considered “disastrous”.
However, this forced the team to develop their innovative new method, he said.
Sitting Bull, whose real name was Tatanka-Iyotanka, famously led 1,500 Native American warriors into the Battle of Little Bighorn in 1876, wiping out American General Custer and five companies of soldiers.
He was killed in 1890 by the “Indian police” acting on behalf of the United States government.
- Native Americans
- United States
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