Recently got back from DC and filmed the repatriation
of Sitting Bull's scalp lock and leggings back to Ernie
LaPointe and his sisters who attended a later ceremony
in the Black Hills. Very moving. The scalp lock (the lock
that held his feather up near the crown of his head was
cut off by the post surgeon at Fort Yates, Dr Deeble as
a souvenier along with the leggins he was wearing...post
surgeons also acted as the post undertaker in those days).
Both Dr Deeble and the Standing Rock agent McLaughlin
both reported in official correspondance that Sitting
Bull's body was not mutilated or disfigured, however Dr
Deeble in separate a 1893 correspondance to a Dr Shufeldt
stated that he had 'reserved' (his word not mine) the
leggins and Sitting Bull's scalp lock for himself. Dr
Shufeldt said the body was not autopsied.
In another separate piece of correspondance that was
found in a letter dated May 21, 1897 by the Fort Yates
hospitable steward, Dr von Clossman says that there was
much more disfugurement.
"When brought to the hospital old Bull's head was
covered with the usual long hair, as worn by all the Indians,
but next morning, although the door was locked & the
windows nailed down, I discovered on enetering the room,
that during the night, he had been dispoiled of his hair
& his head was bare as a billard ball. I never could
find out, who stole his hair."
On June 19, 1896 Dr Horace Deeble loaned the Smithsonian
Sitting Bull's scalp lock and leggins. Dr Deeble had no
According to the Repatriation Act the hair is human
remains. The leggins were stolen. So they were in need
of repatriation. In 1999 the Smithsonian sent out letters
to all the Lakota tribes looking for the closest living
descendants. In February of 2001 a gentleman named Don
Tenoso submitted a request for repatriation of the items.
During a visit to the Smithsonian office he identified
himself as a great grandson of Oscar One Bull, the blood
nephew of Sitting Bull, who he claimed that Sitting Bull
'adopted' One Bull as his son in a 'Hunka' ceremony. Don
Tenoso was then asked to submit the names of any descendants
that should be notified of the request. In late November
Ron Little Owl, a member of the Three affiliated tribes
of North Dakota, sent a letter identifying Ernie LaPointe
and his sisters Marlene Little Spotted Horse-Anderson,
and Ethel Little Spotted Horse-Bates as close lineal descendants
of Sitting Bull. A new letter was sent to Ernie and his
sisters and after Ernie's response in Feb 2002 and after
more than five years of research it was determined that
Ernie and his sisters were indeed the closest lineal descendants
to Sitting Bull.
The debate over the adoption of One Bull raged for quite
sometime but no proof that it ever actually happened was
offered. However there is mention of Oscar One Bull that
seems to implicate him as a member of the police force
at the time of Sitting Bull's death. In a letter dated
August 18, 1922 sent by superintendent Mossman (McLaughlin
was still the senior pulling the strings at the reservation
until July 1923 when he took ill and was taken back to
DC where he died in August of 1923) it states,
your information, I will say that Sitting Bull has practically
no relatives on this reservation. His nearest of kin now
living here (Standing Rock) are One Bull, a nephew, and
the wife of Grey Eagle. One Bull while his nephew was
one of the men who went as police to arrest Sitting Bull
at the time of his death. Grey Eagle is the brother in
law of Sitting Bull, and while he was not a policeman
at the time he was present for the purpose of assisting
in the arrest Sitting Bull.
After the death of Sitting Bull, his immediate family
practically all went to Pine Ridge where his wife number
two and daughters and grand children are now living.
should have been intuitive to researchers but it wasn't.
After all on a human level when a close family member is
killed by your neighbors do you continue to stay in the
same neighborhood or do you move? I have found the same
true with the Clown family and the killing of Crazy Horse
was an attempt at reconcilation between family members as
Four Robes (one of Sitting Bull's wives) and William Sitting
Bull attempted to re-enroll at Standing Rock. Seen By Her
Nation (the other Sitting Bull wife) never forgave Grey
Eagle for holding the horses while the police went into
arrest her husband. However they were turned down in a letter
dated May 2, 1908 from the Acting Commissioner named Larralee.
The letter states:
James McLaughlin, in a letter dated April 29, 1908, concurs
in your recommendation that the family named be not transferred
and enrolled at the Standing Rock Agency. He says that
he is well acquainted with the history of William Sitting
Bull, and discusses the case as follows:
A reference to the records of the Department will show
that the noted Indian, Sitting Bull, father of this
William Sitting Bull, was a disturbing element and a
source of much trouble on the Standing Rock Reservation.
His attitude throughout his life was detrimental to
the advancement of the Indians among whom he lived and
should this son of his be transferred to the Standing
Rock Agency I am fearful that the former adherents of
his father would make an effort to install him their
leader thereby fostering disaffection among the former
followers of Sitting Bull who are now well disposed
and steadily advancing in civilization.
The family of Sitting Bull together with about two hundred
followers left the Standing Rock Reservation from time
to time after the death of Sitting Bull during the Ghost
Dance troubles in 1890 and 1891 and were duly enrolled
at the Pine Ridge Agency where they have since resided,
and I believe that it would be better for the Standing
Rock Indians if William Sitting Bull be required to
remain at Pine Ridge where he now lives and where he
has resided for the past 17 years.
In view of your recommendation and that of Inspector
McLaughlin, the office is very unwilling to permit the
transfer of William Sitting Bull and family, consisting
of himself, wife and child, and his mother, from the
Pine Ridge to the Standing Rock Agency.
Sitting Bull was a deaf mute.
letters were obtained following Ernie LaPointe's oral history
and from his oral history knowing where to look and what
to look for. Ernie said his mother told him of a chance
meeting between Standing Holy and Oscar One Bull in which
his mother was present. Standing Holy and William Sitting
Bull and Angeline LaPointe were in a buggy out on the plains
when a rider approached. It was Oscar One Bull. Standing
Holy wrapped a blanket around her head and told One Bull
to go away. One Bull tried to be nice, Standing Holy wouldn't
stand for it and finally One Bull left. When Angeline questioned
her mother about the man, Standing Holy told her "it
was because of him that your grandfather was killed".
According to Ernie, One Bull was the spy in Sitting Bull's
camp and whenever Sitting Bull held council One Bull would
ride immediately afterwards to the school house in Little
Eagle and telegraph to McLaughlin the results. Sitting Bull
became suspicious that there was a spy so when he decided
to leave the Rez for Pine Ridge to discuss what to do about
the Ghost Dance with Red Cloud he held the council at night
and proposed to leave early the next morning. The schoolhouse
was closed so One Bull rode all night to Fort Yates to inform
McLaughlin and then rode back (killing his horse in the
process) but made it back to his tipi before the police
could arrive. Later it was said he was teamstering in Bismark,
but with the family fleeing to Pine Ridge, I surmise McLaughlin
needed a family member on his side to help sell his story
to the remaining Sitting Bull followers still on the rez
to keep peace.
However in a bit of irony one of the greatest advocates
for returning the hair and leggins to Ernie was a worker
at the Smithsonian from Standing Rock who happened to be
the step great granddaughter of Bullhead (the leader of
the police that killed Sitting Bull).
things back to the present the scalp lock had no grey hairs...however
out of respect there will not be any pictures of the scalp
lock and the hair will be returned to Sitting Bull however
I will not say at this time how that will happen. The leggins
were in excellent condition. They were dark blue with a
red zigzag sewn down the seams...I do have video of this
along with his rifle which will not be repatriated because
it is a weapon which will appear in Ernie's DVD on Sitting
Bull in Part Two. One of the leading DNA experts in the
world from the University of Copenhagen in Denmark (he is
a big Sitting Bull fan and has posters of Sitting Bull at
home, he is also the expert working with an the Oregon dig
that found human dung dated back 40-50,000 years whose DNA
was Native American specific which the findings will be
published in the very near future, most likely in some anthropology
journal) is performing the DNA link between Ernie and his
sisters and the lock of hair, providing the hair was not
treated while being preserved with any chemicals that might
destroy the DNA molecules. This DNA will be on record for
not only any challenges to Ernie and his sisters but it
will be on record to dispell any stories about whose bones
lie in Mobridge.
to what Ernie learned from his Mom, Sitting Bull's body
was beaten to a pulp. After exhuming the bones in 1953,
in the autospy which was attended by Ernie's Mom Angeline
LaPointe, Clarence Grey Eagle, and Clarence Grey Eagle's
interpreter whose name I do not have (Clarence Grey Eagle
did not understand English well enough to be without an
interpreter) observed the front part of his skull was missing
due to a beating with a blunt instrument. There was quite
a bit of canvas with the body collaborating the story of
his body being put into a canvas sack to keep it all together.
Also one of the upper arm bones was missing of the major
bones (many of the smaller bones were not recovered as it
seems as though the emphasis was on recovering the main
skeletal bones). This seemed to collarorate the story told
by photographer Frank Fiske on the link below as reported
by the Fargo Forum on April 12, 1953.
The following publications contain information about Sitting Bull:
Article: "Weird Powers of Indian Medicine Men" by Col. Richard I. Dodge • Real West • Vol. VII, No. 37 • September 1964.
Article: "Annie Oakley, Little Miss Sureshot" by Louise Chevey • Real West, No. 56, November 1967.
Article: "Was It Only Custer's Folly?" by Carl W. Breihan • Golden West: True Stories of the Old West • Vol. 4, No. 5 • July 1968.
Article: "Ghosts on the Little Bighorn" by Robert Paul Jordan • After a 1983 prairie fire cleared brush along Montana's Little Bighorn River, archaeologists recovered artifacts that shed new light on Custer's Last Stand. Robert Paul Jordan reports on the still controversial 1876 battle. Photographs by Scott Rutherford • The National Geographic Magazine • December 1986.
Book: The Lance and the Shield: The Life and Times of Sitting Bull by Robert M. Utley • Henry Holt & Co. • 1993.
Internet Archive Article: "Sitting Bull (1834 - December 15, 1890) • Western Outlaw Lawman History Association • http://tiny.cc/qjl3oy • 2002.
Article: "Sitting Bull: The True Story" by Christiane Whiteswan Sterne • Manataka American Indian Couincil • http://www.manataka.org/page55.html.