Making History

Giving Back

Ernie LaPointe and his family are the closest living relatives of Sitting Bull. (Adam Nadel/Polaris Images)
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More than a century after Sitting Bull's death, some of his last possessions are going home. As of press time, the National Museum of Natural History announced plans to repatriate a lock of the famed Sioux chief's hair and his wool leggings to his closest living relatives, as required by the National Museum of the American Indian Act. History remembers Sitting Bull as both a spiritual and military leader who took up arms when his people were forced off tribal lands. In 1890, after he was fatally shot by Native American police, his body was taken into custody at Fort Yates in North Dakota, where an Army doctor obtained the hair and leggings and sent them to the museum in 1896. For the past five years, Bill Billeck, director of the museum's Repatriation Office, has been searching for Sitting Bull's descendants. He determined that Ernie LaPointe (above) of Lead, South Dakota, his three sisters and their children and grandchildren are the closest living relatives. "I think the circle of the death of Sitting Bull will now be completed," LaPointe says.

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