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The Next Generation In The Study Of Custer's Last Stand

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Sitting Bull To LBH


Update July 10, 2008. Ernie LaPointe has changed his mind. Read more at the Billings Gazettte.


Ernie LaPointe at Deer Medicine Rocks, Montana  near  where his great grandfather had his vision of soldiers falling upside down into camp  -- photo courtesy Serle Chapman

In early November 2006, Joanne and I had dinner with Ernie LaPointe and his wife, Sonja, at the Gem Saloon in Deadwood. We last saw each other the previous June on the battlefield where Sitting Bull’s people defeated George Armstrong Custer and the 7th Cavalry. 

As the buffalo prime rib was brought before us, Ernie became serious. “There is something I want to share with you in confidence until I break the news”, he said. “My sisters and I might ask the park service to help us move our great grandfather to the battlefield.”

Ernie explained some of the history of the interments and reinterments of Sitting Bull and that his current resting place was in total disarray; broken beer bottles, trash, and soda cans covered the grave. The great bust that Korczak Ziolkowski had sculpted was vandalized. It was very sad. The time had long passed that Sitting Bull should be respected and honored as so many had promised, but failed miserably to do. Ernie concluded that the only place that Sitting Bull could rest was the battlefield; he would be well protected there. 

Since that meeting with Ernie, he has set the wheels in motion. His sisters have agreed that it is best to bury Sitting Bull at the battlefield; the park service will take the necessary steps with environmental assessments, and a cultural landscape inventory to determine if the reinterment can occur.

Ernie broke the news this week by sending a letter of intent to bury Sitting Bull at Little Bighorn to Congressional representatives, tribal organizations, and the media. This letter may be read via the navigation button at right. Because Sitting Bull was not a veteran, he cannot lie in the Custer Battlefield National Cemetery. The only place he could be buried is somewhere on the battlefield within the boundaries of the monument. The proposed site is on the east side of the Indian Memorial. A small red granite headstone would mark the grave and it would be protected with a low iron fence like the one surrounding Last Stand Hill.  

Ernie LaPointe is the direct descendant of Sitting Bull and the Smithsonian recognizes him as such. The museum plans to return personal items of Sitting Bull to the LaPointes as required per the 1990 Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act. One of these includes scalp hair cut from Sitting Bull at the time of his death. It is Ernie’s wish that this hair be placed with the remains at Little Bighorn.

Precedence was set when the Standing Rock tribal authorities passed a resolution in 1953 stating that Sitting Bull's remains should rest where his descendants wished. We’ll keep you informed and updated about the studies the National Park Service conducts to determine if Sitting Bull will rest at Little Bighorn. To learn the history of Sitting Bull's burials please select from the navigation button at right.

Bob Reece

February 21, 2007

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