Associated Cultures: Sioux, Standing-Rock Sioux Tribe
A lock of hair and leggings attributed to Sitting Bull, a Hunkpapa Sioux, was present in the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institution. Archival evidence indicates the items were acquired from Sitting Bull's body in 1890 by Dr. Deeble, an Army Surgeon at Fort Yates, and were loaned to the museum in 1896. In 1999, archival evidence on how the lock of hair and leggings were taken by Dr. Deeble was obtained by the National Museum of Natural History. All federally recognized Sioux tribes were then informed that a lock of hair and the leggings of Sitting Bull were on loan to the National Museum of Natural History to initiate consultation with the tribes. In 2001, Don Tenoso submitted a request for the repatriation of the lock of hair and leggings. Don Tenoso is a lineal descendant of One Bull, whom he identified as both the nephew and the adopted son of Sitting Bull. In 2002, all of the Sioux tribes were notified of the repatriation request from Don Tenoso and were asked for assistance in locating additional descendants of Sitting Bull. At the same time, three individuals who had been identified as descendants were also notified of the repatriation request. Ernie LaPointe submitted a repatriation request in 2002 along with documentation that there were four living great-grandchildren of Sitting Bull: Ernie LaPointe, Marlene Little Spotted Horse-Anderson, Ethel Little Spotted Horse-Bates, and Lorene Lydia Little Spotted Horse-Red Paint. Marlene Little Spotted Horse-Anderson submitted a power of attorney document allowing Ernie LaPointe to represent her on issues pertaining to Sitting Bull. Ernie LaPointe stated that according to family oral tradition, One Bull was the nephew of Sitting Bull and had not been adopted as Sitting Bull's son, and he would not consider a joint repatriation with the descendants of One Bull. In 2006, Don Tenoso withdrew his repatriation request for the Sitting Bull items because he did not want the separate requests to divide the families.
Lineal descendants have the highest standing for making disposition decisions for repatriation under NAGPRA and under the Guidelines and Procedures for Repatriation of the National Museum of Natural History for the NMAI Act. When lineal descendants can be identified, the closest living generation of descendants has the highest standing and the first priority in making disposition decisions.
The lock of hair and leggings of Sitting Bull were loaned to the museum in 1896. The authority of Dr. Deeble, as a U.S. Army Surgeon, to acquire the lock of hair and leggings was evaluated in order to determine whether the National Museum of Natural History can consider the lock of hair and the leggings to be part of the museum collections. Under U.S. Army regulations in effect at the time, Dr. Deeble, did not have the legal authority to acquire personal items from Sitting Bull's body while employed as an Army Surgeon. In a 2003 letter, Lieutenant Colonel John Patrick of the Office of the Judge Advocate General stated that the Department of the Army had no legal interest in Sitting Bull's lock of hair and leggings. Since Dr. Deeble did not have the legal right to acquire these items and the Department of the Army has no legal interest in the items, the National Museum of Natural History has sufficient possession and control of the lock of hair and leggings to consider a repatriation request. The lock of hair falls under the category of human remains under the NMAI Act and it is recommended that the lock of hair be offered for repatriation to the lineal descendants of Sitting Bull. The leggings do not fall into any of the four categories of items eligible for repatriation under the NMAI Act: human remains, funerary objects, sacred objects and objects of cultural patrimony. However, Dr. Deeble, the collector of the leggings, did not have the legal right to acquire them from Sitting Bull as personal property because they were not obtained with the permission of Sitting Bull or his family at the time that they were acquired. Under long-standing Smithsonian policy, items acquired under circumstances that cast doubt on the validity of the Smithsonian's ownership or possession may be returned to a proper claimant. It is recommended that the leggings be offered for return to lineal descendants of Sitting Bull.
In 2007, it was recommended that the lock of hair and the leggings be offered for return to the closest living lineal descendants who have requested these items: Sitting Bull's great-grandchildren, Ernie LaPointe and Marlene Little Spotted Horse-Anderson. Ethel Little Spotted Horse-Bates and Lorene Lydia Little Spotted Horse-Red Paint, great-grandchildren of Sitting Bull who have not submitted a repatriation request, were notified of this decision. In order for the museum to proceed with the return, all individuals of equal standing as closest lineal descendants who have submitted a request for the lock of hair and leggings must be in agreement on the disposition of the items. Don Tenoso, the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, and all of the Sioux tribes were notified of this recommendation.
On December 5, 2007, Ernie LaPointe, the great-grandson of Sitting Bull, came to the National Museum of Natural History for the repatriation of the lock of hair and leggings.
Back to top