Ernie LaPointe

Great Grandson Chief Sitting Bull (Tatanka lyotake)



Ernie LaPointe is the only living Great Grandson of the famous Chief Sitting Bull.  I am fascinated by the history surrounding Orlando Scott Goff, a wet plate photographer that was established here in Bismarck in the 1800's.   I quickly learned that Mr. Goff took the very first photograph of Sitting Bull right here in Bismarck.  This led me to identify his studio on Main Street and ultimately this led me to Ernie LaPointe.  A simple call to his residence led to a wonderful conversation and the start of a new friendship.  Within a weeks time Ernie had traveled to my wet plate studio on September 6th, 2014.   Ernie and I spent the day together sharing stories, history and even a meal together.  We took ten wet plate images of Ernie (see below).  We both thought it was a very important exercise to take a wet plate of Sitting Bull's Great Grandchild 133 years after the first wet plate was ever taken of the great Chief. 

Below is the wet plate image of Sitting Bull that was taken in 1881 along with a portrait of Goff from 1907.  Goff's Wet Plate Studio was on the 2nd Floor of the then Block House Building on Mainstreet, Bismarck, ND (then and present).  The Block Building was not complete until 1883, so the image of Sitting Bull must have been taken at an alternate location or site. 

See Ernie LaPointe's Wikipedia Page


Bismarck Tribune, May 12th, 1949 Newpaper Article:

"It was taken in Bismarck by 0. S. Goff on AUG. 1, 1881. (Copyright 1881 by 0. S. Goff and reproduced by permission of his daughter, Mrs. Bessie Goff Oldson). To have the "white man shadow-catcher" point his little black box at him--it would mean that some part of his spirit would be taken away from him. The more times his picture was taken, the more of his spirit he would lose. So, at first, the Sioux chief refused' to enter Goff's studio. Finally, however, upon the promise of the photographer to pay him $50 he consented. Sitting stiffly upright and holding his pipe across his arms, he permitted Goff to make one negative, then collected his $50 and hastily left the studio. In the nine years of life still left to him, Sitting Bull would have his picture taken many more times. But this photograph, made by Orlando Scott Goff in Bismarck in 1881, is probably the most interesting and most important, historically, of any ever taken."

Dustin White the editor of the Mandan News did a series of articles about the history surrounding Sitting Bull and Orlando Goff and details my wet plate session with Ernie LaPointe.   (Click Below to see series)

CLICK HERE to read Dustin White's words in the Midwestern Scout on the Anniversary of Sitting Bull's Death 12-15-2016

CLICK HERE to view Emily Ergen from the Historical Society talk about Ernie Lapointe's Plate "Eternal Field" 7-21-2016

CLICK HERE to see "The Grand River at Sitting Bull's Cabin" Blog 7-9-2016

Article #1 - Sept. 16th, 2014 "The Story of Ernie LaPointe"

Article #2 - Sept. 18th, 2014 "An amazing journey: the making of history"

Article #3 - Oct. 2nd, 2014 "Capturing a piece of history: LaPointe's photo shoot"

Article #4 - Oct. 10th, 2014 "Ending an Amazing Journey; Preserving History"

CLICK HERE to see article in Dakotafire about my "Eternal Field" Ernie LaPointe Shoot, November 2014

The Legacy of Sitting Bull - Wet Plate Session Revisited by Shane B. Balkowitsch, Bismarck, North Dakota



On October 2nd, 2014, the North Dakota State Historical Society at the Heritage Center admitted into their permanent archive my wet plate "Eternal Field".  What an honor for Ernie and I. 


CLICK HERE for More on the Sitting Bull Family Foundation

CLICK HERE for Historic Wet Plates from "Buffalo Bill's Wild West" Show from 1898

CLICK HERE to see "Eternal Field" indexed in the Digital Horizons Archival Site

CLICK HERE for purchase Ernie's Book "Sitting Bull, His Life and Legacy"

Contact Information:
Shane Balkowitsch, Ambrotypist
Nostalgic Glass
4419 Centurion Dr.
Bismarck, ND 58504
(701)223-9936 Phone

- Click Here to Visit my Zenfolio Wet Plate Catalog -

Wet Plate Images

of Ernie LaPointe taken on Sept. 6th, 2014










"Eternal Field"

Historic Wet Plate Photographs of Sitting Bull

This picture by D.F. Barry was taken 1883 after Sitting Bull returned from Ft. Randall, SD where he and his band were held captive for 2 years.





1885, Sitting Bull and Buffalo Bill


1881, by Orlando Scott Goff, Bismarck, North Dakota



1885, by William Notman & Son, Montreal, Canada

1881 with Hat




Copyright Note: All referenced photographs, images and logos provided above are for informational purposes only and they are the property of their respective owners.  Mike and John LaLonde were kind enough to take the behind the scene images of Ernie.