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Teonna Rainwater has become an instrumental part of 1923. While it is unclear how her storyline connects to the Duttons now, she is likely related to Thomas Rainwater of Yellowstone.
Teonna Rainwater is a young Native American woman that is forced to attend a Catholic boarding school. The school tries to strip young women of their culture while forcing Catholicism upon them.
While at school, Teonna is both physically and sexually abused. When escaping from the school in episode 4, Teonna kills one of her abusers, Sister Mary.
After escaping and traveling through the badlands of Montana, she is found by a fell native American called Hank.
Hank and Teonna then travel together while making their way back to Teonna’s tribal home.
Teonna Rainwater is a part of the Crow Tribe in Montana. The tribe is also known as Apsáalooke, which translates to “children of the large-beaked bird.”
The Crow tribe is a Plains Tribe that once inhabited the Yellowstone River Valley, which reaches from Wyoming to the Missouri River.
By the second half of the 19th century, the Crow Indian Reservation was established. Today, the tribe’s primary location is in southern Montana.
As of today, the Crow people are federally recognized as the Crow Tribe of Montana. They currently have around 14,000 enrolled members.
The Crow tribe plays a vital role in the Yellowstone universe. Show creator Taylor Sheridan has worked alongside Crow Nation tribal chairman AJ Not Afraid to portray the hardships and history of the Crow people.
Also read: Who Plays Teonna Rainwater in 1923?
Teonna Rainwater speaks the Crow language, which is a part of the Missouri River Valley branch of Siouan languages.
Today, of the approximately 14,000 members of the Crow tribe, around 3,000 speak the Crow language.
At boarding school, Teonna is forced to speak English as her teachers try to wipe her of her identity. However, Teonna often speaks in her native language to defy her oppressors. She is unwilling to let the school take her culture away from her.
Sadly, the boarding school that Teonna attends in 1923 was the reality for many Native American children. The boarding schools began in the 1800s and there were said to be 18 that were located in Montana.
The goal of the boarding schools was to “civilize” or assimilate Native American youth into Western culture.
The schools attempted to erase the culture of Indigenous youth and force Christianity and Western ideals onto them. They would try to erase the native languages, religion and cultural practices of Native Americans.
Unfortunately, abuse frequently occurred at these boarding schools. Sadly, many children who attended these schools were subjected to emotional and physical abuse, with not all of them making it out alive.
From 1819 to 1969, 408 of these boarding schools existed across 37 states or territories. Known as federal Indian boarding schools, at least 84 of the institutions were Catholic.
While most of these schools had been closed or heavily reformed by the late 20th century, abuse still existed in these institutions.
“Sister Mary is a person who believes, as the people who were running these residential schools actually did believe, that you had to ‘kill the Indian to save the man.’ You had to force assimilation; you had to remove all cultural identity from these children who had been removed forcibly from their families and were living in isolation,” said Jennifer Ehle who plays Sister Mary in a recent interview.
1923 has shed light on this sad part of history that has often gone overlooked.
“Yeah, it’s hard. But being indigenous, it’s our duty to tell our stories and to tell them as strongly, quickly, and powerfully as we can. It’s what we’re born into, and we’re storytellers from the jump. Continuing to tell our story as honestly as we can is very important,” said Aminah Nieves who plays Teonna.
See a fascinating video of Aminah Nieves (Teonna Rainwater) and Jennifer Ehle (Sister Mary) talking about their characters and the struggles they faced: