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Aminah Nieves plays Teonna Rainwater in the Yellowstone prequel, 1923. Teonna is a young Indigenous woman who is forced to attend a horrific government-run boarding school designed to strip her of her language and culture. However, she rebels by speaking her native language in front of the nuns who run the school. Here’s what language Nieves is speaking.

Aminah Nieves plays Teonna in 1923. Teonna sits on her bed wearing a white night gown and holding a Bible. She has short hair and black markings on her face.
Aminah Nieves as Teonna Rainwater in ‘1923’ | Emerson Miller/Paramount+

Native American boarding schools forbid children from speaking their native languages

1923 tells the horrific true story of American boarding schools designed to force Indigenous children to assimilate to white culture. As the series portrays, these schools were rife with horrific abuse. According to Northern Plains Reservation Aid, Col. Richard Henry Pratt established the most well-known of the off-reservation boarding schools, the Carlisle Indian School, which set the standard for schools like the one Teonna attends.

Pratt’s horrific motto was, “Kill the Indian, save the man.” The outlet writes, “Carlisle and other off-reservation boarding schools instituted their assault on Native cultural identity by first doing away with all outward signs of tribal life that the children brought with them.” This included forbidding Native American children to speak their native languages.


‘1923’ Release Time: What Time Are New Episodes Released on Paramount+?

Aminah Nieves and Leenah Robinson speak Crow in ‘1923’

Teonna Rainwater rebels in many ways, including speaking her native language to the nuns that run the boarding school. During prayer, Teonna says, “I’d rather be hit than eat this,” in her language, which earns her a slap from Sister Mary.

In another scene, Teonna and her friend Baapuxti [Leenah Robinson] whisper a conversation together from their beds. During an interview with Taste of Country, Aminah Nieves revealed that she and Leenah Robinson both speak Crow.

“Crow is a beautiful language, and having a native language be highlighted is so important,” Nieves continued. In the most recent episode of 1923, Teonna endures more brutal torture at the hands of the nuns. Finally having had enough, she smothers Sister Mary before running away from the school.

While killing the nun, Teonna says in Crow, “Know this is my language. Know these are the words of this land. Know I am the land. It is the land that is killing you. I am the land, and I am killing you.”

Aminah Nieves and Leenah Robinson became close on the set of ‘1923’

1923 actors Aminah Nieves and Leenah Robinson clearly formed a strong bond while filming the show. The subject matter was undoubtedly difficult to get through at times, and the pair had each other to lean on behind the scenes.

Robinson captioned an Instagram photo of herself and Nieves, writing, “My sister through and through. Thank you for holding me up when I couldn’t, giving me strength to keep going and tell this story. You are everything I needed, and I’m so grateful to have met you in this lifetime.”

She continued, “For my indigenous friends and family, please, please, please watch with caution, you are so loved and strong. Thank you from the bottom of my heart. 1923, you have changed my life, thank you.”

1923 returns with episode 5 on February 5 only on Paramount+.