So far on 1923, we’ve watched Teonna suffer, then escape, one the most horrific tragedies in North American history. But who is this resilient young woman? And is she also an ancestor to one of our other favorite Yellowstone characters? Let’s take a look at the clues courtesy of our chat with Teonna herself, Aminah Nieves, alongside behind the scene details, the first half of 1923’s Season 1, and the shocking real-life history that inspired it to find out.
But first, please beware of spoilers for 1923 and Yellowstone ahead!
Played by wildly talented newcomer Aminah Nieves, Teonna is widely believed to be an ancestor of Yellowstone’s Thomas Rainwater (Gil Birmingham). This has yet to be confirmed in the show, however. In fact, when I asked Aminah herself about this very topic, she had the following to say while filming Season 1:
“I mean, I don’t know if I’m the ancestor, but I do know I’m representing a new human being in this world.”Aminah Nieves to Outsider
Aminah could be playing coy. Or, she could genuinely not know if she is Thomas’ ancestor, as she would also tell me later into the interview that she has not watched Yellowstone. She did, however, offer another important insight into her character:
“We’re in Crow Nation. Teonna is Crow.”Aminah Nieves to Outsider
So we know Teonna is of the Crow Nation, who have lived in Southern Montana (and across the West) for centuries. And to help guide her into the landscape Teonna lived, Aminah has had one of 1923’s strongest connections to Yellowstone in series MVP Mo Brings Plenty.
Mo Brings Plenty Helped Guide Aminah Nieves Through Teonna’s Brutal ‘1923’ Journey
“We were so fortunate to have Mo Brings Plenty and Birdie Real Bird on set with us, they were there every day,” Nieves told me, adding that the role is “a big responsibility and a deep honor.”
She’s become close with Brings Plenty in the process, smiling “Mo is like my uncle now! Mo is my heart.”
1923’s most affecting scenes deal with the real-life history of Indigenous Americans during this time period. Chiefly, this was the brutal assimilation and indoctrination of Indigenous American children by Christian boarding schools, which played out as horrifically as we see in 1923.
Children of the First Nations were forced to abandon their families, cultures, and lives while suffering merciless abuse. Countless children died as a result of these schools. Taylor Sheridan brings this oft-skimmed over issue to the forefront through brutally-truthful filmmaking, showing how these Christian “schools” were run, and how the Indigenous children were actually treated in American history.
Teonna is at the center of this tragedy as she battles the ruthless Sister Mary (Jennifer Ehle). It’s a violent, tough watch, But it represents a truth that should never be forgotten.
Teonna’s Family History Unfolds in ‘1923’
Teonna is determined to make it out of this hellish place alive. And after murdering Sister Mary, she does. But the school sends law enforcement after her, meaning her struggle is far from over. Before she escapes, however, we meet her who we can only assume is Teonna’s grandmother in Episode 2, who has come in search of her granddaughter. Here, we find out Teona’s mother is dead, and the only way her grandmother can claim her is to legally adopt her through a local judge. We also learn that her grandmother is looking for her inside Montana’s Indian Affairs Office of the Lodge Grass Reservation.
Lodge Grass is a real town on the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. Teonna, however, is in North Dakota.
She has a long journey home as a result. But if she gets back to southern Montana, she’s likely to be instrumental in the future of her ancestral region. And this, I’d say, is how the Broken Rock Reservation of Yellowstone will be established if it hasn’t been already by 1923’s time. Curiously, we also learn from Teonna’s grandmother that her father works the reservation herd in Montana, meaning we likely met him earlier in Episode 2 without even knowing it as Zane brought all those begotten sheep to their land.
Will this Reservation land bordering the Yellowstone be where Teonna returns to? And is she an ancestor of the man who will come to lead Broken Rock in the 21st century, Yellowstone’s Thomas Rainwater?
Meet Teonna Rainwater
Paramount has yet to refer to her officially as “Teonna Rainwater” in press materials, sure. But the studio has, in fact, already confirmed her identity. And they did so way back in the original trailer for the show. Have another listen in our video breakdown above. There, you’ll hear it: a definitive answer on Teonna’s full name, Teonna Rainwater.
That name will no doubt come into play as law enforcement searches for Teonna after her escape. She also may give us another direct connection to Yellowstone when she has an intense wolf encounter during said escape.
Now, keep in mind this could be a coyote judging by what we see in 1923’s mid-season trailer. But if it is a wolf… Wolves have had a prominent presence throughout every season of Yellowstone, from the dead national park wolves in Season 5, to Kayce’s vision quest in Season 4 and his sightings in every previous season, right over to Mo’s own explanations of the wolf’s symbolic importance. As for how the wolf may factor into Teonna’s destiny, or if she is a direct ancestor of Thomas Rainwater, though, we’ll just have to wait and see.
Where do you hope to see Teonna’s story lead as 1923 continues exclusively on Paramount Plus? Let us know in the comments om our YouTube breakdown. Hit us with any predictions you have for her relation to Thomas Rainwater, too. And be sure to subscribe to Outsider for weekly Yellowstone content, too. We’ll see y’all soon when 1923 returns this Sunday, February 5 exclusively on Paramount Plus.