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Who Plays Teonna Rainwater On 1923?

The Sunday night premiere of Taylor Sheridan's "1923," a prequel to the Paramount+ hit "Yellowstone" was, like its predecessor, filled with conflict, violence, and strong performances. "1923" stars Harrison Ford and Helen Mirren as Jacob and Cara Dutton; Jacob serves as the Montana Commissioner of Agriculture and faces the challenge of mediating the conflict between Montana sheepherders and cattle ranchers, who are fighting over scarce land suitable for grazing. When not following the flocks and herds and the men who tend to them, "1923" focuses on the struggles of a young Native American girl, Teonna Rainwater,  and her battles with the strict Irish Catholic nuns and priests who run the boarding school she attends. 

Teonna endures all kinds of abuse at the hands of those who have been charged with educating and protecting her and does so with as much grace and dignity as could be expected of someone subjected to repeated scoldings, beatings, and worse. But just who is the young actor tasked with this challenging and dramatic role on a show that features two of Hollywood's most beloved acting legends at the top of its call sheet?

Aminah Nieves is no stranger to shows set in the American frontier

The rebellious Teonna Rainwater is played by Aminah Nieves, who made her acting debut last year in "Blueberry" as Elsa, who convinces her friend Maya (Maya Danzig) to run away with her from Iowa to South Dakota. Nieves also appeared in the 2021 film"V/H/S/99" as a young punk musician named Clarissa (via IMDb). 

The school Teonna attends in "1923" is modeled after government-run boarding schools of the era that were designed to erase Native languages and cultures, and Teonna fights back against her teacher, Sister Alice (Jennifer Ehle), and is further physically and verbally abused in response. 

When asked by Decider if bringing this dark chapter of American history to life on screen was difficult for her, Nieves answered, "100%, but I think it's all a part of the healing process and paying respects to and honoring our ancestors." Nieves and Ehle also spoke of the tactics they used to get through the traumatic scenes that they shared, including tap patterns and safe words. "Yeah, we had it all," Nieves said. "After every take, we would just hug it out. After those scenes were finished, we would cry together. I was very safe.

Ehle added, "Sometimes working the dark stuff is the most fun to do. This wasn't fun. This one wasn't fun." Nieves does a brilliant job of bringing the trauma suffered at the hands of countless young Native children to the screen, and will no doubt earn many more future roles with her powerful performance in "1923."