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About The daily Astorian. (Astoria, Or.) 1961-current | View Entire Issue (Nov. 23, 2017)
NOVEMBER 23, 2017 // 7
Who was Crazy Horse?
DESCENDANTS OF LAKOTA WARRIOR SHARE TRUE STORY OF THEIR FAMILY ANCESTRY
COURTESY EDWARD CLOWN FAMILY
ABOVE: According to Floyd Clown, Sr., no photographs were ever taken of Crazy Horse. A migrant artist sketched this drawing from a description
given to him by Iron Cedar, half-sister to Crazy Horse, who upon seeing the drawing cried at the resemblance. RIGHT: Julia Iron Cedar, half-sister
to Crazy Horse stands next to Amos Old Eagle Clown the day their son Moses was brought home from Europe in 1919.
By REBECCA HERREN
ozens of books have been written about
Crazy Horse rife with misconceptions
and inaccuracies, filled with fiction
and myths passed on as fact from book
to book in the annals of American history.
These sources often stress rigid beliefs about
indigenous people and their culture.
Over the course of 14 years, author Wil-
liam B. Matson documented the oral history
of the Edward Clown family. Floyd Clown,
Sr., and Doug War Eagle joined Matson at a
book discussion and signing of “Crazy Horse:
The Lakota Warrior’s Life & Legacy” held
this month at the Book Warehouse in Seaside.
Matson began by answering the one ques-
tion he is always asked: “How did you come
to work with the Crazy Horse family?”
He said it began with a promise he made
to his father who was dying from lympho-
ma — a promise to finish a project Matson’s
father started years earlier.
“My story starts before I was born when
my dad was in the 7th Cavalry of George
Armstrong Custer during World War II,”
Matson said. “They used to ask him, ‘Who
won the Battle of the Little Bighorn,’ and he
answered, ‘the Indians did.’ And, that was
the wrong answer.”
Though his father never elaborated fur-
ther, he was punished for his response.
After the war, Matson’s father researched
the Native American side of history and
wanted to write a book through the Native
voice about what really happened at Little
Bighorn, Matson said, “but life got in the
Matson’s father died before he got that
Matson, who intended to make a doc-
umentary of his father’s project, met with
hard lessons about American history and the
culture of Native Americans. His research
led him to Eugene Little Coyote, who told
Matson during a phone conversation he did
have stories to tell about Little Bighorn.
‘Open your heart’
Matson went to Montana to meet Little
Coyote, but before he would share the
stories, he took Matson to the library, said,
“Read these” and walked away.
And so he read, from a historical point of
view. Matson noted what he read “did not
make sense or come together well.”
His second contact took him to South Da-
kota. However, the meeting never took place
because, as Matson said, “He stood me up.”
With time on his hands, he drove to
Bear Butte, a sacred mountain, to think of
a different approach because the historical
one wasn’t working. He began climbing
and, as he put it, “being a white guy, all the
spirituality happens at the top.” Half way
up, according to Matson, his father spoke
to him and said, “Open your heart,” which
meant “I needed to know the spiritual side or
I wouldn’t know the whole story.”
Once Matson read the spiritual aspect
he’d missed from all those books, it all came
together. But to get the story, he needed to
know the families and earn their trust.
He first met Doug War Eagle, one of
the three administrators of the Crazy Horse
estate. “We were expecting you. [They] told
us you were coming from the west,” War
Eagle said. Matson said he didn’t know how
to react, but went along with it.
War Eagle told Matson the family would
tell him their story, but first Matson needed
to join them in a sweat lodge to determine if
his heart was good — and it was.
Time for truth
From the 1930s to 2001, the descendants
— or blood relatives — of Crazy Horse were
in hiding. In 2001, through guidance from
their ancestors, they were ready to share
their story as told to them, clarify inaccura-
cies and put the myths and assumptions to
“Our ancestors told us it was now time
REBECCA HERREN PHOTO
Author William B. Matson (right) is joined by
Doug War Eagle (left) and Floyd Clown, Sr.
(center), descendants of Lakota warrior Crazy
Horse, to discuss and sign copies of their book
“Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior’s Life & Lega-
cy” at the Book Warehouse.
for the truth, time to correct everything
about our grandfather and our family,”
stating how all the books ever written about
Crazy Horse and his family “are all wrong,”
Floyd Clown said.
Because Crazy Horse has no direct
descendants, the Clown family is related by
blood through his half-sister, Iron Cedar,
who passed on their life history, including
the attack on Lt. Col. Fetterman; the Wound-
ed Knee massacre; the battles of Rosebud
and Little Big Horn; and the murder of
Crazy Horse at Fort Robinson. Clown also
noted that Crazy Horse had a premonition of
his demise 15 months before his death.
It was after Crazy Horse’s death that the
family began their descent into hiding and
decades of silence. They were told, if anyone
spoke of Crazy Horse or of members of the
family, to listen, then walk away.
Clown described how the family was
fearful of government retribution because
of incidents that transpired throughout the
years, and how they went to great lengths to
remain anonymous, only to speak out when
given signs by their ancestors.
Though the book is a compelling addition
to the works about Crazy Horse, Clown said,
“It is the only one that is the truth. It is our
way of ensuring everyone knows the truth
about my grandfather and our family. We
share our story so it remains true to the story
our ancestors told, and the life Crazy Horse
and his family lived.”
Time to heal
Between the two Dakota grandfathers
there are 8,000 blood relatives of Crazy
Horse, but it is Clown, War Eagle and
another, Don Red Thunder, who are the sole
administrators. They often speak at historical
gatherings, national parks and book signings
about their history.
“When our grandfather was here, he was
trying to preserve our land, our legacy to
protect our ancestry,” Clown said referenc-
ing the 8.7 million acres of Black Hills land
confiscated by the Act of 1877. Today, they
are working on preserving their ancestral
land, sovereignty and way of life. “It’s time
to heal our family.” CW