"They'd kill us," Floyd Clown said solemnly, repeating exactly what his elders had told him as he and his family learned to survive in the shadows. For years, Clown's family tried to hide their lineage for fear of retribution by the U.S. government that assassinated their grandfather, Crazy Horse. Their identity had been stripped away from them, but there was little for them to do except "just listen and walk away," Clown said.
Over the decades since, Clown said that the famous Native American's story had become so riddled with inaccuracies and misconceptions that the warrior became more mythos than man, but Crazy Horse's family wasn't brave enough to come out of the shadows to set the record straight -- until now.
"No more assumptions," Clown, grandson of Crazy Horse, said. "Just truth."
On Saturday, Clown and Author William Matson spoke at the Hopkins
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County Government Center in a special event hosted by the Hopkins County Genealogical Society. At the event, Matson and Clown detailed the life of Crazy Horse as well as shared their personal journeys that led to their collaboration in the 2016 novel, "Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior's Life & Legacy."
For more than a year, Clown and Matson have toured all across America and Europe to share the stories of Crazy Horse that were previously only told through oral tradition of the Lakota people. These stories aim to dispel common misconceptions about Crazy Horse, Clown said, such as the Native American's true lineage.
"For a long time, people kept saying he was Oglala, but he was really Minnikojou," Clown said, "His father and mother were both Minnikojou. So that's like saying an English man and an English woman had a German baby. It doesn't make any sense."
The book comes 15 years after Clown's family first publicly claimed their lineage in a federal court case against Hornell Brewing Co. over the commercial use of their grandfather's name. As part of the lawsuit, Clown's family produced a blood tree -- forged from probates, enrollments, allotments, census, ration listings and church records -- that directly tied Crazy Horse to 3,000 decedents.
"When we produced these blood trees, we found that there were 3,000 of us," Clown said. "And a lot of them didn't know they were of the family because that's how quiet their parents and grandparents had kept it."
According to Clown, the book's initial purpose was to serve as a history for those that had been deprived of the oral tradition out of fear for their lives. However, as the book was nearing completion, Clown and Matson decided to share it with the world.
And on Saturday, Clown and Matson decided to share it specifically with Madisonville.
Native American culture is something I've been interested in since childhood." Amy Herring said, sitting front row minutes before the opening, "It's American history."
Herring said that both the plight and rich history of the Native American people has often been overlooked, and she was excited to hear the stories of the famed warrior and his family.
A crowd of people just like Herring listened to the story of Clown and Matson's journeys that converged at just the right time.
As Clown was fighting the legal system for his family, Matson was fighting to pay tribute to his own.
Matson was interested in making a documentary related to the Battle of Little BigHorn as tribute to his father's dying wish, Matson said at the event, and a series of tangential dead-ends eventually led him to the Clown family.
"I thought it was an obligation to my father," Matson said, "But later I found that it was a gift."
Matson and Clown's family developed a kinship out of their mutual desire for what no book or movie could ever deliver -- the truth about Crazy Horse.
"When we made this book for the family, everything made about my grandfather -- 500 books and movies -- was now all assumptions," Clown said. "They're not true. They're fiction. They were writing about somebody they didn't know. We're told no more assumptions. Time for truth."
According to Clown, that's why that, unlike other books about Crazy Horse, there is not a single reference page at the end of "Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior's Life & Legacy."
"This is directly from the blood family," Clown said. "We didn't get it from anything that was made out there. This is directly from our oral history."
They lived in the shadows for more than 100 years. Now, with this book, they step out into the light.
"Growing up, we were taught to never tell our identity," Clown said. "Now, I can say that I am the grandson of Crazy Horse."