Hidden Native legacy finally published

By: 
JENNY GESSAMAN
Reporter

Tuesday night’s book signing at Keystone Bookstore showcased more than literary work: It showcased the crossing of cultural divides to preserve history.

“Crazy Horse: The Lakota Warrior’s Life and Legacy” details the life of the famous 19th-century Lakota warrior according to his descendants, the Edward Clown family.

The book is the product of over a decade of work. Author William Matson first made contact with the Clown family in 2001, after research into the Battle of the Little Big Horn interested him in Crazy Horse.

“The one thing that nobody in any of the books knew was who raised him,” Matson said.

After hitting more than a few dead ends, a ranger at Bear Butte State Park gave him the phone number of an Edward Clown family member.

Matson remembers approaching the family as a documentary filmmaker, bearing a script he had worked on for a year.

“They took one look at the script and said, ‘This is garbage. There’s nothing honest in it,’” he said.

They offered to tell him their family’s story, but with one caveat, according to Matson.

“They said they’d tell me the story if I stuck around long enough,” he said.

Matson’s timing coincided with the family’s step into public as Crazy Horse’s descendants, according to Floyd Eagle. Eagle is a member of the Clown family, and an administrator of Crazy Horse’s estate.

“2001 we got into a federal court case determining the blood heirs of the Crazy Horse estate,” he said.

Eagle explained that, up until that time, his family had kept their heritage quiet.

“Our grandfather was assassinated, and our family has been in hiding since,” he said. “2001 was when we were told to tell the truth.”

The family has documentation linking them to Crazy Horse, but Eagle said cultural tradition preserved the stories that fleshed out the Clown lineage.

“Edward Clown was the pipe keeper, the medicine keeper for our family, so he was told all of the stories that are in our book,” he said.

In 2001, the family decided to put the stories to paper, according to Eagle.

“This is a book we were told to make for our children and grandchildren, but when we got done with it, we were told to share it with the world,” he said.

Finishing the book was not as simple as writing words down, however. Eagle remembers the work his family and Matson did to verify the oral tradition.

“When we were making this book, we made sure we were seeing the truth of it,” he said. “We found the landmarks, the sites, so we’ve seen the truth of these stories with our own eyes.”

The book went to print more than a decade after it was started, with first editions coming out on Sept. 5, 2016.

“We’re already in the third print,” Floyd said. “The first print sold out in 10 days. I didn’t know that was a big deal in the book business.”

While the Clown family was able to tell their truth, Matson was also able to accomplish something.

“From my perspective, it was my father’s dying wish,” he said, referring to the promise he made his father to look into the Battle of the Little Bighorn.

Both feel they’ve produced a strong piece of work.

“It’s gratifying so many people have gotten back to us, and appreciated a new understanding of Crazy Horse and Lakota ways,” Matson said. “It’s also good to know this is preserved now, and that’s probably more important than anything else. One hundred years from now, this will still be here.”

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