‘1923’ stars Aminah Nieves and Jennifer Ehle break down the premiere’s most confrontational moments

Credit: Paramount

The Yellowstone universe is growing once again with the addition of 1923, and the first episode is packed full of high stakes and heavy emotions for every character to shoulder. One of the most heartbreaking storylines introduced to the universe so far is that of young Native American women at a boarding school in Montana.

Aminah Nieves and Jennifer Ehle play opposite roles in the school, but they’re both subjected to violence and malevolence at the hands of those who should be helping and guiding them. In a chat with TV Line, both Ehle and Nieves spoke about the brutality witnessed in the first episode and what that means for the future of the series.

When Nieves was asked why it was essential to bring this heartbreaking story of the indigenous women to life in 1923, she said that its because their stories are an integral part of the history of this country.

“Well, for all the reasons. This is a part of history. When I was doing this audition, actually, I went into Wyoming to do my last test, and that week is when the Pope finally apologized to the Indigenous Canadians. That was crazy for, I think, everyone in that room because a lot of people were actually from Canada that were also auditioning. That’s a huge reason why we do this. (The history of federal residential boarding schools) is something that we’re taught from the moment that we’re born, something that we feel within us. It’s something that lives with us whether we want it to or not. It’s going to live with our children. So doing this, it’s our duty, and it’s very important. I’m so honored to be here, to be telling our stories.”

Ehle was also asked about the dynamic between Teonna and Sister Mary, and she mentioned the levels of abuse that are taking place. It’s a cycle that leads back to the one in charge of it all, the menacing and villainous Father Renaud.

“As you say, there are these different dynamics of abuse that are happening. We have Sister Mary abusing the students that she’s attempting to force to assimilate, and then we see Sister Mary being abused by the priest who’s in charge of the school. So, we recognize at the end that we both are abused by him, but whether it changes the dynamic between the two of us is something that will unfold.”

Something will change between the two, and it just might be enough that Teonna is spared the fate that fans discovered most of the women from the boarding school suffer: vanishing into the great unknown. At least, that’s the polite way of saying it. After Teonna’s brutal beating, she spoke with another young woman from the boarding school about living long enough to get a husband; the thing is, Teonna doesn’t think that they’re going to make it out of the school at all. She mentions their friends who have aged out, saying they were good and honest women who have never contacted them upon leaving.

So what happens to them? Do they find happily ever after and refuse to look back, or is something more sinister at play? Fans will learn more about their stories as the series progresses, but with the knowledge that we’ve got now about the treacherous lives they endure at the boarding school; we’re not sure it’s sunshine and roses.

1923 airs new episodes on Sunday evenings, and we’ll soon find out what happens to the boarding school’s young women, for better or worse.