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New DVD release presents the contested story of Crazy Horse

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RAPID CITY, S.D. - Many people today claim to have some blood tie to Crazy Horse, the revered warrior of the Lakota. People are proud to be connected with the name Crazy Horse, even though there is an ongoing battle over who has control over his intellectual property rights.

Those claiming descent are at odds with each other's version of the story. One side of the family, headed by Floyd Clown, a Minneconjou from the Cheyenne River Reservation who claims to be Crazy Horse's great-grandson, asserts that a DVD series his family put together tells the true story of Crazy Horse. A second family group has debunked the DVD as ''lies.''

''The Authorized Biography of Crazy Horse and His Family,'' part one of a four-part series, consists of three men telling the story of the Lakota and of the Crazy Horse family tree. The 99-minute film continually stresses that the reason for its existence is to tell the truth about the Crazy Horse family.

Anyone who has some knowledge of the Lakota will not acquire any additional historical information by viewing the film and may find some discrepancies.

Clown explained at the beginning of the film that the true story was not told because the family was silent for many years after the killing of Crazy Horse in 1877. They were afraid to admit any blood ties for fear of retribution. Clown said the story that is told was told to him and his sons by their grandfather and other elders.

As for the second family, the grandchildren of Amos Clown also have a story to tell, based on stories told by their grandfathers. These appear to be two different stories.

Why produce a DVD that allegedly tells the truth? Why all the controversy?

A 1995 lawsuit against the Hornell Brewing Co. of New York sparked court battles to determine the rightful heirs of the Crazy Horse estate. The lawsuit did not ask for money, but requested that the production of Crazy Horse Malt Liquor be stopped.

The late Seth Big Crow acted as the plaintiff in the lawsuit and was the administrator of the Crazy Horse estate. Additional court hearings are scheduled to determine the rightful heirs to the estate.

Floyd Clown pointed out in the DVD that Crazy Horse was Minneconjou, not Oglala, as most historians and many Lakota claim. Yvonne Kay Clown, granddaughter of Amos Clown, verified that Crazy Horse's father was Oglala. According to court documents, lineage in the Lakota culture is patriarchal. She also said that historians will ''tear the DVD apart and other medicine men will denounce it.''

Yvonne Kay Clown said that her family was told the story by her grandfather and father, and that the stories are not the same.

''We older ones grew up from these stories; we are adding a different light on this whole thing,'' Yvonne Kay Clown said.

The DVD attempts to tell the entire story of the Lakota from the beginning of time, but gets bogged down in the slow-moving dialogue storyline.

''We want to tell the truth to the people of this earth, not just our people; this applies to all, so right now it's a scary feeling because there's only a handful left,'' Floyd Clown said.

''We were on this earth with the dinosaurs,'' Clown said on film when he was telling of the history of his people.

''The Crazy Horse family oral history has been passed down since prehistoric times. This program was originally made for the Crazy Horse family children and their future children,'' the film stated.

The film also shows an alleged picture of Crazy Horse that was sketched by a Mormon in 1934. He ''came to my grandmother Julia; she described to him [the artist] the features and the scars on his face. The Mormon sketched it out. She cried; she said, 'That's him, that's what he looks like,''' said Ron Red Thunder, fifth-generation Crazy Horse grandson, in part two of the series.

Historians and elders alike have claimed for many generations that there is no image of Crazy Horse in existence.

Crazy Horse did not have any direct descendants; most family members belong to his parents' lineage.

The film is a Reel Contact production, produced by Bill Matson and Mark Frethem in association with Tashunka Witko Tiwahe.