Johnny Depp as Cultural Appropriation Jack Sparrow…I mean Tonto.

March 8, 2012 — 108 Comments

Entertainment Weekly just posted the “first look” of Johnny Depp as Tonto in the new Lone Ranger movie. I’m really at a loss for words right now. I…can’t.

There was a bunch of controversy over the casting of Johnny Depp to begin with–and I was right on board, mad that they hadn’t cast a Native actor in the role. The Johnny defenders note that he has Indian heritage that he’s proud of…so proud that he says it probably started with a rape:

“The interesting thing, if you find out you’ve got Native American blood, which a lot of people do, is you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or [John Ehle's] Trail of Tears, you have to think, somewhere along the line, I’m the product of some horrific rape. You just have that little sliver in your chemical makeup.”

and this:

“I guess I have some Native American (in me) somewhere down the line. My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.”

That’s a whole ‘nother post. But I think it gives you some context as to how “connected” and “proud” Johnny is of his ancestry. Always the Cherokee great-grandma, amiright?

Every article since the casting decision has stressed how this version of the Lone Ranger is going to be much more about Tonto, and he’s going to be given a bigger role, and that Depp hopes to “reinvent” the relationship between the two characters:

“When the idea came up [for the movie], I started thinking about Tonto and what could be done in my own small way try to — ‘eliminate’ isn’t possible — but reinvent the relationship, to attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans, not only in The Lone Ranger, but the way Indians were treated throughout history of cinema, and turn it on its head.”

If this horrific image is “an attempt to take some of the ugliness thrown on the Native Americans…and turn it on it’s head”, I don’t want to live on this planet anymore.

He looks like they just took the Captain Jack Sparrow costume and removed the pirate hat, put a bird on it, and added some menacing facepaint.Or wait, they already did that:

(Pirates 2)

(Lone Ranger)

The Tonto costume is a mish-mash of stereotypical Indian garb, a Plains-style breastplate with a southwest-style headband (minus the effing bird), random feathers and beads–but the face paint that makes him look evil, forlorn, and angry all at once is a nice touch. Then, the fact that the publicity photo shows the “wild” and “unruly” (ok, I’ll say it, “savage”) Tonto behind the clean, polished, (and white) Lone Ranger is a great “honoring” to Native people too, and shows how much agency Tonto has, right? (/sarcasm)

You guys, I’m pissed off. Like for real. I had a teensy-tiny bit of hope that this wouldn’t be another othering-stereotype-filled-horror, but clearly I was so wrong. This movie has a budget of like $215 million. That big of a budget, and you couldn’t have hired a Native consultant, or shoot–even asked  a Native person from the community you’re purporting to represent (Tonto’s Apache, right?) what the character should look like?

Yeah, I know this is *fiction* I know it’s not supposed to be *real*–but 99% of audiences aren’t able to separate images like this on the screen from real, live, Native peoples. History and every other stereotypical hollywood portrayal has taught us that.

But if the movie comes out and I am totally, totally wrong. I’m prepared to eat crow. Starting with that hideous one on Johnny’s head.

Entertainment Weekly: Johnny Depp and Armie Hammer as Tonto and The Lone Ranger — FIRST LOOK
Entertainment Weekly: Johnny Depp wants ‘The Lone Ranger’ to back off Tonto: ‘Why is the f–––ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?’

 

UPDATE: here are the other blog posts in my “Tonto series”

3/16/2012: Why Tonto Matters

4/24/2012: Johnny Depp as Tonto: I’m still not feeling honored

7/16/2012: Real Indians Don’t Care About Tonto

 

(Thanks @deluxvivens!)

Adrienne K.

Posts

  • http://www.facebook.com/shane.m.maurice Shane Michael Maurice

    Holy shit that is to fun using a white guy to be an native…; thought this was the 21century.

  • http://twitter.com/neetainari Neeta Inari

    Meanwhile in Finland, an entertainment publication likens the movie’s portrayal of Tonto to our favourite vintage racist depiction of indigenous people: http://www.v2.fi/uutiset/viihde/12899/Johnny-Depp-nayttaa-lappalaiselta-zombielta-Yksinaisessa-ratsastajassa/

    But really, depictions like this are the reason why people wouldn’t know authentic Native American garb if it kicked them in the teeth. Maybe the audience is savvy enough to understand that the bird is just a ludicrous “artistic addition”, but the rest? Nobody will even notice, because these stories are what’s “real” to anyone who isn’t native themself.
    I really appreciate this blog and the work you do for highlighting these issues. Thank you!

  • Rachel Kantstopdaphunk

    dammit! no! Johnny! noooooooooooooooo!!!!!! oh the humanity.

  • http://twitter.com/MixdBludMessags L. Catherine

    Not surprising that Depp’s education on Natives comes from two books written by white guys. I can’t wait what to see what other horrible comments Depp will dredge up about his Native ancestry as the release date gets closer.

    Oh and fyi, In the original radio program Tonto was said to be from the Potawatomi tribe.

    • Whirlwitch

      I’m going to go out on a limb and say the Potawatomi are not known for wearing fake birds on their heads.

  • Gareth Clayton

    Excellent assessment and research as ever! What to do, boycott or critically view? I think giving any money to this would be wrong from the outset…

    • mausium

      You’re really not going to miss anything THAT spectacular by boycotting.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=714613800 Kernan Coleman

    The sad, noble savage makeup creates lot’s of that “angst” the judges on America’s Next Top Model were looking for. I hoped for better from Mr. Depp . . .

  • broni

    o dear, and yet another hammering of native people.. as u say why werent u consulted about how appropriate the ‘dressing’ of ‘tonto’ was… and y have they not gotten a native to play the part… i am sure there are heaps of talented native guys who would have been perfect for the part… i like johnny but not like this… and what is with the bird on his head?? I am not from your part of the world but that doesnt look right to me… or am I wrong….

  • C. D. Leavitt

    A friend of mine and I were discussing this and he pointed out that he doubted he’d be able to identify the differences between the clothing of a 19th century British person and a 19th century French person, as a defense for the hodge-podge of looks there. [Edit: A sort of "devil's advocate" defense; he understood what was problematic.]

    But even if someone wasn’t able to see the differences in clothing, they’d know there was a difference in both nations and that they also have a modern presence and modern clothing. Additionally, the religious and cultural differences between the British and French are negligible when compared to the diversity in Indian Nations.

    But images like this help further mask all of this. It reinforces Native Americans as relics of the past, from some vague “Indian culture” that they all share. An actual Native American actor, playing Tonto as a man who must negotiate between many cultures (his own, those of any other Nations he interacts with, and the white man he keeps company with) rather than a white actor in red-face might have actually been something to see.

    This is just grotesque.

    • JupiterPluvius

      Well, if the main character in the film was a Canadian who was traveling across Europe, and while in the mountains of Greece he met a Scotsman who wore lederhosen, lived in a windmill, and made amazing spaghetti, I think your friend would figure out that someone hadn’t done the research!

  • fnarf

    Compare Depp’s getup to this painting by Kirby Sattler: http://kirbysattler.sattlerartprint.com/

    The painting is entitled “I am Crow”, but the only Crow would would be wearing a bird on his head would be a shaman, I think. I rather doubt Tonto is either Crow or shaman.

    Sattler seems to be well-meaning but is still just retailing the same old, same old undifferentiated “Native American” tropes about spirituality, metaphysics, The Great Spirit, and so on, yadda yadda. I don’t think his painting is meant to be a particular tribe, and that is in fact a particular problem.

    Depp is, I think, just kind of stupid.

    • http://twitter.com/MiseryXchord MiseryXchord

      Sattler says,

      “My paintings are interpretations based upon the nomadic tribes of the 19th century American Plains. The subjects are my fabrications made up from a variety of visual references and my imagination. I am not a historian, nor an ethnologist. Being of non-native blood, without personal history, it would be presumptuous to portray the subject I paint from any other view than as an artist with an innate interest in the world’s indigenous cultures. I purposely do not denote a tribal affiliation to the majority of my subjects, rather, I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy.”

      http://kirbysattler.sattlerartprint.com/artist.html

      • fnarf

        Yeesh. To me that just says “you aren’t real to me; I’m going to make up a bunch of stuff”. Sensibilities without knowledge is nothing. The Plains Indians of the 19th century were real people; and their descendants today are real too.

        The painting looks exactly like Depp’s makeup and headdress.

  • Gday3487

    i completely agree and think this is pretty disgusting. Johnny claims that he wanted to re-invent the native stereotype surronding Tonto, then why couldnt he use his hollywood powers of persuasion to get some of our fine native actors like Wes Studi, Gary Farmer, Adam Beach anybody to help with the intrepretation. We could have given him a mixed blood character so he wouldnt feel left out and could still wear his silly costumes. Its hard to believe that an actor that seems to be professional, with a keen interest in native topics would allow for this to happen. If i could contact his people and start haressing them about his decision I would, someone needs to go break into his trailer and let him know this isn’t okay. Thanks for the blog posting, as soon as I saw the picture I tried to find as many articles on this as I could. No doubt he will have much to answer for in the next few weeks since we natives (I am Ho Chunk/Winnebago) are connected, alive and angry at this continuing injustice.

  • Kym Lambert

    Could it be…could it just possibly be, that he’s actually playing it as some crazy white guy wannabee? A comedic lesson in the wrongness of it? Please? I can’ think of anything else and I actually liked Depp.

  • Cmorgan1

    Didn’t they film it in a well populated Native town? I mean I’m Navajo and I love Johnny Depp and it is wrong that they didn’t star an apache native as the star, but they’re spending a lot of money on this project, they need good actors for it, I’m sure they took much consideration to the native american culture because Johnny spent a week in Navajo Nation capitol experiencing our culture.

  • http://glennfriesen.com/ Glenn Friesen

    Horrible. At least they’re not performing the equivalent of blackface for native americans… oh, wait, that’s exactly what it is. — Redface? –

    • M. Specialfxlady

      It seems as if this is being done so much that we need to actually make Redface a term if it doesn’t already exist.

      • Kat

        Of course exists redface as a term! It’s the completely standard term for non-Native actors playing NDNs. You guys must be totally new to this?

        • M. Specialfxlady

          I’m not totally new here but I haven’t used the term myself. Now that I know the literal meaning–instead of what I inferred–I’ll use it when appropriate.

  • 8mph Ansible

    Same ol shit, so it must be a day that ends in the letter “y”. But I still wanna kick in the teeth of so many people in that project..

    Sometimes I really really hate being right; just like with the Last Airbender I called so much of what would happen: mishmash of Native cultures from multiple areas, probably only one piece of attire from the correct nation (isn’t Tonto labeled Apache?), if at all, whiteboy with tenuous connection and knowledge to Native heritage(if at all), garb is partly made-up or even anachronistic, attire is supposedly entirely NDN because we obviously never owned or traded or adapted other peoples’ clothing to suit our taste and white boy in whiteface warpaint playing an NDN(which somehow mildly amuses me) just to name a few.

    Bet Tonto is also gonna be a bit on the mystical side and not even use a gun (yeah because we never knew how to use those at all),

    Same ol’ shit that’ll just reinforce the same ol’ bullshit about us. Almost makes me wanna go for Kym’s hail mary optimism that’ll turn into something different. I’ll be so happy to be wrong.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=625734217 Bridget Paley

    What Meryl Streep wasn’t available?

  • RedIndianGirl

    I just really hate this. Whenever there’s an opportunity to make a really bold statement about colonization and eradication and all the other things that happened to indigenous people, the powers that be — namely the white writers, directors, and studio heads revert to type and just narrate whatever cultural statement about indigenous people is currently “fashionable.” Witness Cowboys and Aliens, which has to be the worst piece of shit (notwithstanding Avatar) in recent memory. I’ll eat crow with you if it’s better than we fear it is, but I’m certainly not holding out much hope.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000854014288 Kali Shey

    I don’t see anything in that quote that seems like he’s proud of the possible rape of a Native woman… it seems more like he is just being honest and aware of how things were for them back then. I also don’t see him flaunting the small part of his ancestry which is Cherokee. In fact, his ethnicity was a matter of debate for a long time. A lot of people (myself included) thought he was part Romani (and, actually, I still do… I think the French side of his bloodline is Sinti or Black Dutch).

  • Saje Williams

    I first heard about this today. I generally really like Johnny Depp’s work, but this is just offensive.

  • hyena

    I heard they did have a native consultant, a woman who is known for her powwow dancing….however I can’t remember the name! I heard someone say that yeah they could see how she’d “consult”/allow this as they shrugged and cringed.

    • Reelndn

      Jahne Meyers,( Commanche ) is a public person and involved in pow-wow and some consulting. I understand the native tribe of choice this time around for Disney, is Commanche, so that would follow. Hollywood has now gone from Potawatomi, Navajo and Apache, to now “Tonto ” being Commanche. Our organization (AIIFT ) will be monitoring the film and issue a press release in the future. We have met with Disney and expressed our concerns to no avail. Stay tuned. (Sonny Skyhawk, Founder, American Indians in Film & Television)

  • Jerry Ferraccio

    Why this role wasn’t given to Adam Beach or a HOST of other talented Native American actors is BEYOND ME!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

      And then the silly looking costume would be OK? Because the costume is what is being called out in this blog.

      • http://twitter.com/NatWu NatWu

        Don’t take out your anger on a guy whose point is still valid.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

          Don’t take out your cultural elitism on someone who asked a valid question.

          The blog says it’s about the photos showing the costume choices that have just been released, not the casting because “That’s a whole ‘nother post”.

          So given the costume choices the producers, director, costumer, etc… have made, how would it be better by having Adam Beach in that costume?

  • http://twitter.com/iPithom Pithom [Pie-Thumb]

    I… I… I jus’… hmmm… Err… I just… *speechless*

  • Jeremy Johnson

    So – I took one look at the photo they released a couple of days ago and found myself shaking my head. There’s nothing good that’s going to come from this movie, culturally. I don’t approve of it and thought it was a bad idea to begin with. There’s a reason you can’t tune into the Lone Ranger on television anymore and it isn’t because of its production values. It’s because culturally people wouldn’t stand for it. I hope Hollywood learns… ah forget it. They won’t.

    P.S. – So far as I know – not a single drop of Native blood in my body. Ignorance just pisses me off.

  • Fivejl

    This is a great teaching moment.
    If done with good intentions, I’m sure he will listen, be greatful and appreciative.
    This is a great opportunity for all.

  • JDA

    perhaps you have not seen this art by Kirby Sattler http://kirbysattler.sattlerartprint.com/

    • Dot.

      Mr Sattler’s “interpretations” are never represented as Authentic, and often contain “imaginings”.

    • Kat

      Not true actually. By complete coincidence I stumbled on the painting on which Sattler’s work itself is based: It is by George Catlin http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/George_Catlin and was painted from life. A chief in the 1830s with exactly that crow on his head. So I think on this aspect of it, we’ll stand corrected and need to cut this some slack. (Not on Depp of course)

      • JupiterPluvius

        I can’t tell which of the pictures on that page you’re referring to. Could you clarify? I didn’t see the resemblance, but I’m not the most visual person.

        • Kat

          None of the pictures on the wiki- I just posted the wiki as reference on who Catlin is. I saw it in person today in the Smithsonian. I have now emailed Adrienne about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

    I can’t believe we’ve gone here again, but we have, so I feel like I need to say something. Here’s how I might begin this blog, using some of your own words, but amended:

    “Entertainment Weekly just posted the “first look” of Johnny Depp as Tonto in the new Lone Ranger movie. I’m really at a loss for words right now. I…can’t.

    There was a bunch of controversy over the casting of Johnny Depp to begin with–and I was right on board, mad that they hadn’t cast a more identifiable Native actor in the role. The Johnny defenders note that he has Indian heritage that he’s proud of… but we can all agree that he was not raised immersed in the culture nor, even by his own admission, does he have a real clear sense of his own Native roots. That’s a whole other post, but here are some of his own words on the subject: (insert links)

    Every article since the casting decision…”

    Instead of a blog about Hollywood’s continued misrepresentation of Native people, and their whacked out view of what that should look like, this got turned instead into just another “let’s call out the wannabes” rant. The crack about the Cherokee grandmother especially. How bad must all those people who actually CAN trace their native roots to their honest to God Cherokee grandmother feel when they read things like this?

    Unless of course what you’re all really saying is that if it was Adam Beach or Wes Studi or Gary Farmer (casting a previous commenter suggested for the role) in that ridiculous get-up and they read ignorant dialogue in the grunting “Me walkem to heap big rock for many moons” crap of old that everyone here would be completely OK with it and be applauding the film. Dear God I hope that isn’t what we’re saying, but thanks to calling out Depp on his lack of Native realness, that’s exactly what is coming across in the comments. This was supposed to be about the image the producers, director, script writer, & costumer have created for Tonto. That has nothing to do with the Native ancestry of who they put in it.

    How bad must all those people who are trying to trace their identity, but are finding that search difficult due to the havoc created by the Assimilation Acts and reservation boarding school system which included forced adoptions of Native children into white families, feel to constantly see messages from NDN Country that they’ll never be “really” Native.

    There simply was no reason to even go to the us versus them, wannabe versus “real Native”, place to make what I perceived as the point of this.

    I’ve posted it before. We’re all Native if we’re Native. PERIOD. We need to get over our blood quantum brainwashing. This wholesale dismissal of Native people because they don’t look the way we think they should or fail to meet some other criteria we put out there is more harmful than it is helpful. The point, I thought, was to point out cultural appropriations that are harmful in their stereotypical or completely inaccurate representations of Native culture or history.

    There is no need to call out people who identify themselves as at least partly Native on their “real Nativeness”. That’s a destructive, divisive road to go down. As I’ve also posted before, the wrongness of the act or image should not be determined by our estimation of the Nativeness of the person/people involved. I don’t care if the person is a card carrying 100% pure-blooded Native. The act or image should STILL be considered wrong if it’s harmful. And if that’s the case then we can stop challenging every person who claims Native ancestry on whether or not they meet our ideal of what that means. Just don’t even address it as it’s not relevant to the topic.

    • Kate

      I agree with your point here, Amelia (the Johnny Depp issue aside for a moment.) I’m one of those people who’s trying earnestly and honestly to get to the truth about my own heritage. I try to learn, research, and read all I can, including this blog, which generally is informative.

      But sometimes I find myself hanging my head in some sort of misdirected shame because I’m a white woman who is researching whether or not the oral tradition in my family is true. I’m one of those people who hits roadblock after roadblock because of our nation’s policy on assimilation. I may never find my way around them. I am seeking the truth, whatever that truth is. And there are times I feel I must be ashamed for trying to find out.

      Over the years I have developed a deep respect — and dare I say “love” — for the history, cultures, and issues of Native people. Does that make me a racist? Does that make me a wannabe? Do I cringe when I see stereotypical depictions of Native people? Yes, just as I cringe every St. Patrick’s Day when I see images of drunken green Irishmen, which I find highly offensive to my Irish ancestors.

      There are probably more of us walking around with some sort of Indian heritage than anyone really knows. And if the day comes I find out the family stories about our Indian heritage are wrong, I will be fine with that; I want the truth. However, I will still retain my deep respect for Indian people and always cringe at negative appropriations. But please don’t cast me in a negative light because I simply want to learn.

      • Carlos

        Carlos,
        Kate do you go to any native functions or to a reserve to try to learn what we are about or do you just read book. You will not learn about us from books but by talking to us and listening, nothing will come quickly so be patient and listen to what is been said and try to follow the way

    • M. Specialfxlady

      “How bad must all those people who actually CAN trace their native roots to their honest to God Cherokee grandmother feel when they read things like this?”

      I would think that the people who can trace their native roots would be just as angry with this blatant appropriation and disrespect–if not moreso–as Adrienne is. i.e. not become angry with her for pointing it out, but become angry with the apropriation of culture in order to justify a poor casting choice.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

        You’ve missed my point & what Adrienne claimed the point for this individual blog was & wasn’t. She specifically states this isn’t about the casting. That’s a whole other topic. Well if it is a whole other topic then we don’t need to make snide hurtful remarks about ALL of the people, including Johnny Depp, who can trace their ancestry just to one grandmother or who have only vague family stories to go on for their Native roots, but who are trying in a respectful manner to find out more. Why alienate and hurt people just to comment on bad costuming? It’s completely unnecessary. See below to see the realness of how hurtful these broad comments about Depp are to the other innocent people they mock.

        I agree completely with calling out the appropriations & negative stereotypes. That’s why I only suggested losing the nasty comments about people who only have the stories of that one relative to go on to begin their search into their ancestry or whose search FOUND that one grandmother.

        And I think the blood quantum of the person/people involved in creating and perpetuating those bad stereotypes shouldn’t matter one bit. If a Native owned company produced all those horrid slutty Halloween costumes, would we all think it was OK? Is that our point? It’s only bad if the people doing it aren’t ‘Native enough’ by our standards? If not, if we really do think these images & stereotypes are bad no matter who perpetrates the act, then leave their blood quantum out of it.

        • M. Specialfxlady

          I get your point and I understand your frustration. I’d be frustrated and angry too if I read it that way.

          I didn’t get the sense from reading her post (and I re-read it) that she was making a crack at Johnny Depp or people with vague family stories specifically because of their history (or lack thereof), I read it as a frustration with people who use those ties and histories as a justification for appropriation, which is what it seems his supporters are doing.

          ‘Nah bro, I can tell this racist joke about the Trail of Tears and it’s not for reals racist ’cause I had a grandma who was Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian’

          How many times have we seen this type of appropriation at best/internalized racism at worst?

          And for what it’s worth, I would absolutely not be happy if, “it was Adam Beach or Wes Studi or Gary Farmer (casting a previous commenter suggested for the role) in that ridiculous get-up and they read ignorant dialogue in the grunting “Me walkem to heap big rock for many moons” crap of old” and as you hope, I don’t think that’s what is being implied here – AT ALL.

          From what I’ve seen historically in her writing, she’d be giving the same shit to any of those guys if they didn’t come correct in their representation. An incorrect act or image perpetuating negativity or furthering stereotypes WOULD 110% still be wrong if the person was, “a card carrying 100% pure-blooded Native.”

          “This was supposed to be about the image the producers, director, script writer, & costumer have created for Tonto. That has nothing to do with the Native ancestry of who they put in it.”

          I don’t get the sense that this was to be a post solely based on the… faux pas (*cough* *cough* blatant douchebaggery) of the folks in Hollywood. It was a post addressing the blatant disrespect on the part of both the production crew and Johnny Depp’s supporters in their attempt to use his native ancestry in order to justify the appropriation.

          Besides, Johnny Depp has more pull than your average actor and if he is aware of his ancestry, or attempting to become aware, he’s not only wasting a really good opportunity, he is setting a bad example for others with similar histories and less social clout in his situation.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

            So if it’s wrong no matter who wears it or does it, why bring their blood quantum into the discussion when all it accomplishes is hurting a lot of innocent bystanders when the snide remarks are thrown in but never explained in any sort of context other than ‘Depp may claim to be Native, but he isn’t because we say so’?

            Please see NatWu’s comments below ours. THIS is why I think those snide remarks with no explanation that they aren’t directed at everyone (Adrienne herself included) are irrelevant to the discussion and cause nothing but hurt and division.

            Because obviously someone thinks that is exactly the point. “Real Natives” get to make up requirements for everyone else to meet to be called a “real Native”. Don’t meet their arbitrary standards? Then you need to stop calling yourself Native.

            • M. Specialfxlady

              I don’t see where she references blood quantum, unless you mean the part where she says, “mad that they hadn’t cast a Native actor in the role.”

              In reading that I inferred that what she meant by “Native actor”, was describing Depp as an actor who is “in it for the new age crap”, instead of an actor who had an iota of cultural competence or respect for or knowledge of his culture. But, I’m just going off of the quotes.

              I mean, because it’s not like Johnny Depp doesn’t have the time and resources to actually do some research and learn more about his history and ancestry. Did you get the sense that he cared about his culture and history or the way that First Nations people (a people he is part of) are going to be represented in this film? I didn’t. I think he’s setting a terrible example for others in his situation.

              I read the Germany scenario below and I thought about it, my birth family’s last name (I’m adopted) is Delaney, but I’m Black. We didn’t just get the name from the plantation owner, his son actually married and had children with one of the enslaved women–and was disowned by the family–so says the oral tradition. But there is no way in hell people from Ireland would treat me as one of their own if the oral tradition and their last name was all I had to go on. The would laugh me out of the country, and I wouldn’t hate on them for that. Now if I’d learned about some of the culture or researched a bit about my heritage and ancestors I think I’d have a better shot at someone there taking me into the fold.

              So I understand where you’re coming from in being angry when you infer that people are discounting people based on certain arbitrary standards, but I hope that you see points in the other responses where people are trying to differentiate between taking pride in your heritage and claiming to be part of a certain culture in order to gain a certain type of benefit or justify a callous attitude while claiming to be respectful. Because there is a difference, else there wouldn’t be a need for the “New Age Crap” example, and a bunch of people who could give a shit about the marginalization and history of First Nations people wouldn’t suddenly re-claiming their heritage in an attempt to get a college scholarship or some New Age cred in order to open up a shamanic healing center, etc. If a person has a cultural background they can’t just pick and choose when they want to identify with that as it suits their fancy or benefits them.

              Understand that it’s not an intent to keep people ‘out’ just for the sake of exclusivity, but a way to make sure culture and heritage still mean something and maintain some sense of refinement. We live in a country that is systematically and culturally attempting to become homogenized every day.

              • M. Specialfxlady

                And I want to clarify, I’m not talking about kids. I’m talking about adults who have the autonomy and ability to seek out the information.

    • http://twitter.com/NatWu NatWu

      “There simply was no reason to even go to the us versus them, wannabe versus “real Native”, place to make what I perceived as the point of this.

      I’ve posted it before. We’re all Native if we’re Native. PERIOD. We need to get over our blood quantum brainwashing. ”

      Wrong. This is not an issue of blood quantum. If Johnny Depp were 1024th Cherokee we’d happily accept him if he actually was a Cherokee. The CNO is largely made up of people a great deal less than 1/2 ancestry. But what has that got to do with our culture? He doesn’t even know if his ancestry is Creek or Cherokee, and if he doesn’t know how ignorant that sounds, how can he make any claims towards his heritage? Do you think we’re supposed to accept anybody who makes claims of Indian blood as one of us simply because they have blood? To me, that sounds like “blood quantum” foolishness more than anything.

      I’m going to borrow another writer’s words here:

      “Native Americans often complain they are swamped by “American Indian Princess syndrome,” because every white person wants native DNA in their past. In a world of minority grants, scholarships and Indian gambling rights, any debate over DNA and race could easily also become an argument over resources.

      Some of these questing white Americans just want to know “who they are.” This strikes me as a a dubious quest — would finding some Native American or black blood really make a person who was raised white, looks white, and gets taken and treated as white, any more “black” or “Indian”?

      It’s also clear that most white people looking for Native American ancestry are hoping to establish a more romanticized connection to Indian-ness. A connection based in, and stuck in, the past, much more so than the present.”
      http://stuffwhitepeopledo.blogspot.com/2009/06/claim-they-have-native-american-blood.html

      Should we mock people who claim Indian ancestry yet have made no efforts to get in touch with their culture? If he has Cherokee blood, but doesn’t speak a word of the language, has no family connection, doesn’t know that powwows are a Plains Indian thing, has never heard of kanvtsi or eaten fry-bread surrounded by Cherokee people, then how Cherokee is he? I’m not saying every Cherokee has to be some tome of historical knowledge, but being a Cherokee means more than being aware of some mythical pan-Indian past. We actually still have our own culture today. But Depp seems as unaware of this as he is of his own ancestry. Do I take offense at this more than at his stupidly ignorant depiction of an Indian? Hell yes I do.

      • Fracturedchaos

        Wow, I’m Native American (Cherokee, Chickasaw, and Choctaw if you want to know) though the Cherokee side of my family never enrolled. I just came on this blog to read about and, and I completely agree with the viewpoint of the author.

        But I’m replying to you because, I don’t know it made me feel like my cultural ignorance means I’m not a “real” Native American. I was involved in the community when I was younger and know and learned a great deal about my heritage (and am extremely proud of it!). But because I don’t know the language? Or have not involved myself in the community because of my own introverted nature? Because I’m not involved in the current culture but I know my history–does that make me less?

        I guess I’m a bad Native American who doesn’t deserve to be proud of her heritage. I don’t mean to bash, just wanted to point out how this is hurtful to people who are proud of their heritage and have every right to be proud. I just think deciding how a person should be to be the right type of Native American with the right type of knowledge and involvement is limiting.

        I just had to comment because I never thought that my heritage or pride ever needed to have other things that I needed to do for it to be “real”. (though if you haven’t had fry-bread, you are missing out!)

        • http://twitter.com/NatWu NatWu

          There is a difference between taking pride in your heritage and claiming to be part of a certain culture. Let me use an analogy to illustrate. If you have German heritage, you can be proud of that. You can go to Oktoberfest, drink beer and eat sausages, and feel good about having something in common with people on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean. It’s just that that doesn’t make you one of them. If you claimed that you were German simply because you have German blood in you, and went to Germany telling people that, they would either kindly or rudely disabuse you of that notion because to them, you’re an American.

          As you say, “I’m not involved in the current culture but I know my history”. Well, how do you think that sounds? Anybody can read about our past. Any number of white people can make the same claim. Does that make them Indian? That can’t possibly be the way it works. Going back to the Germany example, if you lived in Germany for a while and consciously or unconsciously started picking up their culture, then you could make some claim to being culturally German, but if you know nothing about their culture as it is lived and breathed by the people today, that just makes you an expert on German history.

          It’s cool to take pride in your heritage. I was never saying it’s not. But you know, that’s pretty much what Johnny Depp is saying too. My point is, it’s not enough. He doesn’t even know how Native people would want to see Tonto portrayed. He’s so ignorant it’s probably never occurred to him to ask any of the Native American actors he probably has easy access to what they might do with the role.

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

            Wow…

            So your tribe removes all people from it’s rolls that don’t speak the language? Or are these requirements to be Native just stuff you’ve made up on your own? You do realize you’ve just declared that the person who writes this blog should never call herself Cherokee. She fails to meet your standards. Why are you not vehemently protesting this poser who claims to speak for “real Natives” like you and me? Yay! I get to call myself that because I met your criteria. I’m ecstatic. I guess this means I can sit in judgment of everyone else now and tell people that I know nothing about that they aren’t “really” Native.

            And by the way, have you been to Germany? Because I have and guess what? With my last name (which is German, my great-grandfather was German. Always the German great-grandpa, amiright?) as well as the names of two of my traveling companions (Kesler & Ackerman) we were told repeatedly by Germans that we were German. And none of us speak fluent German. We didn’t claim to be German, they saw our names and claimed us. They were warm and welcoming and I learned a great deal about a part of my ancestry I had never explored before. They volunteered to teach me. So I guess it’s just you that has those requirements for what it means to be a part of a culture or a heritage. Quit misrepresenting the German people. They don’t adhere to that same racial/ethnic elitism that you’re trying to use them to justify.

            Too bad Natives can’t act like the Germans did.

            Instead too many act like spoiled toddlers crying “Mine! Mine!” while refusing to share a heritage like allowing others to learn about their own culture will somehow steal something from them.

            A MicMac elder told me once, when asked to comment on blood quantum, ‘You’re Native if you have even a single Native in your bloodline. What you do with that heritage and how you treat it determines your place in the culture. Not your blood quantum’. He said some Natives with 100% blood make a mockery of our culture while others with 1/100th treat it with dignity and respect. He would rather have the one with 1/100th in his tribe.

            Don’t want people to do stupid faux Native crap? Then teach them the real traditions and history. If they aren’t open to learning the real history or traditions and are into it for the New Age crap THEN you can write them off. But to automatically dismiss everyone who didn’t get all of the blessings you did growing up is elitist and detrimental to us all.

            How wonderful it is that you had all of those opportunities to be immersed in your culture growing up. Guess what? MANY Natives don’t have those opportunities. In fact MOST probably don’t due to circumstances beyond their control (families had to move off the rez or they were adopted into non-Native families or their family hid their Native roots due to racist policies). I bet they’d like to learn more, but since many of the Natives I know who have had the opportunities have declared them all non-Native or wannabes, I bet they won’t look into it for very long before getting discouraged or disgusted and giving up.

            Let me give you a little insight since you seem to think everyone has had all the same chances in life as you but just neglected to act on them therefore they (in your world) no longer get to be Native. I did get those opportunities. I’m a pipe carrier in the Oglala Lakota tradition (paternal roots which also include that German great-grandfather), although by blood I’m more Mohawk/Iroquois (maternal side) than Lakota. While I was in college two Lakota children moved to town with their white Mormon adoptive family (don’t get me started on that). They knew nothing of their heritage even though they were by all accounts 100% Lakota. But by your standards they had no right to claim that ancestry. Sure it wasn’t their fault they didn’t know anything about their heritage, but you don’t give any exemptions for that in your diatribes on who gets to be a “real Native”. At the time I had founded a speaking group with our International students. We did cultural presentations on campus and in local schools. So when they asked me to teach them a little about their ancestry I should have just told them what posers they were and told them to kindly stop calling themselves Lakota?

            THIS is why I think the blood quantum needs to stay out of the discussion when it isn’t relevant (the costume is just as stupid no matter who wears it). But by including it we allow all those elitists in the audience to once again claim ultimate Native-ness (a title they invariably confer on themselves) and to belittle a whole lot of people who haven’t had the luck in life that they have had. Thanks for helping illustrate why it’s hurtful and destructive.

            Feel free to rant in response. Make sure you include (again) how Native you are in comparison to the rest of NDN Country and give some more of your requirements to be Native. If you add enough of them maybe soon you can be the only Native left on Earth. You may be a nice person but I find your comments here incredibly disgusting and hurtful to so many people. And for what purpose? Does it make you feel more Native when you tell other people they aren’t? All this for the sake of calling out a costume and depiction that would still be stupid no matter who wore it, even someone who got your “real Native” seal of approval.

            • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639399243 Isabel Mosseler

              I’m finding this thread so interesting. I am absolutely not Native, but am auntie to three different families and have helped raise five children, from Cree, Ojibway and Algonquian heritage, and now have a sixth – Métis – in my home, the daughter of my canoe partner who is now deceased. I dance at pow wow’s in my own regalia, and have participated in many ceremonies over the years. When I dance people often come up to me and assume I am Haudenosone (Iroquois), because of my reddish hair and hawkish nose. My soul-sistah, who is Nipissing Anishinabe, laughs about how I slip right in, like heyoka, and it’s even so strange that once when I was out with some of my Cree sisters they were speaking in Cree and one of them turned to me and said, “Isabel, how do you say ‘aura” in Cree?” I laughed. As if I knew? When you live among Native people, they are the most accepting. I had a full introduction of my prayer-dress regalia, and was sponsored by four Native women. So how is it that a person who has one tinieth part of them (which part by the way?) that is Native cannot feel acceptance, and a person such as myself who has no Native ancestry is embraced by not just one community, but three. Maybe because I did not seek “acceptance” into something, but just made friends. Do you know how I started dancing at pow wows? I told a friend of mine from Kitigan-Ziibi about a recurrent dream of a dress I had since age 13, and she and others told me I had to make that dress and start dancing. The bulk of my older friends are very traditional. There are always some who are not accepting, but I always find those people to have the same kind of personalities that religious fanatics have… they are convinced they know everything about a certain topic and have a right to judge. I love my extended family. They are awesome people, and my kids and grandkids too. One of my foster-sons is coming this weekend to help me. He is a young warrior, a ‘skawbewis’ (helper). This is a new generation. They feel comfortable at any table in the world, as equals. They know they are Native, and need no-one’s say so. And I am not Native, and feel the love. Almost all Native people are very kind, and while careful at first (from being burned), quiet and observant, when you suddenly find yourself in a kitchen full of Native women, chopping vegetables, while the jokes are flying around, one of the stereotypes actually seems to be true— don’t mess with native women — they are strong, powerful, funny, and very smart.
              Enjoying the discussion, and hope everyone finds their way home.

      • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

        I agree with most of what you said.. But one minor point. Powwow’s are not a “plains indian thing”. per se. The word comes from eastern Algonquian languages. It meant a type of gathering organized by the priest of a given tribe.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

      Really need to thank NatWu for helping to make my point for me.

      My point was the snide comments that were chosen for the original blog about Depp hit and HURT a lot of innocent Native people who didn’t make the comments he did in prior interviews. Then the comments NatWu made hit even more innocent bystanders, including Adrienne herself.

      That’s why I said that if the blog was about the choice of how they’re going to make Depp look in the film then that ire needs to be directed at everyone involved in that choice and it doesn’t matter what the blood quantum or heritage of the person in the ridiculous costume is. It wouldn’t matter if he had 0% or 100% Native blood. The costume is an atrocious amalgamation of a wide variety of tribal styles with crap added that has no basis in reality. And Depp claimed he wanted to do something to honor Native people in his portrayal. His ancestry has zip to do with that topic.

      But by opening with the mocking comments that didn’t just aim at Depp (“Always the Cherokee great-grandma, amiright?”) but at a whole lot of others, it lead to people making statements declaring who does and doesn’t have “the right” to claim Native ancestry. It’s interesting that NatWu’s comments below mean that this entire blog series is written by a white person who (also according to NatWu) has no right to call herself Cherokee. I guess all of us “Real Natives”, after our Nativeness is approved by NatWu or others like them of course, need to start protesting this blog.

      Really? This was the intent of this blog? To divide NDN Country once again between the Breeds and the Bloods? Because if it was then well done. Mission accomplished.

      Now M. Specialfxlady assigns a great deal of hidden meanings to what is posted in the original blog. Mocking Depp is really meant to bring a spotlight onto all of his proponents’ arguments to justify the costume. Well if I take some huge leaps I can get to that hidden meaning, maybe. But if that was the point of it, then SPELL IT OUT.

      By not spelling it out I can just as easily come to the conclusion that this is just a way to bash Natives who 1) have low proven blood quantum or 2) did not have the opportunity to grow up immersed in their culture or 3) it would all be OK (costume and any other stupidity that will occur in the movie) if Depp was “Native enough”. Is that really ambiguity we want to leave in the blog?

      I think not since it obviously lead to at least one person telling even Adrienne she has no right to call herself Native.

      • M. Specialfxlady

        “if that was the point of it, then SPELL IT OUT.”

        And I agree here with your assertion that a better job could be done in the future of spelling out the distinction. I’m doing so much reading in regards to appropriation and culture (instead of my schoolwork…) that I’m taking for granted that people already know what she means.

        That goes against my own philosophy against making assumptions about your readers experience with the subject. Thank you for pointing that out.

        With that said, I wonder if there is a succinct way she could have said it? I trust that she’ll come up with one though.

    • Rmfirefly7

      Taputni (thankyou) in my language.

  • Kat

    I think you should include the Kirby Sattler pic in the original post, Adrienne.

  • catullusrl
    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1663693208 Amelia Mavis Christnot

      Except that the character has been described as being Comanche or Apache at varying time in press releases. The picture you provide is of a Crow (the tribe, not the bird).

      That’s sort of the point of the blog (I realize the point got pretty lost in the ‘not Native enough’ bashing. Taking elements of a bunch of different tribes and slapping them all together to make your “authentic Indian” costume is what is being called out.

      We had very diverse cultures and styles of dress. The costume has slammed together elements from literally all over the map and then added things that have no historical or cultural basis.

      That’s the appropriation/stereotyping element. Thinking we’re all one big homogenized group with no distinctions and throwing elements together randomly and calling it authentic is the core problem. (To me anyway).

  • Wildbuflo

    totally agree with you

  • Gwen McLean

    You’re right about not expecting any historical accuracy in this movie. Depp looks like a pirate on a horse. Someone else from NativeCelebs site noted that war paint in for – duh – war, and a headdress is for chiefs and special occasions. And what about Lone Ranger in the starched, ironed, open (in 19th century America?) shirt and don’t even get me started on the hat. No, it’s fantasy Wild West again. But the point is a good one that says this only continues sterotypes and does nothing (in spite of the production pronouncements) to lend any authenticity to the look of Native Americans in 19th century America.

  • ModernWizard

    “…I attempt to give the paintings an authentic appearance, provoke interest, satisfy my audience’s sensibilities of the subject without the constraints of having to adhere to historical accuracy.”

    Shorter Sattler: “I use stereotypes and pull stuff out of my ass because I am lazy.”

    That depiction of Depp as Tonto just plays right into such lazy bullshit.

  • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

    Given that painting by Kirby Sattler perhaps we should cut Depp some slack and reserve judgement for the film itself.

    What will really make the difference in my opinion is how Depp acts as Tonto. Why is Tonto wearing that makeup? Is he going to be speaking a genuine Indian language (no Hindi!) and English clearly?

    The sad truth is that when Hollywood tries to present an authentic image of American Indian life it simply does not resonate with the average person. To make money they have to appeal to that common denominator. They make Eastern Woodland Indians look like plains indians. They dress everyone like a chief and so on.

  • http://twitter.com/ErikaMayDesigns Erika Czerniejewski

    maybe…just maybe this is to get a buzz going, but not really how he looks the whole movie? I mean, I think I see Johnnys tattoos on his arms still. Those have GOT to be covered up for the movie. right? maybe its a screen shot from the final epic battle where Tonto decides to put on war paint. Please?

  • Retief

    If they are going for a Potowatomi look, that nation’s historic home is at the intersection of south, plains, and east.

    • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

      True but their history and movement over time changed them allot. i.e. One band, the one from which I got most of my NDN blood, started out as woodland indians…then gradually adopted plains culture as they were removed further west. (appropriation or adaptation?)

      Wait… Tonto is supposed to be Potawatomi?

      • JupiterPluvius

        Tonto on the radio show was indeed supposed to be Potowatomi (not that they ever explained what a Potowatomi man with such un-fluent English was doing in Texas, but whatever).

        I have no idea whether they retconned that for the movie to Crow or some other nation in which a headdress in bird form would be remotely accurate (not sure which of the Catlin pictures in the Wikipedia article is being referred to upthread as the “original” for the Kirby Sattler thing, but none of the pictures depict Potowatomi or any neighboring nations).

  • Snuffycup

    Yuck, this photo really hurts! Why, Depp, why?? I already had to turn off Rango after 5 minutes because of the racist bull with the Wounded Bird character, now this?!? WTF? Shame on everyone involved in this piece of garbage movie.

  • Medicinemountain

    They gave the part of Tonto to Johnny Depp because he is a commercial draw, an Indian actor just doesn’t have the clout with the money people. The costumes are totally Not authentic. I made the original costumes for the designer and they were authentic Comanche – the director changed everything we did. I hadn’t seen the Kirby Satler painting, but it is obvious the hair and makeup people stole the idea from him – which is also totally un-authentic. he looks like a clown.

    • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

      Do they mean for Tonto to be Comanche in their “reimagining” of the Lone Ranger?

    • http://vicwelle.wordpress.com victoria

      So you’re a consultant for this film? I would love to hear more about your experiences and who else the producers consulted with if you’re able to share about it.

  • Aza

    I read that Tonto was apparently supposed to be Potawatomi…. because there are SO MANY Potawatomi people in the southwest??!! (for those not in the know, Potawatomi people are traditionally from the Great Lakes/Canada region) and they do NOT wear dead crows on their heads.
    thanks for this post Adrienne. It makes me mad too. Can’t it just be a sick joke… please?

  • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

    The way he’s dressed is a rip off of someone’s art, but as to a Potawatomi person being present in the west…

    Their are two bands in the west (Kansas) since the 1830′s and 40′s. The Prairie band and the Citizen band (Oklahoma from 1870 onward). This video, which is well regarded by members of both of those bands tells of their history and culture.

    Citizen Band.
    http://www.potawatomi.org/index.php?option=com_content&view=section&id=17&Itemid=30

    Prairie band
    http://www.pbpindiantribe.com/our-history-and-culture.aspx

    A personal bit of history: My last nearly full blood Potawatomi ancestor was married three times. She married a person from Texas by the name of Austin. That was in the early 1900′s…the period known as the old west ended in 1920.

    Fun fact according to my father the word “keemosabe” translates to an insult… Son of a __tch”. As he tells me “It may not literally mean that but that’s what they said”. I suppose “they” were the adults around him when he was young who could have known such a thing.

  • Jessica

    Tonto is Potawatomi

  • Raingd

    About as accurate as “the grey” and everyone says…”it’s just a movie”…b.s.

  • Chieflapu007

    USA Declaration of Independence and the USA Constituion still defines us SAVAGES….Until the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence is revised then HOLLYWOOD, CA, AMPTP or CAUCOID dominance still exist. MARLON BRANDO tried to repair it but failed….TODAY if we can’t beat them, let us join them and make our own HOLLYWOOD, CA. Join me in the MEDIA game using the power of the INTERNET…..

  • http://washuta.net/blog Elissa Washuta

    I’m really perplexed and troubled by this statement:
    “The interesting thing, if you find out you’ve got Native American blood, which a lot of people do, is you think about where it comes from and go back and read the great books, Dee Brown’s Bury My Heart At Wounded Knee or [John Ehle's] Trail of Tears, you have to think, somewhere along the line, I’m the product of some horrific rape. You just have that little sliver in your chemical makeup.”

    I am Native and Caucasian, and while I obviously wasn’t around at the time to know for sure, from what I understand, all the couplings in my lineage that involved a meeting of Euro-Americans and Natives were consensual/marital. By automatically assuming at all sexual encounters between Native people and Euro-Americans have been “horrific rapes,” Depp implies that racial mixing is something tragic and ugly, and that’s just not helpful.

    He also comes off (to me, anyway) as a little excited about the idea, which is disturbing.

    • Mbb250

      That bothered me, too. My tribe, the Choctaw, are known for voluntary racial mixing. The idea that the only “use” a white man would find for a Native woman is as a rape victim is offensive. Yes, rape was far too common, but it was far from the only way that Natives mixed with either whites or African-Americans. .

  • DesertSage

    I didn’t realize you had to be a certain percentage to be proud of your native roots without getting criticised. Yes it IS my great grandma but no, she wasn’t cherokee(she was half navajo). I agree with you on the choice of actor and costume design but don’t hate all of us with widely mixed ancestry who have an interest in learning more just because johnny depp claims he has a “cherokee great grandma”. However, seeing as the character was written by a white man and only added to the show so that the lone ranger would have someone to talk to, and the name Tonto means stupid in spanish, you should be opposed to the whole movie and the original radio show in general and be appalled that their even remaking it.

    • Ruminum

      But that’s the thing. He DOESN’T claim to have a Cherokee great grandmother. He’s so blatantly ignorant about his heritage and clearly so unmotivated to get in touch with it that he doesn’t even know if she was Cherokee or Creek. He’s just throwing out guesses. That’s a big difference from being of mixed heritage and also being aware and informed of what that heritage is, or even a big difference between knowing that you’re part Cherokee or Creek and simply shrugging and saying “Yeah, I might be one of those two. Makes sense, I guess.”

      • DesertSage

        ” Always the Cherokee great-grandma, amiright?”

        that was what I was referring to. i agree with you that he obviously could be quite a bit more informed. however it’s hard to find out sometimes, especially when like me your at least 5 different nationalities rolled into one.

  • Omi Miniatures

    I’m a Depp fan, but my heart sanl when I heard this. Surely in this day and age it shouldn’t be hard to find a Native American capable of tackling the role?

  • Lillia256

    This is really discouraging news in my opinion. Johnny Depp “playing Indian” just continues the popular trope in this country that anyone and everyone can play dress up Indian without consideration, reflection or critical thought about the histories and issues of genocide, colonialism, representation, or decolonization. It’s such a slap in the face (and good fodder for the classroom) to the incredible Indigenous scholars and Native American studies programs around the country that work so hard to counter cultural appropriation.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1384620558 Sharlotte Peters

    LOVE THIS ARTICLE I THOUGHT THE SAME EXACT THING . . . I wish they would have hired and used an authentic character, even if “Lone Ranger” was a comic book.

    • Joseph Vann

      Lone Ranger was originally a radio drama.

  • Amanidioti

    Thank you Adrienne for such an articulate and succinct appraisal of this subject. Love Depp hate the idea of him as Tonto. One for a boycott I think.

  • Kateri

    You are asking a lot from Disney to actually have a consultant. They know better than anyone what it takes to produce quality entertainment for all ages.(/sarcasm) If Pocahontas can learn English from John Smith in 30 seconds then the sky is the limit and realism has little to do with it.

    To those asking why a confirmed, reservation raised NDN isn’t playing this role; three men played Tonto in the TV show. Only one was NDN and he was fired in very short order for refusing to speaking the way Tonto was scripted. He found it offensive for good reason. Nowadays a self respecting native would refuse this role unless given full control of how Tonto is portrayed. Obviously from looking at this picture of Depp, Disney isn’t willing to do that so…

    Agree with another poster. Blood quantum has nothing to do with culture. To be NDN you have to embrace the culture and grasp the nuance. I’m a Comanche/Choctaw/German mix and willingly embrace all 3 cultures. Depp appears to have made no attempt to get in touch with this his other potential ancestry if he naively assumes that mixed blood means rape happened. So he can tout his “blood” all he wants. It means nothing.

    That being said, it DOES annoy me that everyone, including friends from several generations in Alaska, has a Cherokee grandmother/great-grandmother. It’s not to say I doubt native ancestry, I just automatically doubt the source unless their family is from those regions where Cherokee historically have been or can be found now.

    • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

      Re Cherokee Great Grandma: Replace Cherokee with “blackfoot” and you get the claim most African American people make. Even those who never lived on the plains where that’s at least plausible.

      One thing. Tonto was played on TV for the shows entire run by Jay Silverheels. He was from the Six Nations of the Grand River first nation of Canada.

  • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

    This website claims that his look is based on a Chippewa (Ojibwe ) Legend.
    http://starcasm.net/archives/147576
    Their source is here.
    http://www.manataka.org/page1027.html

    Hmm… I never heard of such a thing but there is much I do not know. Nor does it seem anyone else has but those who wrote it on the net. That website seems a little iffy… Check it out and be the judge yourselves.

    In a few sentences: Crow head was a kid with a fetish for crows. People messed with crow head. Crow head’s medicine and crow fetish spared him while the rest of the tribe that made fun of him was wiped out by an enemy. Then crow head used his skills to revive the people. :shurg:

    If the writers got some of that story in their heads Depp’s Tonto is going to be a deeply disturbed individual. Like most of his characters are these days.

    Others take the Kirby Sattler image as being litterally a image of a “Crow” Apsáalooke warrior. Wrong.

    The deeper we look the stranger this all becomes.

  • Ray Rezzdog Cook

    You guys, I’m pissed off. Like for real….even asked a Native person from the community you’re purporting to represent (Tonto’s Apache, right?)…

    No, Tonto is a comic book character, what else is he supposed to look like?

    • http://www.hontasfarmer.com/ Hontas Farmer

      Actually the radio show this originates from was created by a white man from michigan and based the character on what he knew of the Potawatomi. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lone_Ranger#Original_radio_series

      Supposedly he was out west involved in Gold prospecting when he met the Lone Ranger. Not that absurd when Potawatomi were living in Oklahoma and Kansas at that point.

  • Cochransister

    I had the honor of meeting Jay Silverheels and Johnny Depp is for one thing too small in stature to protray him…and the costume is a joke

  • apihtawikosisan

    An interesting point I hadn’t considered…is Kirby Sattler getting any sort of royalties for the clear use of his painting in the creation of Johnny Depp’s ridiculous outfit?

  • Renda Luvaas

    My husband is Metis. He is the son of one who”passed” and it made her life a bit easier. My mother in law didn’t pass her fair skin, green eyes or strawberry locks of hair down to her son. His gold flecked black/ brown eye are just a few shade lighter than his thick black wildly wavy hair. His skin tone is as if he has a rich bronze tan year around. The bone structure of his face proudly announces that Native blood runs through his veins. Oh how I love my husband for who and what he is. However, it would break my heart because no matter how tall he stood or how handsome he is, on the inside his soul was lost, lonely, hurt and without history. I have researched his family tree (more for our sons than for him to begin with).For 27 years we have pieced together all that we could and found it very disturbing, as any one who know the true history of North America what it was to the Native people. Metis,”halfbreed” or full blooded it was horrific for anyone with a drop of “Indian”. With that being said, he is grateful. One thing that stands out is when he told me, holding back his tears “I don’t think of myself as a “apple” anymore. I know where I’m from and where I’m going in my life.” To the Native people who are secure in their “skin”, please don’t let the ‘apples’ rot and drop on the ground. Pluck them from the tree and set them free because they may nourish your soul too.

  • aurel

    eeeuuugghgh

    this is gross.

  • http://profiles.google.com/nascentgrasshopper Matthew Treebirch

    Oh well I heard that movie sucks shit anyway, for other reasons.

  • Yogi

    I LOVE Jonny Depp!!!!

  • Crystal

    I randomly stumbled across your blog because I was looking into how Native [Americans] looked at the whole ‘spirit hood’ trend. Although I am not native– heck, I’m not even American[!], I agree with you 100%. It’s really disappointing that Hollywood didn’t choose an appropriate actor for the role. I think it’s also a shame that Depp actually accepted the role.

  • Anonymous

    Young black queer male & you better speak the truth!!! They know that Tonto shit is racist!

  • Tony

    Everybody can say what they like about Jonny Depp and that the role should have been given to a native actor, you can talk about the costume till you are blue in the face. It don’t matter much.
    This film was made to be seen and forgotten about, it’s a popcorn flick nothing more nothing less.
    I always loved the Lone Ranger as a kid, and I thought Tonto was by far the best character. Jay Silverheels is going to take allot of beating in my book. It doesn’t matter how he spoke or how he looked, as a kid you ain’t interested. All you are interested in is that he was an indian who helped the Lone Ranger, (Sorry indigenous person, native American)
    Give the film a chance before you come down too hard on it, you may be really surprised at how it turns out.
    The only thing I am dreading is the thousands of idiots who are going to be buying “instant Tonto kits” off ebay and parading round looking like a bunch of tossers. Mark my words, they are the ones that need to be moaned about and stopped (remember the millions of Jack bloody Sparrow lookalikes)

  • Chuckhansford

    You’re right. People should only be allowed to access their own culture’s heritage! Since when did liberals become more conservative than conservatives? Instead of arguing about inequalities, you’re arguing about images. Instead of addressing real pressing social issues, you’re addressing pop-icons. Does Johnny Depp “playing Indian” increase poverty or alcoholism among Native Americans? Nope.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639399243 Isabel Mosseler

    I just want to say that all my friends who dance make their own regalia, and each one is different. My son was influenced by his love of Japanese Samurai and the code of Bushido, which he found very similar to Native teachings. He is Cree, and he doesn’t let tradition stop him from being personally creative. Look at his regalia, and spot the Japanese influence.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639399243 Isabel Mosseler

      These are my friends Leo Neshondigkook Bebonang and Deb Tate. They both made their own regalia. Leo is a Ghost Dancer. He speaks his own language. That is a turtle shell on his head. Do you think you will find a “culturally” appropriate photo to match his regalia? No. You won’t. People are not culturally stagnant… they draw inspiration form everywhere and adapt whatever htey wish to suit their self-expression. Why would anyone think they had a right to determine what is “culturally” appropriate? By the way… Deb is Cherokee, and Leo is Potawatami Odawa from M’Chigeeng First Nation.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=639399243 Isabel Mosseler

      And I guess it would only be appropriate to post my own regalia, as a Non-Native person who dances. These are my two sons on either side of me. One is a dancer, the other not. They are Cree. Moose Cree – Mushkekowak – to be exact, not Plains Cree. Me, I’m of European extraction. But they let me dance anyway… lol.