Real Indians Don’t Care About Tonto

In activist fatigue, Culture Cops, identity, Johnny Depp, Lone Ranger, Native identity, Scott Richard Lyons, stereotypes, Tonto by Adrienne K.155 Comments

You know what I’ve learned in the last few months? Apparently I’m not a real Indian. Apparently, going to grad school and questioning how Native people are portrayed in pop culture makes me less “real.” I knew, in starting this blog, that being a white-looking Cherokee from SoCal trying to talk about Native issues would cause some problems, and my “legitimacy” would, at some point, be called into question. What I didn’t anticipate was the shit hitting the fan over Tonto. *TONTO*.

So a disclaimer: In the post that follows, I’m going to be departing from my usual don’t-engage-with-the-haterz approach, and calling some people out. This makes me immensely uncomfortable, and I fear what stirring the pot is going to cause in terms of repercussions. But I’m going to share my thoughts and opinions about how the things that were said to (and about) me in the last few months have made me feel, because if you haven’t noticed, the blog’s been silent for over a month. Also, this is about to be the longest post in the history of Native Appropriations (sorry!):

A Tonto Timeline:

March 8, 2012: Johnny Depp as Cultural Appropriation Jack Sparrow…I Mean Tonto
I wrote this post quickly after seeing the “first look” pictures of Tonto in the new Lone Ranger. I inadvertently caused a firestorm by making a snarky remark about Johnny Depp’s “Indian heritage”–which he says is “Cherokee or maybe Creek,” and saying he wasn’t an “Indian actor.” The commenters, rightly so, reacted. And in reacting, called into question my ability to call myself Indian if Johnny couldn’t.

March 15, 2012: Ray Cook writes a column in Indian Country Today called “Tontomania–Who are we’z anyway?
Ray Cook straight up calls me out in this post, without referring to me by name. He said:

I read a blog earlier and the owner of the blog said she was pissed that Johnny Depp is playing Tonto because she did not believe he was Indian enough for that particular role, what ever the heck that means. The blogger guesses that Tonto was/is Apache and the whole Apache nation should have been consulted about the role, who should play it and what that actor should wear so as to project the right “image” in a politically correct way so as not to make restless the, er, ah, well, Natives. The blogger basically expressed, I am Native and I am restless over this affront to our good nature and reputation. 

So much hog-wash, so much wasted cyber-space, so much wasted oxygen. Let’s set the record straight. Tonto is a radio, television, and comic book character. Period. No one, and I mean no one, will give two Indian head nickels what tribe Tonto is from, just as long as someone gets shot, hung, chased, rescued, skewered, or run out of town. It’s Hollywood for crying out loud. Babbbbababbababbaaa, that’s all folks!

He goes on to assert his Indianess by talking about his gorgeous Mohawk wife and tells us all to lighten up and that we don’t have to take ourselves so seriously. He tells us (me) to “get your head out of your computerized butts and live a little.” The not-so-subtle subtext here through devaluing my opinion as “wasted oxygen” is saying real Indians don’t give a crap about Hollywood.

March 16, 2012: Why Tonto Matters
Written directly in response to Cook and others who said we shouldn’t care about how Depp was portraying Tonto. I’m still pretty proud of this piece, and I constantly refer folks back to it when they say the issue doesn’t matter. I ended the post with this, which I still believe to be the crux of the issue:

How can we expect mainstream support for sovereignty, self-determination, Nation Building, tribally-controlled education, health care, and jobs when the 90% of Americans only view Native people as one-dimensional stereotypes, situated in the historic past, or even worse, situated in their imaginations? I argue that we can’t–and that, to me, is why Tonto matters.

April 24th, 2012: Johnny Depp as Tonto: I’m still not feeling “Honored”
As the Depp drama continued to swirl, I compiled all of the quotes I could find in reference to Depp discussing the choices he made in costuming and creating his version of Tonto. I came to the conclusion that he totally missed the mark. The comments, however, still focused heavily on Depp’s background, and whether or not I was being unjustifiably mean to Johnny.

So before I continue, let’s notice that all of my posts focus on either 1) the choice of Johnny Depp to play Tonto 2) the costume and character choices Johnny made for his role, based on Johnny’s own words, and 3) What “Tonto” means on a larger level in terms of representations, stereotypes, and our future as Native peoples. I said nothing about the Native actors in the films, nothing about  the Native involvement in the film, I just talked about Johnny Depp. A public figure, who, as such, is open to criticism and questioning.

This is where things get interesting. In the comments on the post, I received a comment from actor Saginaw Grant, wishing to speak to the “author of this blog.” I emailed him at the address he provided, and set up a time to talk with him, his publicist, and his personal assistant via phone. In hindsight, I’m not sure why I said yes, but I was also curious to hear Saginaw’s thoughts, since he has a role in the film.

Fast forward to the phone conversation. I spent 2.5 hours on the phone being berated for my coverage of Tonto. Saginaw told me over and over again that the “Indian way” was “not to criticize” and that if I did so, I had “no right to call [myself] an Indian.” I was told that “everything you know, you learned in books” and that all my degrees were just “pieces of paper.” I was told I was being disrespectful to all of the Indian actors on the film, as well as the broader Indian community, and that if I continued to write, no producer would hire Indian actors ever again because they would want to avoid the “controversy,” so I was hurting all Indian actors chances of working in Hollywood. They went on, and on, and on with all of the ways I had apparently messed up.

His team had written down tweets and quotes from my blog, read them back to me, and forced me to defend myself. I was in a horrible position, because if I defended myself and stood by my words, I would have been perceived as being “disrespectful” towards a “respected elder,” so instead I avoided directly addressing their questions, to which I was called “evasive” and therefore, “disrespectful.” I was so polite and tried to show the utmost respect, though I was shown none in return. I sat there, for over two hours, and listened as my identity was questioned and my writing torn apart. I listened carefully, because I know I’m wrong all the time–and if I was wrong about this, I wanted to know. But instead, the only message I heard was that I was not Indian if I dared question this film. At one point, after about the twelfth time I was told I had “no right to call [my]self an Indian”–I broke down and said (in Cherokee), “I’m Cherokee, not a white person.” I didn’t know how else to defend myself.

They did tell me that the spirit on the set was one of respect towards the Native actors, that care was taken to address any cultural concerns, and that there were Comanche advisors on the set making sure things were done right. They told me to wait until the movie, and things would make sense, and I would see how I was wrong. Considering that apparently Depp is speaking in broken English in the trailer…I’m not holding my breath. They told me that Johnny is such a nice and respectful man, and that he does many good things for Indian country. They’ve met him and interacted with him, and I haven’t, so I have no right to judge him.

Before the end of our conversation, I reiterated my intentions with the postings, and apologized for any harm I may have caused. But I remember I said I was going to keep writing the blog, because it was my way of empowering our communities and making my ancestors and family proud of me. I don’t ever remember saying I was going to refrain from writing about Tonto again.

Saginaw exited the conversation, and the tone noticeably shifted. His publicist and assistant shifted from anger to praise, telling me how my work was important, what I wrote was important, and things like hipster headdresses were a huge issue. They said I was an “inspiration” to younger Native students to see that I was at an elite university. I, admittedly, was surprised. I said that I would update the blog with the information they shared about the set, which they agreed to.

After I hung up the phone, I cried in my kitchen. The conversation was emotionally draining, and I felt like I had been given little recourse to defend myself. I had been judged for my perceived lack of respect or connection to my community, when they knew nothing of my family or my heritage. It hurt, a lot. To be told that this work that I put my heart and soul into was causing harm to my community felt horrible, even if I still believed in my gut that I hadn’t done anything wrong.

I took a week off from the blog, and talked to a lot of my friends about the situation. They agreed that it was probably a lot of misplaced anger–Saginaw has come under some intense criticism for roles before, so they were probably trying to head off anything before it got too major. I thought it had blown over at this point, and went back to work, cautiously.

May 8th, 2012: Nelly Furtado’s “Big Hoops” video: Native Dancer’s represent!
I was so excited to see Nelly’s video. I loved the way she incorporated the Native dancers, and thought it was a great example of positive Native imagery. But I, without thinking it would be a problem, noted:

“So far the video has 42,000 views on YouTube, so 42,000 people have seen Native folks representing themselves, showing off their skillz, not painted up with a bird on their head. These are the kind of representations I’d like to see on a more regular basis.”

The “bird on their head” linked back to one of my Depp posts. To which I received the comment from Saginaw’s assistant, Andrea:

I guess your privilege of hearing Saginaw Grant’s words of wisdom were not taken as advice, just words. I am witness to the conversation because the conversation was a conference three way, your words were that you were going to refrain from the movie in it’s entirety. You speak with fork tongue and you wonder why you receive negative and/or hate mail from many of the people. As I said, you are inciting animosity amongst people who don’t know better. You told Saginaw that you had much respect for him, well, that was untruth on your part and we are disappointed and furthermore, you do not speak a few words you have learned in Cherokee to a person who is Sac/Fox. Only his publicist new what you were talking about. Shame on you.

You can see my response and the whole comment chain here, which gets worse. I tried to, as always, be respectful. The team then took to Facebook to further disparage me on my own page and others, which seem to have been deleted, which is nice, I guess.

June 13, 2012: Crooked Arrows: The Good, The Bad, and The Flute Music 
I went and saw Crooked Arrows, and had a lot to say about it. Again, I made the mistake of referencing the word Tonto in my intro paragraph. To which Saginaw responded:

“hello may I request that you leave the word Tonto out of your stories that does not pertain to this movie you are writing about. -Saginaw Grant Sac & Fox Nation Actor/Public Speaker”

I was upset. I felt really unsettled that I was being monitored so closely that I couldn’t even say the word Tonto. I responded, and then Andrea jumped in, as well as several other commenters. It got so out of hand so quickly, that I had to shut down comments on the post. Andrea’s first comment was as follows:

With all due respect Adrienne you say you are about representations of Natives on the big screen, well my dear, you are no authority regarding the movie industry or natives, you are only a young one and wet behind the ears trying to bring attention to yourself. If you are going to write on a story and believe yourself to be a writer, stay to the subject matter and do not go off course into another direction such as your continued reference of “Tonto”, a non-fiction story. Why is it that you are so adamant about your continual slamming of this movie. The movie will be made with or without you, and you cannot change the box office draw that it will bring, it is inevitable. Furthermore your continual disrespect of elders is abhorred because if you say you are Indian, it shows not because no traditional person would speak or question any elder’s words or Ms. Ladonna Harris choice which you have done. In closing you are very young and inexperienced and with very little track record behind you and have exhibited no traditional thought of mind just book learned and that is quite a shame.

Emphasis is mine, and I think she meant “fictional” not “non-fiction”. Ladonna Harris is the member of the Comanche Nation who “adopted” Johnny Depp recently, which E! Online interviewed me about here. Notice I did not actually criticize LaDonna in my quotes.

The irony of this whole situation kills me–I’m not allowed to criticize Johnny Depp, a public figure, and we’re supposed to lay off of him because he has “Indian heritage,” is a “good person,” and doing “good things” for Indian country.

But me, a Cherokee woman going to graduate school so I can give back to Native communities and help more Native students go to college, who puts herself out there for criticism and hate because I dare question how Native people are situated in our society, is not an Indian or even a good person. Why does Johnny get a free pass?

Let me remind you that this is all over TONTO. Tonto. A character that has gone down in history as one of the worst and lasting stereotypes of Native peoples, and continues to affect us today.

I’m not asking you to agree with me, I’m not saying I’m right–when I make mistakes, I own up to them, often. But don’t feel I made a mistake in questioning Johnny Depp or Tonto, I don’t feel my writing about the Lone Ranger makes me any less of an Indian, and I certainly don’t feel I’ve shown “continual disrespect of elders.” But taking this conversation from the words I’ve written to the realm of my family and my identity is not productive, and unnecessarily hurtful.

You can read my entire comment history on the blog, or this post I wrote after halloween last year to see how I’ve constantly noted that I don’t speak for all Indians, and how I constantly reiterate that my Indian experience is unique to me. I try very, very hard in writing Native Appropriations to be real, gracious, and admit when I’m wrong.

I’m constantly told I’m not “Indian enough” to write this blog, which is frustrating, but admittedly comes with putting your thoughts and identity on the internet. I acknowledge that my white privilege has meant that I’ve been given hella opportunities, and am now in a privileged position to be able to sit here and write these ideas. But part of dealing with privilege is working actively to dismantle it. If I didn’t use my strange combination of oppression and privilege to openly question, critique, and start conversations, I’d just be playing into the system that benefits from Native subjugation and white privilege–and that would be something to be concerned about.

I’ve been reading Scott Richard Lyon’s X-marks: Native Signatures of Assent lately, and his thoughts about modern Indian identity, “acculturation,” “assimilation,” and even “nationhood” are fascinating, and have been super empowering to help me theorize and understand these blog-o-sphere interactions. He said, in a blog post about his book:

In my book, I argue for a greater recognition of the actually existing diversity in Native America, and I further posit the suggestion that indige­nous people have the right to move in modern time. That means, first, acknowledging differences that already exist in the Fourth World, and, second, seeing those differences as by-products of modernity, hence nothing to be ashamed of. Native shame is rarely justified. We require a little self-forgiveness for being the people we are, and we should remember that the flip side of forgiveness is a promise. Our ancestors promised that their descendants would be part of the modern world while continuing to maintain that activist sense of community that Jace Weaver has called “communitism.” Sometimes that means adopting new ways of living, thinking, and being that do not necessarily emanate from a traditional cultural source (or, for that matter, “time immemorial”), and sometimes it means appropriating the new and changing it to feel more like the old.

These interactions and comments admittedly made me feel ashamed. I felt ashamed that I had somehow disrespected my community, ashamed that I didn’t know how to defend myself better, ashamed that because of history of my ancestors and policies of the federal government, I ended up growing up away from my community and not being more of a “real Indian” in their eyes.

But instead of feeling ashamed, I’m trying now to turn the tables and think that I, instead, am the colonizer’s worst nightmare. Because history has tried to eradicate my people by violence and force, enacted every assimilating and acculturating policy against my ancestors, let me grow up in white suburbia, and erased all the visual vestiges of heritage from my face–but still tsi tsalagi (I am Cherokee). My ancestors gave their “x-marks”–assents to the new–so that I could be here, fighting back against misrepresentations, through a keyboard and the internet.

So I care about how Native people are represented, and I will fight for our right to be portrayed with accuracy, dignity, and respect. So while “real Indians” might not care about Tonto, I do, and despite what others might think, I’m just about as real as you can get.

  • Karen

    I admire and respect you for standing up for what you think is right.

  • shantique

    Where is the respect for the younger generation? To say that you are a “young one” is to try to discredit you and your opinions with ageism. I understand respecting our elders, but my elders have always shown me respect too. A good elder knows that us young ones will one day be elders our selves. They should be leading by example and showing the way. Raising us up, so that we may stand on their shoulders. Not tearing down those who speak out.
    I’m deeply disappointed that Saginaw and co. can’t seem to take any sort of criticism (even indirectly) regarding a project that they are working on. Criticism does not diminish their work nor Saginaw’s role in this film or any other film but it raises the public’s awareness so that they may ask questions such as “Is this respectful? Why? Why not?”
    As a white looking Cree woman, I understand the balance that is sometimes hard to maintain between being the product of colonization, benefiting from treaty rights and being aware of my white privilege. I don’t think that makes my opinions on Native imagery in the media any less apt or means I’m not a “real Indian”. Exclusion will not help anyone. By throwing around the phrase “real Indian”, allies and friends are alienated and all Native people are weakened by this.
    I’m glad you had the courage to write this and speak your mind. I hope you continue to always have that courage.

  • Cluisanna

    What’s with all the “you are too young and inexpierenced” and “not a real Indian(tm)” BS? Classic dismissal of argument and only one step above outright ad hominem. These people may have had a point, but engaging in hurtful, dismissive and downright abusive behaviour (stalking your blog, questioning your identity, trying to frighten/shame you into silence) makes it hard to take anything they say seriously – what point could they have if they don’t even grasp basic human dignity and respect?

  • I could say more, but I’ll just say that I’m on your side and keep on writing what you want to write.

  • Rob Schmidt

    I’m on your side, as usual. As one of the critics of Saginaw Grant in “The Dudesons” and Johnny Depp in “The Lone Ranger,” I’m not backing down in the slightest from my criticism. You shouldn’t either.

  • MonicaProwl

    I stand by you Adrienne!

  • Keep speaking your truth Adrienne. For all the haters out there, you have twice the supporters. You are an inspiration and have the right to express your opinions in your own way.

    If as they say your blog has no consequences for the movie at the box office, then what do they care??

  • Rob Schmidt

    Anyone who equates criticism of Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto with criticism of the Native actors in the movie is a flippin’ idiot, and you can quote me on that. Note also the stupidity of claiming that the controversy will eliminate future movies like “The Lone Ranger,” but won’t hurt the box-office at all. Well, which is it, since these two claims are polar opposites?

  • Sarah G

    I think they have a lot of nerve. Who are they to judge who is “native enough”. I am a cree woman, who was adopted by a white family. Does this make me less native? I educate myself as much as I can about my culture, I live the racism every day and I am immensely proud of my heritage, I had to fight for it because it was never celebrated in my adopted family. I admire Adrienne and follow her blog because it asks good questions, she is informed and has a point of view.
    I am embarrassed by their approach (Andrea and Mr. Grant). Respect is a privilege not a right.

  • C. D. Leavitt

    Adrienne, there are people who support you. There are people who have learned from you–actually learned that their behavior is hurtful and has consequences–and that’s an amazing accomplishment anyone should be proud of. You are a powerful voice and one that I hope continues to be heard for a long, long time. I’m standing by you and you continue to inspire me.

    • EP

      I couldn’t have said it better. Adrienne, your work is important and I truly appreciate all that you do.

  • ij

    i’m amazed and sorry about all that you’ve gone through in your attempts to break down what Tonto means for (mis)representations of Native Americans and what it means for our cultural imagination. i’m floored by how actively people have worked to discredit you at each turn, while simultaneously telling you that what your writing and your voice do not matter. As a young xicana concerned with the representations of Latin@s throughout different institutions, i can’t tell you how much i appreciate your brain and your words as they come from you. i look to your blog often and am glad to see that you plan to continue despite all of this.

  • I actually just read the first paragraph and quickly scrolled down to post just to say how happy I am that you are writing about this. I’ve been reading your blog for a while now and you have really taught me a lot about, well, native appropriations. I love the work you do. I’ve seen the controversy that has been happening in the comments. I’m glad you are standing up and talking about this because it matters to you, and many other people. Keep doing you. Now I will go back and actually read the whole post! :)

  • LU

    You sure as frig can be Native AND critical of, in this case, “Indian” representations in popular culture. Not every one has to cosign Johnny Depp’s portrayal and that doesn’t make me any less Native. Saginaw & Co. don’t have copyrights to Tonto. That’s just ridiculous. And to skew your criticism of Depp’s Tonto and feel as if it was projected onto them baffles me. Obviously taken personal because of their history. Your words definitely aren’t going to hurt any future roles or movies of Tonto. Those stereotypes make money. It’s all about the money.

  • Emma

    The Indian way is not to criticize? Dang…by that way of thinking Indian people would be completely assimilated. Through the work done by those who have criticized we (Native people) have progressed.

  • Janet

    I think it’s someone trying to save their own image hiding behind “native culture” and attempting to silence you. It’s seems that is their intent. Further, to abuse native virtue like that, that’s shameful. There is no patience from his side and I don’t think any of my elders would have ever treated me in such a manner. They would have listened to me and if I was doing wrong, they would have explained it kindly. The thing about my grandparents, they never made me feel bad about myself and I’m a sensitive person. And further, they modeled their behavior. Wisdom is learned through listening, patience, and understanding, it is not given with age. Being critical doesn’t mean being negative. If someone can’t take criticism then they are not willing to learn & grow. Respect is given as much as it should be received. I stand by your words Adrienne.

  • mirandy

    did you tell them that there’s a difference between elders and old farts? like shantique said, my elders are respect, love and care personified. they give respect, even as they’re teaching/telling me i did something the wrong way.

  • rightojibwe

    Keep blogging. By the way, it is a crime that people will use the “respect” argument to shut people up. We are our own worst colonial bullies. We tear down each other for the colour of skin. Were we live. What our education is. We don’t take the time to lift each other up. To see our value. Instead we dig into a position and dig and dig with no way of looking at anything else but the dirt. I have been blogging for about 3 years and cover some of the identity topics as well. It is your thoughts and your attempt to get people to actually Look, that upsets people. The Native actor, Saginow, is in the movie. He does not want to feel like he took part in something that is not good for Indians. Therefore, if someone says something bad about the movie he took part in, they are saying something bad about him (in his mind). No one wants to be part of something bad. So Saginow is interested in taking care of his investment. He invested himself in the movie. Which is a good thing. But he is now closed to any discussion on the Tonto role. It is quite interesting about roles in movies, tv. etc. It is a normal response from certain groups to ask “why wasn’t a (insert race, ethnicity) found for the role?” It is a reasonable question. And the other aspect is why is there a “stereo-type” to the role? Remember the movie Crash? When Tony Danza wanted a re-take of a movie scene with the Black actors, speaking in a more “Black urban” style? The emotion that scene brought out from the actors was strong. Same with the stereo-typying of Indian roles.

  • perplexed

    Yes he is an elder deserving of respect and consideration, but he is not “your” elder. Advice weighs differently when the advisors have a monetary stake in what is being criticized.

  • Erica

    I think you’re awesome and I really hope you keep blogging; this became one of my favorite blogs last year and I’ve really missed it! You’ve given me a lot of food for thought and have made me more aware of Native issues.


  • Zack G

    Every kid gets pissed at the adults who tell them how they should or shouldn’t act. Most of them deal with that by taking the criticism inward and assuming that age = wisdom, so they must be right. It takes a brave and smart and /truly/ wise person to understand the difference between criticism and cowardice. Thank you for standing up for what you believe.

  • I have learned a tremendous amount from your blog. I am impressed that you remained calm and respectful while being berated by your “elder.” You have really opened my eyes to all kind of cultural appropriation–not just of American Indian culture. I hope you will continue with your writing. The blog is an important piece of work and reaches people who may not be exposed to these issues otherwise. (I do some work related to Native American issues, so I actually consider “Native Appropriations” part of my background research.)

  • meanneighborlady

    I really thought this was fascinating. I read just about all of your entries about the movie and Depp’s version of Tonto. The costume Depp’s version uses is from a Kirby Sattler painting “I am Crow.” Kirby Sattler, as you probably already know, isn’t Native and is one of 60 dozen artists whose depiction of Native people is over-romanticized shlock. It is what many non-Native people recognize as being “really” Indian. And unfortunately, for some Native people too, apparently.

    If Saginaw Grant feels he must be absolutely that concerned that your blog posts will make it difficult for Native actors, that says quite a bit about his field, doesn’t it? And Mr. Grant should instead be questioning why the people in the film industry are so obnoxious that they would some how blame him for what you rightly criticize in Hollywood. You are not Mr. Grant’s spokesperson (and thank goodness you don’t use hackneyed phrases like “speaking with a forked tongue” as his actual assistant does.)

    I am GREATLY surprised that any Indian would claim that real Indians don’t criticize…oh my god…seriously? Have they actually BEEN around other Indians? Holy cats, it’s like an Olympic level sport—criticism.

    Stepping out and questioning the gatekeepers will always invite those gatekeepers to smack you down, especially by the other Indians who are allowed access through the gatekeepers. They are uncertain of their place and may even be aware of what they have to keep to themselves to maintain that access (other wise known as selling out.)

    • angry mescalero lady

      >>I am GREATLY surprised that any Indian would claim that real Indians don’t criticize…oh my god…seriously? Have they actually BEEN around other Indians? Holy cats, it’s like an Olympic level sport—criticism.<<



      so true

  • bunnika

    “Why does Johnny get a free pass?”

    Honestly, I’d say it’s an issue of privilege. Not only is Depp famous, but he’s a man (and a rich, and powerful-thanks-to-that-wealth-and-fame one at that). There’s undoubtedly sexism involved in telling a woman that her voice is inherently less meaningful than that of men, especially a man with so obviously less knowledge and experience on the subject than the woman. I’m not interested in playing culture wars with anyone, mapping out genealogy and cultural heritage, but Depp’s one words showed that–at the very least, until taking this role–he is/was largely ignorant to Native culture. Dismissing your knowledge on the subject just seems…ridiculous.

    • I was thinking along similar lines, both with regards to Depp and Saginaw. Their actions reek of privilege and entitlement.

      In Depp’s case, his choices reek of white privilege, in first of all feeling comfortable claiming Native ancestry (certainly possible in any USian born person) as justifying and legitimating his taking on this role and forming it around his imagination; that he (apparently) did not feel that in depth research into either his heritage (so he knows what nation that heritage even comes from!) or cultural accuracy in his portrayal of Tonto or into the politics of representing an iconic (for all the wrong reasons) Native character on screen was at all necessary…. Who but a white person could feel so entitled?*

      In Saginaw’s case… Well… His actions speak of someone who is used to power and is comfortable exercising it over others. Even the best of men sometimes fall prey to this behavior, in my experience and observation, and the class-privileged (of all genders) are often just as bad. The point is, how fucking entitled is it to think it’s ok to call someone up and berate them for speaking out in a way that he doesn’t like? To question their identity and talk down to them in this way, BECAUSE OF A DISAGREEMENT? I mean really… And then to keep an eye on them the way he and his assistants have done? To harass Adrienne when she steps a toe out of line (in their view)? Who but a man could feel so entitled?*

      I can only shake my head at this, and I want to encourage you, Adrienne to stay true to who you are and what you’re doing. When those who are privileged, and/or who are invested in the system as it is, are so threatened by your words, you know you are speaking truth to power. And it is NOT easy, because they will always feel entitled to hurt you and tear you down in whatever way they are most comfortable with. But, clearly, you also have a whole lot of support bolstering you, which hopefully you can draw strength from. And this northern CA neighbor is cheering you on too.

      *While I like my little rhetorical device here and think most will see what I’m doing, to be absolutely clear: any privileged person might feel to entitled to behave this way towards someone positioned in the social hierarchy as “below” them, not just white people and men, although that is what we’re dealing with here.

  • Casawayward

    There are Elders, and then there’s older. The two are not interchangeable.

  • Boston

    Adrienne, keep doing what you do. Your website is a breath of fresh air in what seems to be a never ending barrage of awful awful media. Don’t let them get you down. If you feel alone, just know that there are people out there who see your website as a source of hope for the future! There is someone out there who will call out bullshit and do it well!

  • Kiza

    I’m half white. I grew up on a reservation. I spent my childhood participating in ceremonies, learning my ancestors’ language, and experiencing all the loss and pain and horror that comes with intergenerational trauma and extreme poverty. When I left the reservation for college, I was thrown into a culture that I didn’t understand and couldn’t relate to. And yet, I spent most of my childhood defending my identity against those that viewed me as an outsider, even as we were burying the same friends and experiencing the same overt racism.

    Defending your sense of self against this perverted, self-serving monolith of CULTURE: I HAVE IT, YOU WILL ALWAYS LACK IT is awful. Especially when you’ve devoted your life to defending it. And witness your detractors violating the very tenets they throw in your face as often as they can get away with.

    You do good work. I have never heard this “real Natives don’t criticize other Natives” rule before, and I have spent many afternoons conversing with my grandparents in their native tongue. I have also attended college on the east coast and witnessed my culture parodied and mocked daily (I have to restrain myself from rear-ending cars with Red Skins bumperstickers on principle.) Finally, I write for a Native publication and receive comments from other Natives criticizing my writing about my own tribe’s history often. There are times when you just can’t win. And really, who would want to? People like Mr. Saginaw will always rely on their self-serving views of “culture” to explain away their missteps. You handled the situation with respect and integrity. And when it all comes down to it, I honestly believe that your intentions, your fight, will count for a hell of a lot more than whatever “harm” you’ve supposedly caused Mr. Saginaw. You’re inspiring the next generation of fighters. None of us can do it alone. And respect, as my Unci says, goes both ways.

  • A madman

    All real Indians know that you’re either right or wrong, good or bad, real or fake: there’s no room for ambiguity, discussions, or questions especially when it comes to Tradition, knowledge handed down. Gotta keep the fires burning because whiteness is like ash, the absence of culture, so if you slow any growth of Native culture you’re just turning us all whiter.

    The cure is to rub American Spirit Organic Tobacco on the affected area. It’s in the red bag. If that doesn’t work, get an elder to perform an exorcism. The richer and more famous, the better they are at scaring the spirits back into mixed blooded vessels. If that doesn’t work, there’s no choice but to take them in front of the firing squad. A line of FBI men fire the whiteness arrows at you until you bleed out all your red blood, and with it your right to call yourself an Indian.

    And they tear up your tribal ID.

  • If I were Saginaw, I would be ashamed. This is something extremely, and unfortunately, pervasive in Indian Country — the idea that you should, never could, never will, and never shall question an “Elder.” Even if the “Elder” is someone who is taking advantage of their communities and using their culture as a shield. And whenever you bring it up then people just BLOW a gasket and say that YOU’RE the one being offensive because how dare you call into question a human being’s ideas. They don’t mean a human’s ideas, they mean their ideas. How dare you diminish their ideas, and in front of people too. It’s a distraction tactic that they’re unconsciously deploying of what I can only assume is guilt at being a part of something that they know is both not right and not good for their people. The idea that you should never question an Elder is so offensive and stops Native communities from making a lot of progress that we should. How can we change and grow as a people without questioning each other in a proactive, constructive way? Elders that have earned that title understand that, one would hope. From the handful of Elders that I know, they are so humble and understanding that I can’t ever imagine having a problem questioning their ideas or bringing up my concerns.

    And we have to speak out about our own communities, bring to light the problems that we have, make each other look in the mirror now and again. And as one fellow commentator stated, it seems like Saginaw and Co. can’t take any form of criticism whatsoever and tearing you down will make you question your legitimacy as a Native women, as well as quieting you down for a while. That’s terrible internalized racism and very unfair for you. Native identity is already so complicated, as we can see, no Elder would ever tear down such a great Native woman who does so much for all of us. Giving the white guy, Johnny Depp, a pass is, again, internalized racism. It seems to me that there’s a huge underlying of guilty conscience that lead to this attack on you and it’s too, too bad. You did the right thing by speaking out against it because this cannot continue if we want to build sustainable, prosperous Native communities.

    Oh, and, “You speak with a forked tongue?” I don’t know any Native (young or old) that speaks like that. Stupid.

  • Carly

    Adrienne, like many of your other fans, I admire you and I am definitely on your side.

  • Adsweezey

    There’s a big difference between and ELDER and an OLD PERSON. I too was taught from a very young age to never question or say no to an elder. All in the name of respect.

    I recently learned this valuable lesson in the past year of how to recognize this difference and now know that I don’t have to give my respect to anyone that has not earned it. Elder is a title that is earned. It is not an automatic membership you get when you reach a certain age.

    Most importantly, elders do not shame youth!

    • Lsciorra

      And Saginaw Grant has never shamed any of the young people out there. He does not have the time to even write on these blogs. He is 76 yrs. old and types very slow! :-) I am one of his promoters so I know!

  • Sarah

    Adrienne: thanks for your post, for your honesty, your grace, and your humility, even when faced with harshness. Your blog is a favourite of mine. I haven’t come up with anything more eloquent or reflective to say yet, just wanted to offer words of support and appreciation for your candour and your truly engaging, sensitive writing.

  • Jgeen

    I hear u young lady and believe you were not intending to be disrespectful. Sounds like alot of misunderstanding. Unfortunate but keep up the good work, but continue to try to understand the other side…believe me, I have been there and done that All we can do is keep trying…good luck “Indian” 😉

  • I offer words of support Adrienne. A few things:

    My grandmother always told me she loved her son because her son always spoke his mind and didn’t care what people thought. He was honest, and she would always respect that. That is the teachings of my grandmother. I believe in those values — of speaking truth to power. She was “full-blooded Indian” (I hate those terms).


    Indigenous communities are broken because we are colonized communities stuck in a cycle of lateral violence and systemic oppression. “Lateral violence is defined as happening when people who are both victims of a situation of dominance, in fact turn on each other rather than confront the system that oppresses them both. Lateral violence occurs when oppressed groups/individuals internalize feelings such as anger and rage, and manifest their feelings through behaviors such as gossip, jealousy, put downs and blaming.” 

    Elders do lateral violence people. Chiefs lateral violence people. Aunties, uncles, parents, children — all lateral violence. To come down on you the way some people have, in my mind, is lateral violence.


    I was taught feedback is there to help you grow. But it is your choice on what to do with it. You can examine it, understanding, and recognize its how someone else experiences you. It can be completely false — but it can still help you grow. So when people give me feedback, my tool is to say, “Thank you for caring enough to share”. If they didn’t care, they wouldn’t share!

    Indigenous identity to a particular nation, for me, was always about two things. Ones connection and affiliation with a group and its culture, and that group and cultures connection and affiliation with you. For example, if a person says their Cherokee but the culture and group has no connection or affiliation — it’s harder to discern. It may be possible, but a bit harder.

    Chris Winitana is a Maori writer from New Zealand. He talks about Indignity and Indigenous identity as a dynamic. It is not static. I’m Sḵwx̱wú7mesh, for example. When I came into this world I was like an empty cup. I came with form, but a readiness for substance. As part of my upbringing that cup begin to fill a bit. I learned who my parents were, then my siblings. Eventually things like aunties, uncles, grandparents, cousins. My cup fills more. Then I learned my peoples history; the culture and traditions. My cups fills more. I learned my extended family — all of whom I’m related to. I learned the songs and dances. I learned traditional canoeing and traditional art forms. I attended ceremonies. These all each filled the cup of my Sḵwx̱wú7mesh dynamics.

    What fills the dynamics of my Indignity may be different then another Sḵwx̱wú7mesh person. It doesn’t make me less Indigenous, nor does it make them more. Colonialism has prevented or created conditions where my relatives weren’t able to fill their cup with Sḵwx̱wú7mesh dynamics until a far later age (children were removed from their Indigenous parents homes and placed in White homes, only to reconnect with their family and heritage in their 30’s and 40’s). Arbitrarily questioning a persons Indignity depends on the community that person comes from. What are the dynamics of that identity.

    In the cup, it is fluid. It all swirls together like a mixture. It’s not compartmentalized. It’s dynamic — not static. It’s moving and changing and growing. We can always fill our cup with more (language, history, genealogy, culture, teachings, traditions, family). And it can be helping advance the wellbeing of your community (whatever that community may be).

    In my language we say “Men we7u síy̓am̓”. It means, “Continue on respect one”. I’m a blogger, language speaker, and believer in resurgence of our Indigenous ways of being. I love your blog. You provide an alternative media source for the Indigenous community. An invitation to think differently, examine things interestingly, and expose things people have’t found a way to articulate themselves yet.

    Thank you, and keep up the good work.

    P.S. I think the Johnny Depp as Tonto is gross. Mainstream media portrayals need to be challenged. Respect our existence or expect resistance!

  • T. S.

    Wow, so sorry to hear that Saginaw Grant and his staff have taken to cyberbullying you over your thoughts on your blog. I enjoy your work and think a lot of it is spot on. A truly “respected” elder wouldn’t attempt to bully someone into silence. I have lost respect for him based on his actions here. Keep speaking out and speaking the truth. Stay strong.

  • Thekt9

    They would not be going after you so hard if they weren’t afraid that your voice had any weight to it. Keep writing. You are creating and contributing to the dialogue, and that is really, really valuable. If your posts makes just one person re-evaluate their own perceptions/ priviledge, you have done a lot. You are not harming anyone by pointing out the minstrel show that is Tonto. I could go on about lateral oppression, but I am sure you already know…

  • apihtawikosisan

    I saw this getting ugly and I’m glad you’ve put this post together so that you have a clearer picture of what happened. It seemed to me like you were trying your best to be respectful and open but what was desired was your complete silence. I’m glad you wrote this too so you could see that you have a lot of support. As crappy as the whole thing has been, and I can only imagine how it affected you, this kind of thing isn’t going to kick you down the same way ever again.

    • Rachel Auker

      It’s true. As much as it sucks, it will hopefully never feel quite this bad again – and none of us can afford to have a voice as perceptive and strong as yours to be silenced!

  • Sivadogg

    I, for one, am glad you are back and posting. Keep doing what you do.
    Some observations I’ve had: the people who claim the right to tell another person how to claim their birthright aren’t living with your life experiences and if they are Native, are often engaging in lateral oppression. They are just a guilty of oppression and abuse of power as the dominant culture. Not saying this is what happened because I wasn’t on that conference call. I just know that if someone uses the”forked tongue” phrase on you, it is not a reflection on you.

    If this is how you choose your path, take the good with the bad, but keep walking. There are many here watching your progress.

  • NoNameNoPlace

    I admire the way you stood up for yourself. As someone who was young & naive going into the work world, I let someone’s age and experience weigh more onto my conscious and let it question my principle and ethics. I had that moment also when I broke down and I cried. I felt as if my whole efforts of going to school was in vain. I know how you feel. But It took me awhile to speak against their actions. I continued to respect that person but I didn’t let them push me around. It was a huge learning experience and like myself, I know this is something you will grow from.

  • You know, Adrienne, there has been a lot of talk in the comments of this blog, for a long time, about how various people are not “real Indians.” If you “look white”, if you weren’t raised in a community composed mainly of Indians, if you disagree with the person making the assessment, etc. I haven’t seen you ever challenge that, so I got the impression that this behavior, these kind of accusations, were acceptable to you. I hope that is not the case and that, having experienced this now, you will move to stop this shit from happening on your blog. It is counter-productive and mean-spirited.

    I think Saginaw’s behavior and statements about this are asinine. Andrea posted on facebook, repeatedly saying that anyone who would criticize Depp’s adoption was not a “true Indian”, and I found that shocking and upsetting. The same with Saginaw’s post asserting that anyone who criticized the adoption was “has no respect for the Indigenous people.” That kind of attitude is basically a way to belittle, frighten, and dismiss the people who have opinions you don’t like. It is ironic to me that Andrea and Saginaw think that Saginaw, and Depp, should be exempt from criticism, but they have no problem criticizing and even attacking other people. If criticism is not “the Indian way” as Andrea claims, then why is she so vehemently criticizing Adrienne and anyone else who has an opinion she doesn’t like?

    Honestly it does seem to me that they were going to harass and attack Adrienne no matter what: their goal is to stop her from talking about what they don’t want talked about. And I find it offensive. The insults and harassment, they are offensive. The assertion that you shouldn’t talk about something because they don’t like it, is offensive. The assertion that you are not an Indian because you disagree with them, is offensive.

    And Saginaw’s assertion that if you criticize the choice to cast Depp, directors won’t cast Native actors, is illogical. You are not criticizing the casting of a Native actor. Hollywood in general is not going to punish all Indians for your criticism. He says they won’t cast Native actors because they want to “avoid the controversy”, when the controversy is over casting a non-Native and (more importantly) using demeaning stereotypes. Casting a Native person is not a controversy (I’m not going into whether or not Depp is Native: he is unsure of his ancestry, but more importantly, he does not identify as Native.) And worst of all, to me, is that if this is really about Saginaw’s fear that he won’t get work, that means he is willing to harass you and throw other Native people under the bus, out of concern for his own bottom line. In my opinion Andrea is the one who has behaved shamefully here, and her words reflect very poorly on Saginaw, who allows her to speak for him.

    Andrea said: “If we can practice walking the walk and not talking the talk and putting our efforts if we say who we are into doing for the people rather than criticizing people we do not know, we could bring about change much faster for the good and bring about positive change. ” It would be nice for her to heed her own words: she appears to be talking the talk, but not walking the walk.

    • Andrea

      Priscilla, I can appreciate your opinion most of all of the people who have commented here and I will address what you have brought out.

      First of all, this was never meant to be mean spirited. Mr. Grant was saddened by all the hatefulness towards Mr. Depp being cast, his costuming, protest of the Navajo people for giving him a blanket, that a real native should have been cast, etc. and that the movie was a misappropriation in itself. Since Adrienne brought this to the forefront, Mr. Grant was dismayed at the behavior of especially a minority of native people screaming misappropriation and chiming in.

      The other side of this story of the telephone conversation between Mr. Grant and Adrienne was to teach not scrutinize of the way we should behave as Indian people. He was trying to relay the lessons he learned as a child and the way we as Indian people have become today is shameful and we must love everyone no matter who they are. I remember him mentioning to Adrienne “if you know one perfect person, bring them to me so I can meet them” and not once did he ever speak to her in a scolding voice but with calm. I do believe Adrienne took his words personally and that is unfortunate, So of course, she felt attacked by that notion and her feelings are convoluted, thereby, reason for this blog which is sympathetic at best.

      To scrutize Mr. Grant is unjust. He does not fear for work for himself, he is already established in the industry but thinks of others entering the business having a shadow cast upon them because of the crybabies (my words) so to speak was his point. Mr. Grant is a humble man, and if he doesn’t get work ever again, so be it. He always thinks of others before himself. Of course everyone who is making comments to the contrary wouldn’t know that. He has a fondness for Mr. Depp and the man who gave him such a wonderful opportunity to work alongside him he is grateful, as many natives in the film are. I don’t see anything wrong with that.

      Because I am an imperfect human being as we all are here, we all stumble but I speak for myself and only myself and not Mr. Grant. So for anyone to infer I am speaking on his behalf this is not truth and this is unfair to him. I get mighty angry when I hear untruths and statements taken out of context made about people I know very well and their worth as a human being and in particular Mr. Grant whom I have known for many years. My reference to walking the walk and not talking the talk gets thwarted at times because I am imperfect just like everyone else and it is what we must all strive to be and do.

      Just want each and everyone to remember, there are always two sides of a story. When I see injustice when I know the facts as so many here do not, and forgetting there are always two sides of a story my walking the walk and not talking the talk gets thwarted because I am imperfect.

      So many here on this blog have called me shameful, so be it. I stand corrected and my words to Adrienne were not the best and I make a public apology to Adrienne here and now as anyone should rightfully do who has spoken and inferred terrible things against Saginaw.

      Be well everyone, and be happy for others.

      • It’s funny that you say that Mr. Grant is only saying/doing these things because he doesn’t want a ‘shadow cast upon them’ because it seems to me that Adrienne’s work is the *only* voice in your dialogue actually looking out for these incoming actors’s needs. I know Native actors trying to make it in Hollywood and they are constantly told that they don’t “look Native enough” or they they can’t be cast in a Native role because they don’t have long hair. Adrienne’s work and the positions she supports are trying to make it so that those actors *don’t have to* play into those stereotypes–Mr. Grant is trying to make it so that they learn *how* to play into them. The system is to blame–you are essentially letting it continue to exist whilst Adrienne is trying to change it.

      • Andrea, no one is inferring that you speak for Saginaw Grant. You have explicitly indicated that you do speak for him. You claim to express his thoughts and his opinions.

        On Facebook you said, of Depp’s adoption ‘As SAGINAW GRANT would say, it is the “INDIAN WAY” and he fully supports this’.

        In the comments to this blog, you have said: “It was Saginaw’s objective to enlighten and bring understanding to you for things you may have not known.” You said, of Saginaw, “he would like to talk to you.” You said, apparently of yourself and Saginaw, “we have a problem” and “We have spoken.” You also said that “Saginaw doesn’t need any more convincing of who’s who . . .” These are just a few of the instances in which you speak as though you are representing Saginaw.

        On FB you accused me of assuming you speak for him, and here you say people are inferring that you speak for him. This is inaccurate. You claim to be his personal assistant, and you have on several occasions indicated that you are expressing HIS thoughts and feelings. No one has to infer or assume anything when you make it so clear.

        I think it is admirable for you to apologize to Adrienne. I wish that apology had not come in the same comment post as more belittling language.

  • Lsciorra

    Adrienne, I have read your blogs in the past and I have not commented on any of them but I must comment on this because I was part of the telephone conference that you had with Saginaw Grant. I have also brought up what you wrote to his attention and have contacted his agent and management team and have screen shot the blog that you wrote. I am his promoter and I can say to you that Saginaw Grant does (not) write on any of these blogs nor has the time to even read them. He has people who handle his websites (I am one of them) and if there are articles that pertain to him then yes, it is brought to his attention and it is the only time he will read them.

    As for your telephone conversation with him, I am very much aware of what was said because I was the one who set up the telephone conference call per his request because he was told about your blogs. Mr. Grant has never questioned your background. He did ask “where you are from” and you answered him speaking (Cherokee) which was kind of puzzling to him because he is from the Sauk & Fox Tribe and is not Cherokee so he did not even understand what you were saying. It was not necessary for you to answer him in Cherokee just to prove that you are American Indian (Cherokee, in your case).

    The reason he had requested to have a conversation with you on the phone was because your blogs were brought up to him — the blogs about Johnny Depp’s Tonto and thought it would be best to just speak with you directly. Saginaw has worked with many young people and he has been a mentor to many of them. If you were local to the SoCal area he would have spoken to you in person.

    After your telephone conversation with him ended on that day, there was no more mention of you from his part. Nobody was or is attacking you or cyberbullying you, Adrienne. Saginaw Grant is 76 years old and the only time he will write is on his own fans page that was created for him and he does take the time to answer e-mails but blogging is certainly not something he is even aware of!!!

    So, before you try to publicly denounced one Indian country’s well respected elder I think it would have been good if you had just written to him directly if there was something said to you that you felt was wrong and he would have been happy to have spoken to you again.

    I honestly do not understand because you even wrote to one of his assistants that you felt your conversation “ended up on a good note”.

    If you have haters out there (as you say you do) then Saginaw Grant is not one of them nor are his team of people. As for Johnny Depp’s Tonto, I do remember he was about to explain to you about the bird on Johnny’s headdress but I had to interrupt him due to his contract and the movie still being in production.

    Again, to have people go against Mr. Grant like this is unfare because he does not write on these blogs. People write on blogs using aliases and it is not good to that Saginaw’s name is used.

    In fact, we certainly encourage you to continue blogging about the misapproriations out there.

    • For one, if it’s true that Mr. Grant himself is not reading this blog nor writing on it, then your issues are not with Adrienne, but with this “impersonator”.

      For two, if it’s true that none of “his team” are writing on this blog, then who is this “Andrea” person who’s made a nuisance of herself for months on end, always writing to criticize Adrienne harshly on every post she’s made on this topic?

      The burden of proof is on you that you people haven’t been on here hijacking every single post with comment after comment about how “Saginaw Grant is a respected elder” and the blog author isn’t allowed to question his wisdom and she’s not a real Indian and blah blah blah. Given that this comment sounds exactly like those, I’d say you’ve already failed. Get on out of here.

      • Lsciorra

        NatWu…who is saying or writing that Adrienne is not a real American Indian. If that is who she is then what is the problem because not once has Saginaw asked her if she was American Indian!!

        • Tut


          Assuming you were present, as you claim, I find it interesting your comment here does not fully address the contents of the conversation.

          Adrienne states in her original post that her heritage was questioned multiple times, directly and indirectly, throughout the conversation. Would you care to refute these, directly?

          I only ask because your response to NatWu would seem to indicate these utterances never happened.

          • Lsciorra

            Tut, as I have just replied to NatWu, yes I was a witness to the telephone conference between Adrienne Keene and Mr. Saginaw Grant. He did not once questioned her heritage. He asked what her tribe is and where she is from (he always ask this question when he meets or speaks with other Natives) and Adrienne answered him by speaking in Cherokee! Cherokee? Saginaw Grant did not even understand that as he is Sauk & Fox so he was a bit puzzled on why she did that. If anything, Adrienne felt that she had to prove herself that she was truly an American Indian . I often wondered why that is? Saginaw Grant was not on a 2.5 hr. conversation with her because he left the conversation after an hour and I continued to speak with Adrienne and all seemed great and when the conversation was done we all through it went well and there was NOTHING ever said from Saginaw after it.

            I remember the conversation well. There is always two sides to a story Tut and I think it is just fair to know the other side.

            If Adrienne and all of her followers are proud to denounce him publicly then it is your choice to do so.

            Saginaw Grant will be a guest on a popular talk show in a couple of weeks and he certainly would not go to to the extent of mentioning and denouncing Adrienne and what she just wrote about him. That is not his character to do so.

            But if all of you are proud to continue on bashing him on your blogs so bit it….

            • Tut

              Thank you for this response.

              It is your assertion, then, that Mr. Grant never, in any way, stated that Adrienne had “no right to call [her]self an Indian”?

        • Ok, so you only picked one part of what I said and then claimed it wasn’t true despite Adrienne having quoted Andrea saying exactly that in her post! Which returns us to my other question: Is she part of your team or not? Because if she’s not, then where are the comments from you telling Adrienne that Andrea doesn’t speak for Mr. Grant and to disregard what she says? And you just lied when you said “Nobody was or is attacking you or cyberbullying you, Adrienne”. That’s exactly what Andrea has been doing.

          The fact that here you are criticizing Adrienne instead of Andrea leads me to believe that you people are in fact on the same team and are in fact full of crap. You’re both lying about what’s been said because you’ve been called out on it. Sorry, but it’s time to stop. You best not respond to me unless and until you have some damn good answers that actually jibe with the evidence we have at hand. Neither of you are making yourselves or Mr. Grant look good.

      • Andrea

        NatWu: Months on end, hardly, that is untruth and real indian is a generalization for all that say they are not meant specifically for Adrienne. Goes to show you how words, writings can be taken out of context. No one ever told Adrienne she wasn’t a real indian. That’s unfair. Angry when someone attacks Mr. Grant and makes him look foolish, you bet and I’m human and I am not perfect just like everyone else and I will stand corrected here, it’s your privilege.

        • Actually it’s completely true. I assume you’ll be too lazy to look up your own comments and realize you people started harassing Adrienne back in April and continued all up through June. And you obviously didn’t read the part that quoted you saying Adrienne wasn’t a real Indian, which goes like this: “Furthermore your continual disrespect of elders is abhorred because if you say you are Indian, it shows not because no traditional person would speak or question any elder’s words or Ms. Ladonna Harris choice which you have done. In closing you are very young and inexperienced and with very little track record behind you and have exhibited no traditional thought of mind just book learned and that is quite a shame.”

          All along you’ve berated and belittled Adrienne for expressing her viewpoint, which is something she hasn’t done to you. All along you people have claimed to represent the views of all “real” Indians, as if you could possibly know my mind and that of my father and brother. There’s no way you can defend your actions, and you need to quit. I’d like to be able to say “no real Indian would claim to speak for all Indians”, but I don’t actually question your claim to Native status. Nor should you be questioning Adrienne’s. So move on with yourself and go find someone else to pick on; you’re done here.

    • Rob Schmidt

      Let’s be clear here. The only reference to Saginaw’s writing anything was to one comment he apparently wrote and signed:

      “hello may I request that you leave the word Tonto out of your stories that does not pertain to this movie you are writing about. -Saginaw Grant Sac & Fox Nation Actor/Public Speaker”

      The other references to him are to his phone call with Adrienne.

  • whitenoise_23

    hi adrienne,

    i’m a long-time reader of this blog. i just want to say that i’m sorry for the way you’ve been treated. you’re doing great work in this world and know that a large number of (mostly silent) people out here take great inspiration and understanding from your work. i hope you keep speaking truth.

    we appreciate you big time.

  • Lsciorra, Saginaw did comment here. But he also allows Andrea to speak for him, and the things she says are shameful. His silence is his consent.

    • Andrea

      Priscilla please do not blame Saginaw. My words are my words alone, we are separate entities. His silence has nothing to do with consent. Please read my in depth comment to you below and all.

      • accidental double post.

      • Guest

        Of all the comments you have made on this blog Andrea, this is the one that has had the effect of increasing my respect for Mr. Grant, and for you.

        Most of your posts here, including the one where you adress Priscilla’s concerns at greater length, have an overall tone of defensiveness, hostility, and condescension. You do not, overall, give the impression of someone who is naturally inclined to take responsibility for her words. (I make this judgement on the basis of the other comments in which you attempted to pretend away exchanges which took place in public, and which are recorded on this blog.)

        In this short post, however, there is no attempt to defend the indefensible. You do not make false claims about what you may have said in the past. By simply stating that you and you alone are responsible for what you have said, even if in the past you claimed otherwise, you have shown a better side of yourself than has appeared in any of your other posts. From this post, it seems that you care more about ensuring your mistakes do not reflect on Mr. Grant than you do about proving yourself superior.

        I respect the maturity of that choice, to take sole blame and responsibility for your actions. The ability to do that is more rare than most of us would like to believe, and is certainly something I have struggled to do even in much less public situations. I do not know if I would be able to do it in public like this, though of course I hope that I would.

        I also know that when your natural impulse is to be defensive, it takes a strong motivation to choose humility and responsibility instead. That you are willing to separate yourself from Mr. Grant’s authority, which you have been relying on so far to lend validity to your points, rather than reflect badly on him, tells me that you deeply respect and care for him. It says that your dedication is not just an excuse to feel superior, but is also something that you are willing to pay a personal cost for. That is a better reflection on him than any of your impassioned defenses. Thank you.

  • Ally

    Adrienne, I had huge admiration for you already, but after this post, that’s grown a thousandfold. You are so brave, and you do this with grace.

  • Mark

    my initial reaction is just to say ‘fuck yeah!’ . . . but some might find it too vulgar for the context . . . i’m leaving it anyway . . .

    I appreciate your vulnerability in this post and affirm your courage (both in the immediate moment and in the prolonged struggle that this ‘Tonto’ process has been). Please don’t allow yourself to be discouraged in your writing.

  • Did I even mention what happened during the phone call? I’m talking about what these people have written right here. Their own words that all of us can see, except some like you are choosing not to. Try reading and understanding before commenting.

  • Tut

    My earlier reply had nothing to do with Mr. Grant. Similar to the comment I am about to make, it was directed only at YOU.

    YOU stated in YOUR reply to NatWu, earlier, “who is saying or writing that Adrienne is not a real American Indian. If that is who she is then what is the problem because not once has Saginaw asked her if she was American Indian!!”

    My point was, and still is, that this statement (made by YOU) directly contradicts Adrienne’s account of the phone conversation, as given above. She clearly states that he (and/or his entourage) called the authenticity of her heritage into question in various ways.

    My simple question, to YOU, as someone who was witness to the conversation:

    Is this true?

  • Actually I haven’t said anything about Mr. Grant, except that the things being said here by you and Andrea on his behalf are shameful. It’s truth, you can easily read what I wrote (and you really should have before answering). The only one of us using him as some kind of tool is you, and you’re hiding behind his name like a shield. If you don’t speak for him, don’t bring him up again. If you do speak for him, then realize we’re going to assume that you’re merely expressing his opinion and he has to take full responsibility for it.

    However, I want to reiterate that all this time, Adrienne hasn’t written anything disrespectful of Mr. Grant, or even that woman named Andrea. All she’s done is try to be diplomatic in stating her viewpoint, which, if you’ve forgotten, is a disagreement with how Johnny Depp is portraying Tonto. It’s you folks who tried to tell her that she couldn’t express her opinion in the first place.

  • Hi Adrienne! I just wanted to thank you for this post. I think that a lot of the things that this team of people keep saying to you are not only disrespectful, but also very misguided and misplaced. You should not ever have to feel bad about promoting an ideology which requires human beings to not stereotype. It sounds like the people in the Saginaw camp have been living in a world where it is easier to work within an oppressive system than try to question it (not surprising given that Hollywood is behind in a lot of things when it comes to race, feminism, and the like). When they ask you not to write about these issues to avoid ‘controversy’ for fear of never being hired again, all they are really doing is allowing the system to continue. They don’t want you to rock the boat because in the short term it means fewer jobs for Native actors/Native parts in Hollywood (in their eyes) rather than admitting that they are working in a flawed system for the greater good of all Natives (and portrayals of Natives) in the future. Then they are trying to make you feel bad about yourself as an individual by saying absolutely unfounded things like that you are trying to “prove yourself” and that you’re trying to “bring attention to yourself” and that you’re not a real writer etc. Don’t let such hateful comments get to you–they are just angry because you’ve opened up a real issue that they are loathe to admit exists and are using straw-man arguments to try to get you to stop. Not once do you ever make this blog about “you” nor are you at all concerned about bringing attention to yourself–if that was your goal you would be trying to be Paris Hilton rather than talking about *real* issues. Additionally, this Saginaw Grant camp really seem to be in a tizzy about this and it’s clearly because you’ve hit on a real issue–if you hadn’t they wouldn’t even be bothered about it. P.S. last time I checked, America is still a place where freedom of speech exists, so keep writing Adrienne, no one can stop you.

  • Tut

    Andrea et al (henceforth Team Grant) have, at various times over the past few months levied direct and indirect public attacks at Adrienne here and on other social media sites. These posts have been recorded, and many of them quoted here. It is a matter of public record. According to Adrienne (who I am inclined to believe), they also reiterated these comments in various ways to her via phone.

    Team Grant’s response today, to paraphrase, “We have never publicly attacked Adrienne”.

    That is a demonstrable non-truth, also known as a lie. People who tell lies are often called “liars”.

    But yes, shame on us for doing crazy things like judging the validity of posterior claims in light of prior comments and current posts. We’re shameful Bayesians, I guess…

  • Susanp23

    90% of the comments here must be from high school kids that have nothing better to do. Someone told me to look up this blog. this is slander people!

  • Greenraven

    Adrienne, keep speaking your truth. Until Native peoples are shown as people in media not as stereotypes, good or bad, we must all call out the crap we see.
    As someone else pointed out, there are “elders” and then there are just “olders”. Just living for a long time doesn’t make you wise and Saginaw sounds a bit self-serving in his stance with you.

  • Tsmalley11

    Adrienne you are the face of real progress, keep up the amazing work :)

  • Zakaree Harris

    Keep doing what you do Dr. Keene. I am always impressed by your ability to be critical while never crossing the “line” into being disrespectful. Haters are going to hate, especially when what you’re writing (and talking about) strikes a nerve. Stay strong and please (!) never back down. This is going to give you a great foundation for when you become even more famous than you already are!!!!

  • Sarah M.

    I’m sorry this is happening to you. On the other hand, if your voice truly didn’t matter, this wouldn’t be happening to you.

  • Libbydodd

    Bless you. Wipe off the blood, hold your head high, and continue on. There are a lot of fools in the world and they don’t like to be contradicted.

  • Leigh

    Actually, libel (not slander. Slander refers to spoken statements) would require that the complainant prove a statement is false, was made without adequate research into its truthfulness, and has caused demonstrable harm. The burden of proof for a celebrity or public official is even greater (must prove an intent to do harm as well). So I don’t think Adrienne has much to worry about legally.

  • Frankly, this sounds to me like Hollywood recognizing that they have a big PR problem and simply trying to bully you into silence to keep the problem from getting out of hand and attracting further attention. The people in charge of this film may or may not be familiar with the whole casting debacle that surrounded “The Last Airbender.” If they are, though, they’ll know how much focus that movie gained as example of what’s wrong with Hollywood’s treatment of race. I’m sure to them this debate looks like it has the potential to become even more widespread, especially as the movie features Johnny Depp and thus will inevitably make money even if the movie is completely awful. They’re trying to shut you down so the film can make buckets of money without anyone learning anything.

    I think what you are writing about is absolutely important. You’re speaking out about an important issue that too often gets overlooked and which needs to be addressed. If anything, this kind of intense negative response means you’re probably doing the right thing. Unfortunately, I’m sure the people who don’t agree will continue their attacks against you. Stay strong and remember– you’re not doing anything wrong, and you have every right to speak out against the problems you see, even if some people don’t like what you say.

  • Adrienne,

    I’ve been following your blog for a very long time now. I constantly refer people to your blog when I cannot explain something relating to Cultural Appropriations and Representations. Not just relating to these things in a Native context but your blog is an amazing source for countless topics that are relevant to a wide variety of social justice topics.

    This blog has helped me learn so much about my own privilege and has given me so much food for thought over the last year or so. I’m in awe of you for keeping up with it and remaining strong, people on the internet are often horrible and yet you keep going.

    I think that you should trust your gut and know that you are doing the right thing. All this unrest and scrutiny just proves one thing… that you are doing something right. You’re challenging people to think in a new way, and you’re making people realize that they could be wrong, that they could be the ones who have given up fighting. Maybe you are even challenging their own personal identities.

    Remember that oppression happens not just vertically, but horizontally and internally.

    Hang in there

  • Leigh

    Sending a message of support your way. You do very good work, keep it up!

  • Stephanie

    I just want to send you hugs! I love your blog, and respect everything you are trying to do. The fact that you are being criticized like this is just sad. As young people, we should be questioning things and not just taking things at face value and I applaud you for doing that.

  • I’m so glad you write this post, Adrienne. It takes a huge amount of courage to speak out when attempts are being made to silence your voice, especially using teachings so deeply ingrained into us like “respect your elders.” (For that I think you’re Superindian!) The love you have for the people comes across so clearly in your writing, and I think this blog is an x-mark that will make space for Native youth and future generations to be who they are without being held to Native appropriations. Wado! Migwech!

  • Inevitable Mexican

    Don’t ever be afraid or ashamed to put your opinion out there as strong as it may be. The Hollywood machine has sent out sell outs to defend their 70 million dollar racist of a “movie” that we all know is going to be a flop. They have an “investment” to protect & don’t necessarily care about how negative any portrayal of any person of color may be. By the way, not all older people have words of wisdom, especially those that grew up in and played into the racism that existed from yesteryear. Let’s also not front that there haven’t been actors of color that have benefitted from racist portrayals of their own people, ie The Help, Nacho Libre, Napoleon Dynamite, etc. It is hypocritical to defend an adopted Native (Johnny Depp) while devaluing a true Native woman that works to give Natives (and other races) a voice through her voice (AK). And of course her voice matters, that is why they are addressing her in the first place. AK wasn’t born yesterday, her coverage on “hipster panties” led to a wider awareness of cultural authenticity. I hope AK makes this whole Tonto production super uncomfortable so that Hollywood may start portraying Natives as, gasp, dignified people.

  • Lorna

    Adrienne, I want to voice my admiration and support for the work you do on this blog, in school, and in life. I’m often shocked at how aggressively some people respond to hearing that I am of mixed white and Cherokee heritage – that alone, much less that I have any particlarized experience as a result of my background or opinions about issues affecting native people. There is a lot of anger out there surrounding who is allowed to talk about native experience, identify as native, etc. Where it comes from is a big question, but the end result of that anger is silencing diverse native voices, erasing real native people from public view, and allowing stereotypical, inaccurate, and just plain offensive narratives to dominate whatever limited public discourse about native people exists.
    Your blog is one of my favorite counters to that process. I especially appreciate your being so open in this post about what is going on and your experience of being attacked on the basis of your writing, your values, and your “indian-ness.” I’m sure it rings true for more folks that just myself. Of course no one can speak for all native people, but I for one am proud to have your voice out there.

  • gwen

    Adrienne, I love your blog and your criticisms! I find your pointed questioning of Tonto and Depp’s role refreshing and on target in terms of discussions in the academic and indigenous communities.

    Reading over the comments Saginaw’s assistant Andrea sent you, the first thought that comes to my mind is, “proof read your comments Andrea! and do a spell check and grammar review first before sending!!”

    Keep up the excellent work,

  • Deejayndn of ATCR

    A Tribe Called Red is extremely proud to call you a friend. What you’re doing is extremely important for us as a people. This is a blog and you are going to get reprocussions like this (although I’m surprised they came in way of a 2 hour phone call…) You have to keep up what you do. Tonto IS extremely damaging and an actor who plays him in 2012 has an opportunity and duty to change the way he is represented for all of us. Good work on calling out miizii when you see it and again, keep it up. Call us if you ever need to vent!

  • good for you.
    when we shame others because they are too educated, not educated enough, too militant, not militant enough, not “indian enough” not brown enough, live on the rez, don’t live on the rez etc etc…. we buy into the idea of oppression which DIVIDES us. for those who have tried to shame you into silence by denying who you are, they themselves are buying into the very idea of oppression. never be shamed into silence and keep speaking the truth. never allow someone else’s idea of what it means to be indian to define you….you are who you are, proud and loud Cherokee woman
    as for Johnny Depp….don’t get me started… grrrrrrrrrrrrrrr is all i’m going to say

  • Navajo50

    I hope you continue to write and to express your opinions. Irregardless of the criticisms, you recognize the need for our youth to express themselves and to encapsulate all that is their world(s). We are not living in a time machine and we have influences in every aspect of our lives. I am an elder (sorta :) getting there) and I truly believe our youth need to take command and do what we didn’t do with our education. You are all our future and you are more bold and better equipped than we were!! It’s time for the seventh generation to step forward and lead.

  • lala

    If Native people aren’t supposed to “criticize” the status quo than how will we ever get ahead? F- Grant Saginaw! He’s nothing but a bully.

  • Fred Loucks-Schultz

    As a white male, I really don’t have any relevant comments to make on your interactions with Saginaw Grant or Ladonna Harris, except to wish you the best in getting through this so that you can continue the work you’ve started in holding up modern images of Native Americans/First Nations to critical scrutiny. In spite of any missteps on your part (real or perceived – I’ll let the self-proclaimed “Real Indians” decide which is which), your blog has been an eye-opener and and education for many, myself included. Welcome back.

    • TracieRoss

      Fred is at least intelligent and at least know that there is always two sides to a story. This one is told by only Adrienne. Where is the person she called out to defend themselves. I agree Fred and if others can think like you.

    • 4thaRcrd

      For the record, I don’t believe Adrienne has had any interactions with LaDonna Harris, at least regarding these topics. As stated in the post, she did mentiond Ms. Harris in the E! Online interview, but I think that’s the extent of it.

  • Supporting you 100%

    “I know the dark delight of being strange;/The penalty of difference in the crowd,/The loneliness of wisdom among fools…” -Claude McKay

  • Irvinmorris

    Thank you for sharing this. It certainly opened my eyes in many ways. And for what it’s worth, I share your opinion. Lastly, I wonder about the impulse to “adopt” non-natives. What’s that about?

    • Adoption has a long history. Adopting non-natives has been done since non-natives got here. Unfortunately, sometimes it is done for less than genuine reasons: I know of at least one person who paid to be adopted into a nation.

      Please note that I am not saying this is why Johnny Depp was adopted! I honestly do not know the motivations of the people who adopted Depp so I can’t say what their reasons are. It does seem suspect coming as it did in conjunction with the movie, but maybe the movie was just the avenue of their acquaintance.

  • Breanna Skeets

    I feel like sometimes people can play the cards they have but they’re not playing the right game. I have respected Saginaw’s work in other films and can understand that he has a different interaction with Hollywood than you do.

    I admire your courage and strength to maintain Native Appropriations, Adrienne.

    As for not being “native enough,” that is a question that many natives have. What is does it mean to be native? How native is native? By legal standards, I am full-blooded and I can trace my ancestry back far enough to believe it. However, by spiritual standards, I am not native enough. I grew up away from the reservation, I obtained my degree, I am moving further. How can my ancestors criticize me for getting an education that will ultimately help my people?

    What about Iron Eyes Cody? His family and many people in the media believed he was native, until he revealed his Italian heritage. He was honored for his roles, yet he wasn’t technically native. How can our heritage, our “nativeness” be taken from us? Those who aren’t native through heritage, but native by interaction, are more native than natives through heritage?

    As for Saginaw’s people, it’s not right that they are criticizing you and your work. This is YOUR BLOG. Where you are ENTITLED to your opinions. People can agree, disagree, comment RESPECTFULLY!

    I am so sorry you’ve had to go through this, but as a native woman and native in general, your work is incredibly important. Others many not agree, but it is. You are empowering, you are brave, you are native in more ways than others are. You give me strength and courage to continue to strive to fight stereotypes. It’s a tough battle, but we must not give up.

    best of luck,

  • archefemme

    you go, girl.

  • Cakecalamity

    Hi Adrienne, I’m a long-time reader of your blog. I enjoy your blog because it guides my thoughts in different directions. It makes me question, analyze, ponder. I don’t always agree with your exact words, but I certainly value them. I learn more about myself (and about others) from considering them. What you do here is important, and I hope you can find the strength to continue your work. It is unfair that not everyone can be civil to one another, even if they disagree.

  • India Rael

    I feel like Saginaw Grant’s need to speak to you most emphatically represents just how much control Hollywood has over the images they produce. As a seasoned actor, it’s quite likely that he’s had to deal with discrimination because director/producers don’t want to have to worry about “political correctness.” But doesn’t that, in itself, illuminate that a radical shift within Hollywood needs to occur? And how else would that happen without Native peoples speaking of their concerns?

  • angry mescalero lady

    don’t let these hollywood ndns and their lackeys silence you.
    they have an agenda and what they are doing is bullying – plain and simple.

    it’s pretty obvious by saginaw grant’s actions (rather than this infallible pedestal of elder-wisdom he has put himself on) that he is no more an authority on what is ndn than any of the rest of us.

    (who, exactly we ndns are as nations, tribes, and individual people is a problem that (rightfully so) has many more questions than it has answers.)

    saginaw, abusing his elder privilege, will change the rules in whatever ways allow him to maintain control, dominance, and a feeling of moral superiority.
    – all the while demonstrating by his own actions that he is nothing but a bully and a hypocrite.

    and none of that, if you ask any elders i hold respect for, is “ndn way”.

  • 10100111001

    I stand with you Adrienne.

  • Jackson B

    Dude, Saginaw and his punk publicists speak w/ forked tongue! Hahaha, they sound so crazy, how can they take themselves seriously?

  • Wakeupcall

    Oh look, more bullying.

    Consult this site for what is actually considered libel and for what happens to those who go on censorious crusades attempting to trammel constitutional rights of bloggers to comment and criticize.

    And while you are at, look up “The Streisand Effect”.

  • Nyla Carpentier

    Ever since your headress and hipster piece, I’ve been following your blog. I look forward to reading it everytime. You articulate what I want to say and how I feel about how First Nations are labeled. Even in this “cough” new age.

    First thought when I read your blog is: Thank you for being courageous. If Native People did not speak or voice what they see – then we’d never have change in the first place. If it wasn’t for a brave few who raised their voices, created art, wrote books or blogs – ignorance would prevail. Many artists/activist have over the years gotten hate mail, flak, been persecuted, slandered and even killed for sharing. These are our Elders the ones who worked hard and faced their fear so we can have the change today AND there is still Work to be done. Our generation needs you and you’re not alone.

    Thank you for sharing your voice

  • Umi

    Aloha Adrienne! I’m sorry that you had to go through such a rollercoaster ride. Although we are Native, there is such a vast diversity of perspectives amongst indigenous peoples especially on issues of identity, representation, culture. Although I’m another young person, educated,holding my piece of paper degree, for what it’s worth, I support and approve of your willingness to put yourself out there on a national/inter-national stage to ask the tough questions, making Native and non-Native peoples alike look at these issues. Im sorry that you felt ashamed and that Elders could not see the repercussions of their words and actions as well. We all have to lift where we stand to move our people forward and we cannot if we are breaking each other down. Keep going and doing what youre doing and asking what youre asking and saying what youre saying.

  • angry mescalero lady

    you got at least one thing right

    “Saginaw Grant and his team have no defense”

    correct. there is no defense for bullying.
    especially for bullying a woman who works for the betterment of the lives of native peoples

    you guys are just working for the betterment of team grant

    and as for this “all of you have no idea of tradition of thought of indianess” nonsense.
    who the heck are you to tell anyone what is ndn and what is not?

    we are people. nations, tribes – *individuals*

    what we are not is a mono-culture borg.

    and what *you are not* is the arbiter of “indian-ness”.

  • J. Yazzie

    Stand strong. As a Native women it is your duty and right to carry forward the traditions, cultures, and yes, image of our people, in a manner that respects the essence of our people. Saginaw Grant is obviously NOT doing that and elder or not, has no right to silence your voice and use his pr henchmen to keep you from correcting these forms of appropriations that are harmful to our youth. Our people understood that respect needs to be earned and is not a privilege or a right, but a form of interaction, a way of relating to one another. What he is doing/has done, has been for his benefit alone and completely disrespects the complex beauty and sacredness of who we are as Native people for the sake of pursuing Hollywood dreams. I am tired of people treating Johnny Depp as if he’s the new age Native American savior, for god’s sake he is wearing a dead bird on his head! What is more offensive is that despite all his talking points about his heritage he is portraying an image that he chose personally. This mean he had every option available to do some research to create a counter-narrative to the stereotype of Tonto. We all know Tonto was a fictional character but revitalizing him in a way that continues to promote those stereotypes to a new generation is continued colonization of Indigenous identity. Thank you AK for speaking out against this nonsense. To Johnny Depp: take a much needed break from acting, you can’t need the money that badly. To Saginaw Grant, you are building a career off making a mockery of our people and continuing the stereotypes that have caused my elders much pain and embarrassment throughout their lives and because of that, I will defend the wisdom of this bright young woman. If you want respect, do what you have to do, but don’t defend your actions against someone who is fighting for a different way for future actors, entertainers and other talented Native youth.

  • Mandola13

    So Saginaw tells you not to criticize as he criticizes you? Ha. I enjoyed reading the post and think you have a lot of courage for posting your blogs. Thanks for standing up for our Native issues on the blogs.

  • Starleigh Grass

    I’m so sorry you had to go through that. Terrible. Lateral violence at its worst. The nature of colonialism is to pit us against each other and it looks like some have taken the bait.

    If it makes you feel better my mom says that real elders don’t flaunt their elder status and then demand respect and authority. They don’t need to because recognition of elder status is given to them by the community, not simply by the passage of time. Do you want me to ask her whether real elders sick their personal assistants on academics in order to bully them into silence?

    Please, do keep blogging. You’re an inspiration in terms of making tracks into higher education for others to follow.

  • P. Benally

    “…you do not speak a few words you have learned in Cherokee to a person who is Sac/Fox.” This made me choke on my water.

  • Nicholas

    Hello, I just wanted to tell you that your work has had a great impact on me. Your writing is wonderful, powerful, and true. Keep spreading the word and don’t let any of them get you down, please!

  • Criticalthought

    Perhaps you should read it again. There was nothing at all grandiose or narcissistic in the statement. She is attempting to rise above her shame and the bullying she received and believe in the work she is doing again.

    Reading comprehension is your friend.

  • Amelia

    Adrienne, you are right. I know so little about Native issues and even I know that you are right. These people are bullies; they knew you would be deferent to them and they took advantage of that. You don’t owe them any respect.

  • Maggie

    Major props to Adrienne on this post. The day when everyone in Indian Country can stop denigrating each other by calling into question who is MORE Indian will be the dawn of a new era of progress for all Native peoples. Fighting over scraps of identity remaining after colonization keeps us occupied, screaming at one another in the back room, while out front our human rights are continually eroded through public policy and public ignorance.

  • apihtawikosisan

    Huh, weird, Jennifer. I have my LLB in common law, and have also studied the civil law of Quebec, and apparently I somehow missed out on affecting such a ridiculously pompous way of speaking.

    You aren’t by any chance offering legal advice as a student-of-law are you? Dangerous, that, given that there are strict prohibitions against doing this in most jurisdictions.

    (You might want to brush up on the elements of DEFAMATION though. Wouldn’t want you failing any exams.)

  • Liseking

    Are you kidding me? This is a blatant effort at shutting you down, censoring your voice and even your right to comment publicly on a public figure playing in a major motion picture. Bullsh*t. I say thu doth protest too much and you are clearly hitting a site spot. Whether they or anyone else agree with your opinion, to attempt to silence it is reprehensible. My response would be to do exactly what you have done here – explain myself and tell the story as it has unfolded. I hope you recorded that conversation with Grant and company. You have a major story in your hands… They have given you more fuel for your fire. I say let it burn. I’m proud of you for your work and your response here. Let us know how we can support you.

    ~ L

  • Wahineilikea75

    Stay strong Adrienne…it sounds like generational differences which is very common in our (Pacific Island) community too. You are right to want to respect your elders but you operate in different worlds. You can’t please everyone….

  • Chanelle

    As a POC whose community frequently suffers racist stereotyping in the mainstream media, I respect and stand by your work in this blog. Your posts on Tonto have been intriguing and well written, and to have a barrage of untrue hateful speech sent your way because of it is totally uncalled for. Questioning your validity as a Native person is beyond disrespectful and their consistent harassment leaves me no doubt that they are completely in the wrong. Keep calling people out Adrienne, and keep making these instances of repression known. When people get this malicious and try this hard to silence you you’ve clearly struck the right chord.

  • S.Clifford

    I think you are doing great work by speaking out. You lead people to think and I’d say that’s using your words wisely. Thank you for representing the ‘other side.’ Pila Maya

  • Adrienne_K

    The user was blocked because they referred to another commenter as a “bipolar idiot.” I have many close friends who deal with mental illness, and I did not take that comment lightly. That is not conversation, nor is it productive. You can see I’ve left all of the comments that are the not “in favor” of me by other users, yourself included.

    • Rachel Auker

      Way to keep it classy girl! Seriously, you’re handling this with some impressive grace.

    • Guest

      As someone who did not have to see that post because of your decision, thank you. I have severe depression, and many of my friends are mentally ill, including some with bipolar disorder. I hate to see these real diagnoses slung around as insults.

  • Preston

    You keep doing what you do, you got this Choctaw’s support.

  • whydoineedtologin

    I’m not Native, and won’t try wade into the issues or reasons why your words might have angered different people, but I absolutely love your blog! I think it’s one of the fantastic-est blogs on the net. I love the way you break down complex issues clearly and deeply, and I always feel the like your writing emanates respect, and inspires passion. Looking forward to your next post! Thanks for doing what you do :)

  • rightojibwe

    Wow, the amount of attention your blog is getting is great. I argue that Identity is the number one issue facing Natives. I was told it was a privilege argument, as there are more important things to think about like eating to survive and the such. Still I think It starts with who we are. Your blog is important. Your thoughts are yours and that’s good. I didn’t see you cutting up anyone. Unlike many of the “people” in the actors camp. But that is how debates, arguments go; all over the place. If you can’t win on merit, then obfuscate, and if that fails, attack the person’s credibility. In this case your identity. In any case, like my cousin says, “fuck em’ if they can’t take a joke”. Really, it’s a post about a whiteman playing and Indian, and the point is, how come an Indian can’t play an Indian? I guess it wasn’t a point that some people agreed with. Oh well. 😀

  • Shes_such_a_drag

    As a white woman with no ties to native heritage at all, I applaud you! You are a fantastic example for other girls, whether they are white red or purple. I enjoy your blog, I know I have privledge and an iggnorance about the problems of nonwhite middle class people. Your blog has been a catalyst for me to analyze my actions, my prejudice, and my world on a daily basis. I had no real concept of modern racism before I read your blog. You changed my life.

  • mari

    You’re doing an excellent job. Take good care of yourself; we need you in this and many other fights for justice. The fact that a celebrity (albeit one who is Native) is pushing a PR campaign to slander you just goes to show that your work is powerful and so needed. Don’t give up.

  • I know, you think this is really intimidating. You probably felt really proud of yourself after posting it- you thought it seemed really “lawyerly” and professional, and you were sure it would scare Adrienne and send her into hiding.

    Your problem is that you are not as smart as you think you are. Your post is laughably transparent.

  • How did anyone here (other than Andrea) “humiliate” Saginaw Grant?

  • Actually Adrienne wrote a blog post about the completely racist depiction of Tonto in this film. She didn’t mention Mr. Grant or any of his people. But then, guess what, they came here! The funny thing is you can read all this for yourself. The posts are all there for you to read. The comments are still all there for you to read. You can see that Grant’s defenders came on here post-haste to tell Adrienne she was being disrespectful, had no right to blah blah blah etc, etc. If this was all a matter of hearsay, you might be right that there’s another interpretation, but it’s all written on the internet for everyone to see!

    And freedom of speech? Really? I guess you haven’t read all the comments from Grant’s people telling Adrienne she has no right to express her opinion. Why don’t you write to them and tell them to let all of us express our disapproval of Depp’s Tonto?

  • lares

    Thank you, Adrienne, for all that you do and your thoughtful words and insight. As a light skinned bi-racial Puerto Rican woman I empathize with your experience of being told you are ‘not Native enough’ as I have been told and have felt time and again that I am ‘not brown/latina/Puerto Rican enough’. And this is the reality of the ‘post-colonial’ world that is so hard for many folks to recognize. Many of us are mutts in both blood and experience and all pieces of those experiences are valid. We are all the parts of our stories and every part deserves a seat at the table. Because you are all the things you are is not a reason your voice should not be heard but rather THE reason your voice NEEDS to be heard.

    Additionally, your experience with Saginaw Grant reads as misogynist bullying. I don’t mean to make blanket statements or deny the validity behind ‘respecting one’s elders’, however in reading your account of the exchange I had to ask myself how you would have been received if you were a man. It is a pattern in the history of all discourse for a woman’s voice to be more readily dismissed and unfortunately no culture is immune to misogyny.

    All in all I am saddened by the experience you have had as I believe your work and your words are meaningful and necessary. You have handled yourself with grace in the line of undeserved scrutiny and attack. I commend you for your courage to proceed and to write this particular post. And as a filmmaker who strives for truthful representation of all peoples I feel your work is tandem to mine. Thank you for doing the work we are so often told does not need to be done.

  • Marlon Magdalena

    Excellent post Adrienne! Don’t stop what you do because we need voices like yours to help all our Native communities.

  • Jayess

    I am impressed by you, Adrienne, particularly after hearing all you’ve been going through. The work you do is very important, and it is often young people, young women, young women of color, who are criticized for being outspoken not only about structural oppressions, but also about the members of your community that are complicit in those oppressions. Looking back on history, many oppressed groups have been in this place before. Think of Alice Walker; she had the courage to write about violence within communities of African descent. For this, she was criticized by people in her own community. She was told that she wasn’t respecting her community. She was told that she was making her community look bad, yet her work has been extremely influential, particularly to women of color activists and scholars. I can’t wait to see what amazing things you’ll do in the world and how influential you’ll become.

  • Gday3487

    Keep up the great work cousin and dont let anyone tell you what you are, or what you can write. Frankly, with actors and media and other folks stepping in, I think its time you head out to ‘Zona and find this John Depp people seem to love. You should interview him one on one, and get the real story. Until Depp himself comes out and responds to this (much needed and valid) criticisms there will be no end in sight.

    I work in the theatre arts, and have always had strong opinions towards casting against race—-check out this article frmo last year regarding this issue on stage

  • There’s obviously quite a lot in this that I can’t really speak to, what with the limits of my experience, but I have yet to be convinced that the entire notion of “respect for elders” isn’t just a mechanism that all of our cultures have developed in order to preserve authoritarian social mores in general and the patriarchy in particular. The respect elders deserve seems to be inversely proportional to how much of it they demand just for being.

  • Adrienne na holissochi hochukma. You are an excellent writer, Adrienne. You express yourself well. Mine is a high compliment, I am an English professor and a rare native tongue Choctaw speaker.

    A friend and I are discussing you and your essay. In part I write of you,

    “Adrienne is a truth speaker and she is careful to be sure she knows truth. She expresses an important Indian tradition, ‘…my way of empowering our communities and making my ancestors and family proud of me.’

    This tradition of honoring our families and ancestors is based upon our being truth speakers and truth is rarely welcomed by mainstream Americans.”

    You write about a notion which tugs at my heart, “I broke down and said (in Cherokee), ‘I’m Cherokee, not a white person.’ I didn’t know how else to defend myself.”

    Couple years back, this ornery red skinned girl published an essay titled, “I Forgot I Am Not White”. My essay, which pokes at stereotyping and Christian hypocrisy, had me banished from a number of internet web sites. I was kicked curbside because truths I wrote caused mainstream Americans significant discomfort.

    A challenge confronting you, Adrienne, is your remaining faithful to truth as is expected of us American Indian Truth Speakers. Your “Tonto Test” is just such, a testing of your dedication to truth. You are always to remain faithful to our tradition of being Truth Speakers even when truth hurts. This is to protect our legacy, our traditions and, critical, our American Indian dignity.

    Well written words, Adrienne. Thank you. I will be visiting here frequently to read you.

    Okpulot Taha – Choctaw Nation

  • Allison

    I’m a white looking, white identified person who is about to get an MA in Ethnic Studies. I empathize with having your motives and authenticity questioned, and just wanted to thank you for having amazing courage. Most of my research and writing is on Cultural Appropriation and this blog has been a great inspiration. Keep up the great work!

  • Jules

    As another “white-passing” Cherokee / Choctaw I have to agree with you on all of this. The way you’ve been treated is awful here. See how insidious and powerful Hollywood is? THat is what’s shameful.

  • I’ve never commented on your blog before, but I feel the need to tell you how much your writing speaks to me. I’ve had the internal and external conversation of being “enough” (in my case, “Asian enough”), and the whole kerfuffule over who gets to call themselves what and who can criticize what disgusts me. Stay strong, keep writing, and fight the good fight!

  • Kymi

    What you are doing, feeling, and saying are all right. I am an educator, and I speak on Native topics such as stereotyping the Indian. As an educated artist, I am more that qualified to speak about ‘how’ an artist creates a stereotypical image. As a Social Studies teacher, I am more than qualified to speak on the history of America and the history of Native peoples that has been intentionally left out of American history textbooks. When it comes to speaking on the topic of Stereotyping the Indian to teachers, my qualifications are obvious. However, for some they may question me based on the fact that I am mixed white/Miami. I am confident, though. I am a well educated teacher who is very stubborn. I am never going to allow ANYONE to take away my history. It was taken once, when my grandmother was taken from her tribe and put into a white home. My choice as a child, was to learn from my grandmother and never allow my identity to be taken from me again. So, if people want to question me because I don’t look “Indian” enough, based on Hollywood’s interpretation, so be it. I will continue to do what I can as an educator to teach the teachers what Native stereotyping is and to eradicate it from classrooms and libraries. This is because it hurts children and perpetuates misinformation.

    For you, Adrienne, NO ONE can take your identity away from you.

    The Native people have had to struggle and fight for fairness throughout the history of America. However, when someone is trying to silence you by using guilt of all things… please remember you must think about what that person will gain. That does not mean that I do not have great respect for those who have blazed trails and fought for sovereignty. I do have great respect. I am in awe of what they have had to do. But, some people use who they are simply to put themselves into a place of receiving. They are not thinking about the children who are so heavily influenced by Hollywood. They are thinking about themselves.

    Hollywood taught the American public about what an Indian is supposed to “look like”. And, apparently they continue to do so. Seemingly with the blessing of some… but, not all.

    Do not stop doing what you are doing. Don’t stop…

  • Rachel Auker

    It isn’t narcissism…it’s the voice of someone struggling (as we all would) to find the strength to fight a battle that is necessary but difficult and emotionally taxing. Pulling ourselves out of the shame spirals that have unfortunately formed around contemporary Native identity is a task that every Native person I have ever met (as well as myself) has had to face at some point or another. Some, also unfortunately, solidify their own “Nativeness” by attempting to undercut the identities of others. In the face of someone trying to do that to her, Adrienne is reaching for a higher road, focusing on the root of the problem (colonization) instead of turning the tables on other Natives (which is hard because unkind words from other Natives have a way of hurting more than the worst hate speech from non-Natives).

  • Wow, the level of patronizing comments that you got is astounding. Part of me wonders if this is also gendered–slam the youngster. Not what I mean, but others thinking that you must be “wet behind the years” and naive? Glad you stuck to your opinions. Keep up the great work!

  • Michelle Shining Elk

    Let me say this as someone who works with Saginaw Grant.

    99% of the time, on-line, his words are not his own, they are of his assistant and another person who shall remain nameless. I have gone rounds with his assistant telling her words and the words and information she and they feed Saginaw is NOT helping the cause of Indian actors, the movie or Saginaw. On their behalf Adrienne I apologize that you were unjustifiably attacked by these women and Saginaw. Saginaw is getting up there in age and these women — I use my real name so they know I am talking to them, they know who they are — abuse their relationship with him and use HIM as a voice for their thoughts and words.

    Both will be hearing from me on this.

  • Delentyeclass

    I think it’s wonderful that you’re standing up for what you think is right, and an idea which most people would agree: Tonto is a stereotype that has hurt Indians since he was created. Criticizing a re-depiction of it in modern culture, regardless of the “Indian”ness of the actors involved, is surely the correct and proper thing to do. The fact that people with the force of Big Hollywood and the power of numbers behind them chose to gang up on you is their shame, not yours. There might be benefits to the Indian community in what they’re doing, but that doesn’t give them the right to team up and try to silence you, who represent so much that is good about the progress of Indians in a society that has done so much to shut them down in the past. That they said such mean, hurtful things to you is again their shame. At no time have you behaved poorly in this, and I think you’re an absolutely lovely person, doing great things in life. Thank you for fighting, and doing the right thing.

  • Heather Awen

    I love you. Honest.

  • Adrienne – please keep up your good, and insightful work, despite the haters. You’re an inspiration to many people, including me. <3

  • sweetbyrd

    How horrible that you were berated like that! Even though reasonable people can disagree, the mere fact of disagreement is no call to treat you with such a lack of dignity and respect that you actually cried from the treatment you were subject to!

  • jac kal

    I’m posting as an aspiring ally, with only a little academic study, and the imparted knowledge of some very patient Native friends. I don’t see how anyone with any familiarity with the subject of cultural appropriation, esp in the Native context, could disagree with your response to the Depp interview. Modeling a costume off of a painting done by a non-native artist who makes no attempt of cultural or historic accuracy does exactly nothing to assure cultural accuracy and respect. His description of his inspiration for the character is, as you stated, 100% in line with Indian stereotypes.

    The idea that someone else can revoke your Native status seems completely bogus to me. No woman can appoint herself to speak for all feminists, and no queer can police who else gets to identify as queer. I can argue that certain ideas, statements or actions are inconsistent with the principles of gender equality, but I can’t then say that the associated actors are therefor not feminists. Your opponents are attacking you instead of your ideas. That isn’t an honest form of debate. That’s just bullying – esp when it comes from someone who identifies himself as an elder.

    I echo Janni Aragon’s suspicions that you’re experiencing disproportionately harsh backlash because of your gender. I haven’t combed through the words of your detractors for flags, I’m just generalizing from the way I’ve seen other women treated on the internet. I can speak much more to this in the secular/skeptic community, where we’ve witnessed shocking amounts of misogyny from people who generally consider themselves socially-just and free from prejudice.

  • guest

    the whole tonot thing is 2012 blackface. thank you for calling attention to what the issue is. even if people don’t want to deal with it, it’s the truth.

  • Rackletang

    Seriously, that is amazing to me. To see them try every tactic to shame you into silence. I’m so sorry you’re dealing with all of this. I don’t know what else to say, except rock on! You have taught this middle-aged white feminist a lot. May you continue to teach and help others for a long time to come!

  • Fox

    FYI- You totally rock! I’ve struggled with the identity thing too as an adopted Native person raised by white parents and looking mostly white myself. It’s easier for me as an enrolled tribal member (Karuk) to “prove” my authenticity when questioned, but to say that there is only one real way to be an Indian is ridiculous. Moreso when you consider the 500+ federally recognized groups in the U.S. along with the forced changes of colonization and modernization. Quite frankly, Saginaw and his team’s efforts sound to me like he’s some sort of Hollywood plastic shaman.

  • I was linked to this from The Hairpin. I don’t know anything about you or this debate beyond what I’ve read in this page, but I wanted to offer you my fierce support. I agree that you are doing exactly the right thing to think your own thoughts and bring up these issues rather than staying silent and thinking what everyone wants you to think. For what it’s worth, I’m pretty sure you’re doing it right.