Johnny Depp as Tonto in a poster for the upcoming film 'The Lone Ranger'

Depp's Tonto Is Faithful to Comanche Culture, Says Consultant

ICTMN Staff
5/13/13

With the July 3 premiere of The Lone Ranger approaching, a new article by the Associated Press asks "Will Disney’s new Tonto be any better?", and presents comments by various experts, including  a Comanche consultant on the film.

“There are a lot of people out there screaming who are not Comanche, as in this story Tonto is supposed to be,” said William "Two-Raven" Voelker. “They know nothing of bird culture. When we wear or use those feathers, we’re calling on the energy of the entire bird.”

The article also cites comments by Michelle Shining Elk that appeared at LastRealIndians.com in which she made the case that Depp's portrayal reinforces the idea “that we are uneducated, irrelevant, noncontributors to society living in teepees out on the Plains.” Shining Elk focused on Depp's choice to make Tonto speak in the familiar Hollywood Indian dialect. "Never was there a time when our ancestors or our elders spoke the way Depp portrays Tonto" she said. "Thanks Johnny Depp for not exercising your gifts of being an amazing actor who is typically able to bring amazing life to your characters using that talent. Sadly and so disappointing is seeing that all you have done here is simply mimic the pathetic speech patterns created and always depicted" in mainstream Westerns.

The Associated Press article also addressed the idea that Depp's Tonto displays a sense of humor that will appeal to Indians. Comedian Ernest Tsosie of the duo James and Ernie is open to the possibility. “From what I saw, there’s some moments in there that are meant to be funny but not outwardly funny," he said. "I think most Natives will pick up on it.”

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Comments

aiahninchi ohoyo's picture
aiahninchi ohoyo
Submitted by aiahninchi ohoyo on
for crying out loud, people...its a MOVIE...made by white people for white people...we should consider ourselves lucky to be presented even half way accurately...and being presented as uneducated irrelevant un-linguistically savvy tipi dwellers continues to be a racially incited put-down...by our own race, yet...it begins to be crystal clear there are some among us who love to cling and never-endingly refer to put downs put upon us by those of non-native society for their own personal wallowing or whatever.....

FilmIndustryEmployee's picture
FilmIndustryEmployee
Submitted by FilmIndustryEmployee on
If you listen to many Native American elders, they DO speak with the accent/cadence that Johnny uses in the film.

Levtzow's picture
Levtzow
Submitted by Levtzow on
Hollywood does the same thing to us Southerners. You'd think "they'd git it rat by now".

Jamie Thunder's picture
Jamie Thunder
Submitted by Jamie Thunder on
well now i know why i cant get my native statis.. i am native and having a hard time proving mine.. but im doing it all wrong..you dont need to be native you just need to have money and be a movie star!!!.. it pisses me off to know that someone "might have maybe alil bit of native in them"and become one..TLA!!!!.....FFS!!!! SERIOUSLY??????

Ogema of Minnesota 's picture
Ogema of Minnesota
Submitted by Ogema of Minnesota on
It's a good thing but the only thing is they could have used a true Native for the part. It's all in a good way to make money for the system that we all rely on a day to day. We are not the same as we were 50 years ago or even 25 years ago.We need and enjoy all the things as all he people on Turtle Island regardless of the color of our skin. Let's begin to change and heal and move forward for the betterment of our Nation/Nations.

indianmedicine's picture
indianmedicine
Submitted by indianmedicine on
As I have said before, the Fault with American Culture is that it has avoided True History in Teaching their Young; and the Fault with the Red Culture is not Speaking Up when the Red History is false.................................................... As too "Bird Energy" it is known that the "Magic" of any Animal that is mimicked or used in ceremony or dance - draws on that Animal Magnetism and Spiritual Character...................................................................................... All Aboriginal First Peoples know this.............................................................. As far as "Verbal Accents and Enunciate NAI Speech", just laugh at them because they are too ignorant to get it right the first time; and they have no idea how foolish they sound - then tell them they have it all wrong from the Start....................................................................................................................... The sad part is that Mr. Depp was adopted into the Tribe, without benefit of a "Voice Coach"....................................................................................................... A celebrity is just a person who has pictures taken of them doing what every one else does on a day to day basis................................................................... Mimicking is said to be the Highest Form of Flattery, so know that they really want to be like you but can't................................................................................... Too bad they get paid a lot of money for being a confederate person, or a "Wannabe Tribe"..................................................................................................... Yes, it's just a movie too make money - their really was no "Lone Ranger" in History; just Hollywood's.......................................................................................... So, how do you say, "Wannabe" in Comanche?.................................................. ....................................................................................................................................

Michael Madrid's picture
Michael Madrid
Submitted by Michael Madrid on
Growing up in southern NM, I was always wondering about the Lone Ranger's indigenous buddy. How many people knew/know that "Tonto" means stupid in Spanish? Where would the world be without the White Man to save us? If Tom Cruise can be "the Last Samurai," then certainly Johnny Depp can be a Comanche named Stupid.
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