Disney Store Offers Tonto Halloween Costume

June 05, 2013

For those pondering the meaning to Indian country of Johnny Depp's portrayal of Tonto in The Lone Ranger, an item of interest has shown up in the Disney Store: the Tonto Costume for Boys.

"Cool kemosabe: He'll honor the brave heart of the west in this bold Tonto costume including sheer tribal top with deluxe detailing and trims, plus faux buckskin britches."

The idea of children dressing in "Indian" costume is troubling to many in Indian country, for a number of reasons -- the sort of costumes kids are taught to wear emphasize a warlike, Plains people, reinforcing stereotypes from Hollywood films and teaching children that Native culture is monolithic. Another disturbing implication is that it's ok to dress up as an entire race -- actually, just one race, as few parents who let their young children go trick-or-treating dressed as "an Indian" would permit costumes of "a black" or "an Asian."

Duwanna L. Robertson commented on this site that the fall is the toughest time of the year for American Indians due to a quadruple-whammy of seasonal racial insensitivity: Halloween, Columbus Day, Thanksgiving, and football season (Redskins-Chiefs is December 8, mark your calendars). And in a recent TED talk, Nancy Marie Mithlo made the connection between casual racial stereotyping among children and college girls who feel it's ok to dress as slutty "Pocahotties" for theme parties.

Tribal top and buckskin britches, $44.95

It's worth noting that the Tonto costume is not a generic "Indian" getup -- it does refer to a specific character from a specific (fictional) story. But that's another cause for concern -- Johnny Depp's vision of Tonto has been criticized as fundamentally inauthentic and, despite the actor's stated intentions, perpetuating a stereotype of Natives. Adrienne Keene addressed the issue thouroughly in a post titled "Johnny Depp as Tonto: I’m still not feeling 'honored'"

Who knows whether the Tonto outfit will be a big seller -- at $70 for the full package (breeches, shirt and bird headdress), it's a lot pricier than the old-school getups made with cut-up grocery bags and craft-store face paint. But come Halloween, Natives who wince at homemade "Indian" costumes might be challenged to like this store-bought Tonto any better.

Tonto Headdress, $24.95

"Neither Depp nor Disney cares about Indians or they wouldn't allow this travesty," writes Rob Schmidt at Newspaper Rock. "All their pro-Indian gestures are phony and hypocritical. They're meant only to placate critics of their gross misrepresentation of Indians."

In the end, the best option might be the cheaper one: The Lone Ranger's costume is just a $16.00 hat. Mask not included.



Pam DeRensis's picture
Pam DeRensis
Submitted by Pam DeRensis on

A few years ago the Crackle Barrel Restaurant had an American Indian headdress on a dog. Chief Dog wasn't funny either!

JAG's picture
Submitted by JAG on

a profit is a profit doesn't matter how you look at it. Casino's own by Indians tribes do the same to non-Indians! Indian is just a word! non-Indians bleed just the white man there is no different when it comes to dying. We pay taxes when we buy an house, a car and they don't. Now that's wrong!!!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

even watching ONE episode of the OLD LR&T is a GIVEN on why it's NOT okay...DURDADUR!!!

Cat's picture
Submitted by Cat on

I'm sorry. But there are PICTURES (not paintings, actual photographs) proving that the headdress WAS correct, that some individuals DID wear entire crows or other birds as headdresses. The makeup was also DOCUMENTED in PHOTOGRAPHS. Y'all need to cut it out. Johnny Depp was trying to portray an ACCURATE representation of a Native person based on PHOTOGRAPHS. If you can't accept that, you need to have your heads examined.

Yes, I am part Lakota. My husband is part Cherokee. I can get behind some things, but the faux outrage over this is overblown and misguided. Really. Get a GRIP!

Anonymous's picture
Submitted by Anonymous on

Disgraceful. Disney will do anything for a $$$ I RECCOMEND THAT NO ONE GO TO THIS MOVIE!

Owen Luck's picture
Owen Luck
Submitted by Owen Luck on

There will never be this type of racist stereotyping of Blacks they complain too much, they have wealth and they are feared politically.

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on

The political shennigans are all too funny! What happened to all the racial agitators and pro-Indigenous, First Nations instigators? Not a word, not a peep (but of course it's apparant to vast majority - Johnny Depp - gets a PASS!
Indian Nations, i.e. Commanche, Navajo, celebrate him, and honor this faux man with blankets and baskets!

The problem with Indians Nations they are soo quick to drop their breeches and loin clothes for any-one 'willing' or even 'promising' materialiality and recognition, i.e. the Great "Black" Father in the White House.

Weren't the head-dresses and reglia supposedly 'sacred' to Traditional Indian Tribes that the instigators were proudly proclaiming?

Where are they now.......(crickets, crickets, crickets).

tmsyr11's picture
Submitted by tmsyr11 on

To avoid being caught in the costume, it is probably better to wear the MASK and call your-self THE ALONE TONTO...