ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

Native Americans In Film - Johnny Depp's Tonto

Updated on August 18, 2015
Patty Inglish, MS profile image

A descendant of Mohawk Nation and trained in anthropology, Patty has researched and reported on Indigenous Peoples for over four decades.

Potowatomi Nation: Northeastern United States

Potawatomi Clothing at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois. This is what the original Tonto in the first written manuscripts would have worn.
Potawatomi Clothing at the Field Museum, Chicago, Illinois. This is what the original Tonto in the first written manuscripts would have worn. | Source

Four Native American Nations

At least four Native North American Nations are involved with the portrayal of the fictional Tonto and this fact opens new opportunities to understand America's history and that of her Indigenous Peoples.

For a Lone Ranger film re-make, Johnny Depp read a lot of historic materials before his portrayal of Tonto, yet some of the public complain about his taking on the role. They feel that to do so was disrespectful to the memory of Jay Silverheels and Indigenous peoples.

Some hobbyists and some professional critics complain that Depp is not an "Indian" or not "enough of an Indian" to play Tonto.

Many of these voices may simply be seeking attention for themselves. We see that behavior more and more with each new film release, especially since the passing of Roger Ebert. I would like to see Mr. Ebert's review of current critics, if he were still alive.

Historic Native North American Photos

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chief Kack-Kack of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi, ca. 1925.Dick King, Potawatomi [Parry Island, Ontario] in 1928. Photographer Fred Johnson began anthropological studies as a teenager with anthropologist Frank G. Speck (1881-1951) in Quebec. Little Chief, his wife Minnie, and son
Chief Kack-Kack of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi, ca. 1925.
Chief Kack-Kack of the Prairie Band of Potawatomi, ca. 1925. | Source
Dick King, Potawatomi [Parry Island, Ontario] in 1928. Photographer Fred Johnson began anthropological studies as a teenager with anthropologist Frank G. Speck (1881-1951) in Quebec.
Dick King, Potawatomi [Parry Island, Ontario] in 1928. Photographer Fred Johnson began anthropological studies as a teenager with anthropologist Frank G. Speck (1881-1951) in Quebec. | Source
Little Chief, his wife Minnie, and son
Little Chief, his wife Minnie, and son | Source

Native Heritage

Many Americans have Native North American heritage, although some do not know it and some deny it. Others are pleased about the fact. How much "Indian blood" does it take to be "Indian?"

Depp's great-great grandmother was full Cherokee, making Kentuckian Johnny Depp 1/16 or 6.25% Native American, if no other native married into his blood line.

Elvis Presley was 3.125% Cherokee, his great-great-great grandmother being a full Cherokee. The Native American bloodline of Cherokee Nation makes Presley and Depp distant relations.

How much Indian does one need to be to satisfy the critics in a fictional film role?

Many well known peope are of Cherokee descent (see Cherokee VIPs) and producers could proobably find Cereokee actors to portray Tonto, if they wanted a Cherokee.

However, Johnny Depp was adopted into the Comanche Nation and Tonto became a Comanche. Why not a Cherokee? This I do not know.

About Kemo Sabe, a Campground

1933 radio series of The lone Ranger: ...'Kemo Sabe,' a phrase that is derived from the name of a boys' summer camp in Michigan owned by the director's uncle." Reference http://www.tcnj.edu/~hofmann/kemosabe.htm, retreived July 13, 2013.

Serigraph by Woody Crumbo (1912-1989), a Potawatomi painter in Oklahoma.
Serigraph by Woody Crumbo (1912-1989), a Potawatomi painter in Oklahoma. | Source

Historical Significance of Depp's Portrayal

The portrayal of Tonto seems to combine several North American Nations and draws attention to the Indigenous Peoples of the continent in USA and Canada. This led to greater numbers of people looking for more information on the various nations, tribes, and other groups.

This is all likely positive, given the negative press received by some nations in blocking the advancement of oil pipelines through their lands and in standing up to illegal activities supported by a few local elected officials concering native reserves.

One additional problem is that of a small group of voices broadcasting that Native Americans are in league with the devil to destroy the USA by means of multiculturalism. I hope that more frequently showing the various nations on film and PBS documentaries will dispel that movement.

Below is some information about the various nations that viewers recognize in the portrayal of totno in the 2013 film The Lone Ranger.

Mohawk First Nation

The TV Tonto of the 1950s was Jay Silverheels, a Mohawk from the Six Nations Reserve in Ontario, Canada that also gave us actor Graham Green and wrestler War Chief Flying Don Eagle. Silverheels's son is a pastor today.

Film footage from a tongue-in-cheek commerical of Silverheels representing car company is presented below.

Jay Silverheels Commercial

  • Video Credit: VintageTVCommercials - YouTube

    Visit: www.vintagetvcommercials.com VintageTVCommercials is an online resource for PUBLIC DOMAIN TV Commercials of the 50's, 60's, 70's and 80's. OUR ...

Six Nations Of the Grand River Reserve, Ohsweken, Ontario

A
Six Nations Reserve:
Six Nations, Ohsweken, ON N0A, Canada

get directions

Three Cherokee Natives

Three Cherokee who visited London, England.
Three Cherokee who visited London, England. | Source

Cherokee Nation

A
Cherokee Nation, Oklahoma:
Cherokee Nation, 100 S Bliss Ave, Tahlequah, OK 74464, USA

get directions

B
Cherokee Nation, DC:
Cherokee Nation, 126 C St NW # 1, Washington, DC 20001, USA

get directions

Crow members painted by Karl Bodmer around  1840.
Crow members painted by Karl Bodmer around 1840. | Source

Crow vs. Raven.

Crow Nation members are called Children of the Large Beaked Bird. This is the crow.

As a power animal and founder of the nation in its foundation stories, the crow may travel back and forth from the supernatural to the natural worlds and back. In the supernatural world, he may take the form of a man. In the film The Lone Ranger (2013), the crow flies away from places in which Tonto is unable to escape; for example, a crow flies over a cliff and immediately, Tonto climbs back the other way toward the camera. This gives a small idea of the nature of power animals, but in the case of Crow, that bird is said to transport souls to the afterlife.

In the Pacific Northwest, Raven is carved into tall cedar poles of several power aninals in number. Sometimes, you see a man's face carved on his wing. This indicates that the power animal in the native history is a founder of the nation and may travel between supernatual and natural worlds, chaing from man to raven. Raven is credited with stealing the Sun and giving it to the people for light and energy.

In the 2013 film, Tonto refers to John Reid as a spirit walker, one who cannot be killed in battle. This is linked the crow ability to walk between natural and supernatural worlds as bird and man.

Crow Nation, Montana

A
Crow Nation, Montana:
Apsaalooke Nation Tourism, Crow Agency, MT 59022, USA

get directions

B
Little Bighorn:
Little Bighorn Battlefield, 756 Battlefield Tour Road, Crow Agency, MT 59022, USA

get directions

2013 Movie Choice: Comanche

Click thumbnail to view full-size
Chief Quanah Parker of the Kwahadi ComancheComanche in war regalia.
Chief Quanah Parker of the Kwahadi Comanche
Chief Quanah Parker of the Kwahadi Comanche | Source
Comanche in war regalia.
Comanche in war regalia. | Source

Comanche Actors

Why the Comanche Nation was chosen as Tonto's home people is ot clear, but the writers and director of the film likely wished it.

In the old photo above, you can see the chest covering similar to that adopted by Johnny Depp as Tonto in The Lone Ranger (2013). The feathers in the photo are used for ceremonial smudging. In the second image in the collection above, you can see the Comanche trousers and mocassins very similar to those worn by Depp.

A short film made with Comanche actors was completed in 1920, although it was shown only once. You can watch it at the link below.

Comache Nation

A
Comache Nation, Oklahoma:
Comanche National Museum & Cultural Center, 701 Northwest Ferris Avenue, Lawton, OK 73507, USA

get directions

Former lands of the Comanche.
Former lands of the Comanche. | Source

© 2013 Patty Inglish

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Thanks for your views, nicomp!

    • nicomp profile image

      nicomp really 

      4 years ago from Ohio, USA

      Disney recently announced a predicted loss of $150M on The Lone Ranger. I think they marketed it incorrectly or they named it incorrectly. Either Depp was the leading man or not.

      Anyway, I wouldn't see it because Depp has become so anti-American. Congrats to him on his public success, but I'm not contributing to it.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      4 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I will certainly stop by and see your videos and your brother. Yes, "How much Indian?" sounds pretty odd. An elder of the tribe should not be asked such a thing. I'm Mohawk and live far away from any member of any of those few bands left.

    • wildove5 profile image

      wildove5 

      4 years ago from Cumberland, R.I.

      Patty, I am Eastern Elnu Abenaki, my eldest brother is an active member and elder in our tribe. I know it especially angers him to be asked " How much Indian are you?" It's the equivalent to asking an African American the same question. I think it's ignorant to say the least, I am Indian, wether it's a quarter, a half or full, it has no baring, the fact still remains, I am Indian. I have a hub on my page of my brother and a couple of video's as well of our tribe, ( The drum beat carries on )

      if you get some time, stop by. Thanks.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      I try to do that and I am happy to do so; there is much to learn and enjoy about Native Americn culture.

    • ndnfoodie530 profile image

      Sam Ps Pop Culture Page 

      5 years ago from Northern California

      Thanks for helping portray us in a positive light!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      It certainly is a different portrayal, isn't it? Very entertaining.

    • drbj profile image

      drbj and sherry 

      5 years ago from south Florida

      I saw the movie, The Lone Ranger, Patty, and Johnny Depp's portrayal of Tonto is as unlike Jay Silverheels as night is to day. Although laconic he has the best lines in the film. Trust me.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Different from Jay Silverheels,certainly, but interesting and I like the backstory for Tonto in this version, because it could have actually happened in America. There is a new related Disney video game to be released shortly - a preview shows an animated Jack Sparrow confronting Depp's Tonto. Very humorous.

    • Elias Zanetti profile image

      Elias Zanetti 

      5 years ago from Athens, Greece

      Interesting hub, Patty. Haven't seen the film yet. depp is agreat actor so i'm curious to find out how the role worked out.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      They are! I've always found peace and good humor at every one of them. And good food.

    • nightbear profile image

      Susan Kaul 

      5 years ago from Michiagn, USA

      Wow! Real pow wows among the Indians themselves. That would be fantastic!

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Family stories are good, though! I have enjoyed attending pow wows for more stories and information.

    • nightbear profile image

      Susan Kaul 

      5 years ago from Michiagn, USA

      I'm ashamed I never made a study of it. Just listened to the old family stories. But I do love the culture.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      Hi nightbear - Interesting! I feel the same and have been studying the many different groups since high school, although I did not know about my Native American heritage (Mohawk) for some years after that.

    • Patty Inglish, MS profile imageAUTHOR

      Patty Inglish 

      5 years ago from USA. Member of Asgardia, the first space nation, since October 2016

      If the country's people are that numbed down, the country should dissolve.

    • livewithrichard profile image

      Richard Bivins 

      5 years ago from Charleston, SC

      I think it is much easier on our numbed down historical brains if we lump the Indigenous Peoples of America into just one category of Native Americans. Fighting over the "historical" representation of a fictional character is beyond ridiculous. Though I have not yest seen the movie, I intend to because as a young boy I was very much a fan of the Lone Ranger.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 

      5 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Very interesting.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)