September 27, 2008

Johnny Depp, Cherokee?

Some information on Johnny Depp's Cherokee background:

Johnny Depp--LifeDepp was born in Owensboro, Kentucky to John Christopher Depp, Sr. and Betty Sue Palmer. He was raised primarily in Miramar, Florida, where his family moved in 1970. He has one brother and two sisters (Debbie, Christie, who is Depp's personal manager, and Danny). The Depp family is mostly of Irish and German descent.

Depp's maternal great-grandmother, Minnie, was a full-blooded Cherokee and Depp also has Cherokee ancestry on his father's side.
Johnny Depp (Cherokee maternal grandfather according to Depp himself)

Is Johnny Depp being shunned by Oscar because of his Cherokee background?Far as I know Johnny Depp has been nominated 3 times & stunning performances each time. Are they scared he's going to pull a Wounded Knee stunt, like his pal Marlon Brando? What's with the bad press, just recently? &... joining the dots here, the critics putdown of Mr Depp's directorial debut "The Brave." Let's not be naive folks, surely they are playing politics not entertainment. What do others think about this?How much Cherokee is Johnny Depp?Johnny Depp's Cherokee ancestry is only assumed. He's one of those "my great great grandmother was a Cherokee Indian Princess" types with no real proof that she was/was not Cherokee. His ancestor does not appear on any of the rolls or censuses taken of Cherokee people, even those taken by Cherokee people when accounting for their own. Due to the lack of proof, there is no way of calculating his blood quantum. I suppose the best one could do is say he has presumed Cherokee ancestry.All the Tattoos of Johnny DeppHe has fourteen known tattoos till now, including the "head of Cherokee Indian chief" for his ancestral heritage, the name of his first-born child "Lily-Rose" over his heart, his mother's name "Betty Sue", and a sparrow flying over water with the his son's name "Jack" below it.The latest addition is "Silence Exile Cunning."Johnny Depp:  CherokeeLike the famed Cherokee warriors of old, Johnny Depp has entered into a domestic partnership and mated with a European pop singer. No young brave could return to the village a man unless he carried over his shoulder some French or Lithuanian songstress with a frame so slight her bones are nearly hollow. In the lean years when pop stars were few and far between, some Cherokee were allowed to substitute snub-nosed supermodels or quirky bug-eyed actresses, and Depp has not strayed from exploring those cultural avenues as well.

Depp’s L.A. nightclub, the Viper Room, was named after the deadly Serpentine Viper, which the Cherokee held sacred as the hottest place to bring an impressionable young Disney Channel starlet with a bra full of speed balls. It’s no coincidence that the Viper Room rests on the picturesque Sunset Strip, either, since this is the name of the erotic dance in which Cherokee women engaged to encourage the sun to go down.
Comment:  The last item is satirical, in case you couldn't tell.

<sarcasm> I'm glad we got Depp's background straight. His maternal grandfather or great-grandmother was Cherokee, or his ancestors were Indian-princess types. </sarcasm>

Let's suppose he's 1/16th Cherokee. He starred in Dead Man and The Brave, and he has a tattoo. That's about it for his Indian identity.

That might be good enough for an Indian role in a minor movie. But enough to play the iconic role of Tonto? No way. The role should've gone to someone who's recognizably Indian.

Depp's alleged Indian ancestry comes from the Eastern Cherokee of Kentucky. Tonto presumably was an Indian from the Texas area--perhaps a Comanche or Apache. Having him played by someone who's 1/16th Eastern Cherokee is several degrees less authentic than having him played by a full-blooded Canadian Mohawk (Jay Silverheels).

And none of these Internet sources has any credibility. In fact, Depp himself doesn't have any credibility. Until he shows us a family tree linking him to a documented Cherokee ancestor, his claims are worthless. They're no different from the claims of millions of other Americans descended from a "Cherokee princess."

For more on the subject, see The Best Indian Movies.

P.S. My former sister-in-law looks like a blonde homecoming queen, but she's a quarter Cherokee. She works at Disney, too. I guess that qualifies her to play Pocahontas or Sacagawea in an upcoming movie.

22 comments:

Anonymous said...

give us a break, i am so sick of hearing this crap about the role of Tonto should have went to a native american, who cares its a movie. Disney wants to make lots and lots of money so they need somone who can pull it off and someone who is in their eyes a big star. As for Johnny's heritage your right no one knows but Johnny Depp.

Anonymous said...

maybe you should write your own article instead of stealing someone elses

http://chud.com/articles/blogs/1286/Johnny-Depp-Cherokee.html

nobody said...

First of all, the Cherokee nation has no minimum blood quantum requirement. If you can't make it on to the Cherokee rolls, your indian heritage has more to do with family legend than actual ancestry.

Secondly, in regard to the two anonymous posters above, do you think they would be telling people to get over it if Disney wanted to make the Lone Ranger a black man? Can you imagine? If Disney dared to do that, which of course they would never do, you'd hear all sorts of complaints from white people about "multi-culturalizing" their childhood hero or some such nonsense. Regardless of the justification they chose, they wouldn't be cool with it. But the Indian character? Who cares? Tonto never meant anything to them, and neither they, nor the movie studios have any clue how much it meant to indian people to see a real indian on the television at that time in history. We flocked to the most degrading, insulting, offensive movies you can imagine if there was even a rumor of seeing an actual indian on TV or in the movies.

--gazelbe

Anonymous said...

Wow, it really is an epidemic. This is like the umpteenth film where hollywood has made a character white that never originally was. *sigh* It as if unless the role is really demeaning then we don't exist at or or they find someone white to take our place. Bullshitin fuckers.

--Juan

Rob said...

We can be more daring than that, Gazelbe. Let's have Disney make George W. Bush a Muslim terrorist, George Washington a pedophile, and Jesus a serial killer. Why not, if it's just a movie?

I'm a lot sicker of your "crap" than you are of mine, Anonymous #1. I've answered charges like yours dozens if not hundreds of times. See Why People Believe Movies and The Influence of Movies for examples.

By the way, I've written hundreds of published articles and thousands of my own postings. Until you've written a tenth of what I have, you might want to restrain yourself. I'm guessing I know much more about Natives and Native-themed movies than you do.

As for your claim that I "stole" the Chud.com article, don't be stupid. I quoted it and linked to the original posting. In case you're as clueless as you seem, that's standard practice in the blogosphere.

dmarks said...

I'd welcome a Black man cast as the Lone Ranger in this, or any other Lone Ranger movie. (Who is complaining about the black Nick Fury in "Iron Man" and future Marvel movies? And "Wild Wild West" had big problems, but I don't think the casting of Will Smith was in the formerly white West role was one of them).

Anonymous 2: No theft took place. Words do mean things. As you point out, the Chud article is still there. If Rob had stolen it, it would be missing from Chud.

Better yet, cast a Native as the Lone Ranger to go with Depp's Tonto in this one. Now that would make it truly interesting, right?

Rob said...

Right, DMarks. Let's complete the casting switch. Make the Lone Ranger an Indian and Tonto a white guy. Then "tonto" can assume its Spanish meaning with gusto.

Genevieve said...

I personally don't mind Depp's lack of evidence for his Cherokee blood because I know that I don't have any legit evidence for my blood quantum or anything, and my paternal great-grandfather lived on a reservation and went through the whole "whitewashing" process, my grandmother was active in the AIM & is active in the pow-wow circuit, etc... And while it is true that mainstream media portrays Depp as white and he is viewed and treated as such, the same can be said of many mixed-race people.

The other thing is, the Lone Ranger movie is a Bruckheimer picture. Depp worked with Bruckheimer on the "Pirates" movies, so it makes sense that Bruckheimer would want to work with him again; Bruckheimer is also not known for authenticity or sensitivity in his films including PotC. Is Depp still under contract with Disney? I am aware that he is officially doing another Pirates movie and a new version of Alice in Wonderland, but this may be something done to fulfill contractual requirements. I agree that it would be so damn awesome if another Native actor were chosen (and probably better for the traditional interpretation of the character of Tonto, and potentially a better actor overall) but Depp is a big audience draw, possibly legally bound to Disney and/or Bruckheimer, and he is a decent actor. If a new spin is being put on the whole Lone Ranger & Tonto story, Tonto may very well be mixed, or have a weird personality that would be uniquely Depp's interpretation, or maybe Tonto will be portrayed more "realistically" (vs. having his personality "other-ed" by his nativeness), I don't know; the movie isn't out yet. And there was and is definitely a lot of interracial mixing going on within all ethnic communities, especially in the US. It does sound like he is under a contract to me; Depp is going to be doing a new Alice & Wonderland movie as the Mad Hatter under Tim Burton (probably Disney), a fourth Pirates movie (def. Disney), and the Lone Ranger, which I guess is a Disney picture also? I'm not sure, but the Disney/Bruckheimer/Depp combo isn't anything new.

Not that I'm hoping for anything groundbreaking or totally awesome. I've actually got a very grim outlook for this movie, because it's Disney, and Disney just wants to piss me off half the time. But Bruckheimer is known for making entertaining films, Depp is a good actor who I have no reason to disbelieve about his heritage, and this really won't even be the worst example of Indian whitewashing this year. It can't possibly be worse than Silver Fox in the upcoming Wolverine Origins movie (which I believe Rob has touched on already), or Cher as, uh, Cher. Or maybe it can. Ahhhh, I don't know.

Rob said...

Tonto may be mixed-race, Depp is a talented actor, and Disney and Bruckheimer often make entertaining movies. Yes, these are reasons why the new Lone Ranger movie may be decent.

But I never claimed the movie would be bad. Whether Depp and company do a good job and whether he's the right person to play Tonto are two separate issues.

Incidentally, I addressed the "Depp is a big audience draw" issue in Fallacy of the Big-Name Actor. Check it out.

dmarks said...

Nothing was stolen from Chud. As Rob knows, I went to Chud recently and the article was still there. If it had been stolen, it would be missing from Chud.

Anonymous said...

It's not rocket science. You can look at the guy and see he's NDN.

Anonymous said...

there are more than a lot of good looking Native men and women - I always wonder why they choose ugly ones as the real look of a Native- example, as in " he/she looks just like a real indian" ? women with their hair all bushy and men with big busted up noses. Geez, I'm glad my family were nice looking and from the rez. I give Johnny the benefit of the doubt only as far as he doesn't mess with my Cherokee buds from Oklahoma.

Rob said...

How someone looks isn't one of the defining characteristics of being Indian. For more on the subject, see Johnny Depp Looks Indian? and "Actual Indian" Defined.

Nikki said...

Depp is just another river rat from Kentucky, claiming to have a heart-felt tie to a possibly non-existent Native heritage.
Everyone failed to mention his parents... Have any of you seen his mother or father? His mother is a fair-skinned strawberry blonde, while his father looks like the redneck at the local gun shop who talked you into buying a rifle when it wasn't even hunting season. They gave birth to a dark-eyed, surburbian boy armed with legendary ancestral myths and an obsession for all things ethnically bohemian and BOOM... He's a believable Tonto through untrained, gullible eyes.
People, this is a worn out story, and I'm not falling for it Johnny. Enjoy your French wife's homemade tacos.

http://74.125.95.132/search?q=cache:3inO-lCDhUIJ:www.ohjohnny.net/quotes/quotes3.html+vanessa+paradis+johnny+depp+tacos&hl=en&ct=clnk&cd=10&gl=us

Zelan said...

Most true Indians do not seem to really care they are being marginalized by Hollywood, and Hollywood, where I work, certainly does not care either.

The proof is shown in the lack of Indian support across the country for projects like the "Celebrity Festival For Native America" in Hollywood (find at www.ticciman.com) that is designed to combat Indian racism there and around the world.

Not one Native American news publication will run our stories--just like not one LA news publication or national news publication. Indians are just as guilty as nonIndians in helping racism against them continue.

We (Imajilan Pictures) cannot find anyone, even wealthy Indians, who are willing to help fund a major movie starring an Indian hero that revolves around Native America using relatively unknown but real Indian actors, so please give me a break with all the finger pointing at big bad Hollywood---everyone is guilty of not doing their part to fix the problem.

Racism may be here to stay for Indians because Indians appear unwilling to fight against it in meaningful ways that count.

If Indians truly cared, they might storm Hollywood and picket the Lone Ranger production---they will not!

Why is the potential for a major Native American hero icon (portrayed by a real Indian) so hated in Hollywood? And what are Indians doing to counter this racism? Those are meaningful questions and discussions, and the rest is a waste of time.

Zelan Bonn
Kon Ticci International
Ticci Man Project
www.ticciman.com
Imajilan Pictures
www.imajilan.com

Ps--"Ticci" our story's Indian hero, does not have a Polynesian name, but one that comes from the Americas--it is purely Native American, not an islander name.

Lynette said...

Ooooo - I like dmarks' suggestion of role reversal (but appreciate the cynicism) - why not do a send up - ah lah "Tropic Thunder"? "White Man's Burden" and "BabaKiueria" are two of the most powerful racism impacting films I have seen but Hollywood would never attack the 'Native' sidekick trope?

Crystal said...

Just found this article while searching for something else on Johnny Depp.
I find it amazing that nearly 2 centuries after the Trail of Tears that 1) people claim to be more authentically Indian (esp. Cherokee) than someone else, and 2) that US Federal Government roles (which were by design intended to disinfranchise Indians) are used as proof for level of authenticity.
Anyone that looks at Johnny Depp can tell he's part Indian (true for myself) and since his family is from Kentucky that means he's possibly Cherokee. In my family, we've known that we were Cherokee but as of yet can't find 'proof' on a government role. Maybe that's because we were spending our time trying to stay alive and keep our family intact... just food for thought.

Anonymous said...

Oh please just look at a pic of Johnny depp, his eyes are so dark their practically black and those cheekbones aren't Irish, German or French not mention his olive skin. Who cares about the nationality it's never bothered you Americans before...

Anonymous said...

I'm full blood Cherokee , with auburn reddish hair, tall ,and very fair skin. Kentucky Cherokee look white!

Anonymous said...

Lovely comments on Depp. Anyone with a brain well knows that "Cherokee" regarding Hollywood actors and actresses is nothing but bullshit. It's a very simply scam but I won't enlighten the idiots.

To the anonymous idiot above me, you're about as full Cherokee as my ass and I'm 100% non aboriginal. There are some recessive traits that Cherokees have which can be tied to the original bloodlines... what little remains due to interracial breeding with whites and other non aboriginals. Other than that... a lot of so called "aboriginals" who can pass for a non-aboriginal are nothing but assholes and their bastard children looking for a government hand out. I've spoken to some aboriginal elders and the growing variety [hair color, skin tone, eye color, etc.] of "aboriginal" people some have seen in the last fifty even seventy years speaks for itself.

But I'm beating a dead horse. Most idiots believe the lies because they are too stupid to see otherwise.

As for Depp's appearance. I am 50% Irish, 35% Italian and rest Asian. I have olive skin and sharp cheekbones as well as dark eyes. Depp's look is nothing more than a Spaniard if anything. ... and if you actually knew an aboriginal they don't have high cheekbones. NOT A ONE has high cheekbones in the historic photos.

There I'm done. The people above are majority retards. Depp is a blatant liar.

justin anderson said...

Hi I am ojibwe from canada mb. I have a few or couple white great grandparents my tribe traded furs with the french in the early 1600s my tribe dominated these lands ever since. Just so u know we ndns can tell if u have native inheritance just by the way u look. If somebody tells you they have ndn blood then just shut up like how the hell would you know other then them.

Rob said...

Depp didn't tell us anything. He guessed that he might be Cherokee. As far as I'm concerned, his guesses are worthless.