History vs. Hollywood: Does 'The Lone Ranger' Accurately Represent Native Americans?
UC Professor and Native American expert Ken Tankersley offers his take on Tonto in the new Disney movie.
By Allison Stigler
Actually, yes. Several details in the movie realistically captured Native American customs, traditions and dress, according to University of Cincinnati's Native American expert Kenneth Tankersley, a Piqua Shawnee and an anthropology professor for the McMicken College of Arts and Sciences.
Oh, here it is:
Welcome to the home of the Piqua Shawnee
Back to the article:
Tankersley noted that, although not a “card carrying” member of a Native American tribe, Depp does have Native American ancestry. “He is from Kentucky and Melungeon by ancestry.
“Melungeons were Sephardic Jews and Muslims, escaping to religious freedom in the New World. When they arrived, they married into the Native American community.”
It's LaDonna, not "LA Donna." She adopted Depp into her family, not the tribe. And being adopted after the movie was done doesn't make Tonto any more authentic.
Professor gets schooled
Let's examine Tankersley's claims one by one:
To give you an idea how far off this is, would you borrow centaurs or Medusa for a story about Norse mythology? Greek is to Norse as Algonquian is to Comanche.
In the old Lone Ranger series, what did "kemosabe" mean?
And we should give the movie credit for repeating a 75-year-old concept from the original radio show? Big freakin' deal.
Breastplate and feathers
Even if true, it's a trivial detail that no one--not even a Native reviewer--has noticed. That makes it irrelevant.
Every one of Tankersley's points is either wrong, misleading, unsubstantiated, or unimportant. If I were grading his review, I'd give it a C or C- at most.
For more on Johnny Depp and Tonto, see Depp Justifies Tonto's Stereotypes and Comanche Chairman Justifies Tonto's Stereotypes.