Comanche Indians were responsible for one of the most brutal slaughters in the history of the Wild West
However, Johnny Depp wants to play Tonto in a more sympathetic light
By Jonathan Foreman
He refers to the ‘demonic immorality’ of Comanche attacks on white settlers, the way in which torture, killings and gang-rapes were routine. ‘The logic of Comanche raids was straightforward,’ he explains.
‘All the men were killed, and any men who were captured alive were tortured; the captive women were gang raped. Babies were invariably killed.’
Not that you would know this from the new Lone Ranger movie, starring Johnny Depp as the Indian Tonto.
For reasons best know to themselves, the film-makers have changed Tonto’s tribe to Comanche—in the original TV version, he was a member of the comparatively peace-loving Potawatomi tribe.
And yet he and his fellow native Americans are presented in the film as saintly victims of a Old West where it is the white settlers—the men who built America—who represent nothing but exploitation, brutality, environmental destruction and genocide.
Depp has said he wanted to play Tonto in order to portray Native Americans in a more sympathetic light. But the Comanche never showed sympathy themselves.
Not only is it a travesty of the truth, it does no favours to the Indians Depp is so keen to support.
The movie probably is doing Indians a favor by not portraying the Comanches as "the cruelest, most aggressive tribe." We don't need the umpteenth flick featuring Indians as merciless savages.
But Depp and company had a range of options between portraying Indians as saintly victims and merciless savages. The best choice might've been to make Tonto something other than a Comanche.
"Fierce" tribes get attention
This article raises a valid point that I hadn't thought about enough. The Comanches weren't just your average tribe. They had one of the "worst" reputations for ferocity.
It's one reason I've said storytellers should stop relying on the same old tribes: the Sioux, Cheyenne, and Apache. Start showing the range of tribal cultures, not just the most warlike cases. Focusing on these tribes makes all Indians look bad, since everyone thinks all Indians were and are the same.
If you're going to pick the Comanches, make them historically accurate--atrocities and all. If you don't want a tribe guilty of atrocities, don't pick the Comanches. Whatever you do, don't portray the tribe as The Lone Ranger did: as a generic set of Plains Indians.
For more on the savage Indian stereotype, see Aide Calls Indians "Arrow Throwers" and Indians in The Lost Colony.
Below: "Real-life: White Wolf, a Comanche Chief, pictured in the late 19th century."