First, let's see what Depp has claimed. Because his claims are the only source for his alleged Native ancestry.
Inside the Actor's Studio
BRAVO TV--September 8, 2002
JD: Yeah, apparently, yeah. My family comes from Kentucky. They've been there for many … you know … many, many generations. And my grandma … my great-grandmother … was … had a lot of Cherokee blood.
By Anthony Breznican
How flimsy? Well, he's been told. He guesses. "Apparently."
In other words, he has no evidence whatsoever that he's Cherokee. No facts, no documentation, nothing. All he's doing is repeating family stories just like every other Indian wannabe in America.
What do real Indians think of wannabes who claim Cherokee heritage--exactly as Depp has done? Most Indians scorn these people as fakes and poseurs. Some examples of what they think:
Ask an Indian: How to Spot American Indian Wannabes and A Counterfeit Culture: Too Many Cherokees to Count
...My Grandmother Was a Cherokee Indian Princess...
I Hate All Dem Fake Ass Wannabe Cherokees Out There
Of Wannabes and Indians
The truth about Depp
Apparently Depp took a DNA test at some point. Alas, that and some genealogical research offer zero evidence that he has any Native ancestry.
Both of Johnny’s parents, as well as all of Johnny’s grandparents, great-grandparents, and great-great-grandparents, were born in Kentucky. Johnny Depp has stated, on several occasions, that he has or likely has Native American ancestry (of varying tribes, most often Cherokee). It does not appear that this Native American ancestry has been documented. All of Johnny’s grandparents and great-grandparents are listed as “White” on United States Censuses. No verified Native American ancestry has been produced for Johnny Depp.
By Ehud Would
Actor Johnny Depp has apparently made public claims of Cherokee and/or Creek Indian heritage, but all genealogical and DNA research of his line has proven otherwise; he was found to possess no Indian blood whatsoever. He was quite disappointed to find that he was just a vanilla White man.
Dissembling helps Depp's career
If Depp isn't Native, why hasn't he said so plainly? Because it would hurt his mystique...and more important, cost him money. He couldn't get street cred for following in Marlon Brando's footsteps, and couldn't play potential blockbuster roles like Tonto.
Some thoughts on Depp's flimsy claims and why he keeps them in circulation:
Disney Exploiting Confusion About Whether Depp Has Indian Blood
By Angela Aleiss
But Native American leaders and educators are not buying it. They question Depp’s claims of Cherokee heritage, particularly the studio’s attempt to keep it ambiguous.
“Disney relies upon the ignorance of the public to allow that ambiguity to exist,” says Hanay Geiogamah, Professor of Theater at UCLA’s School of Theater, Film and Television. Geiogamah (Kiowa/Delaware) was a consultant for Disney’s Pocahontas and served as producer and co-producer for TBS’ The Native Americans: Behind the Legends, Beyond the Myths aired in the 1990s.
“If Depp had any legitimate blood of any tribe, Disney would definitely have all the substantial proof of that already. It’s not that hard to establish tribal connections,” Geiogamah says.
Richard Allen, Policy Analyst for the Cherokee Nation in Tahlequah, Oklahoma, agrees. He says that many celebrities have claimed Cherokee heritage—often based upon family stories they’ve heard—but like Depp they never try to verify it. “They all tell me they have high cheekbones,” Allen says.
By Natanya Ann Pulley