July 13, 2013

Reactions to Depp's Wounded Knee talk

Some of the many reactions to the news that Johnny Depp may buy Wounded Knee:

Johnny Depp interest in purchasing portion of Wounded Knee causes a stir

For months, questions have swirled about whether developers, activists or tribes would be willing to plunk down millions to buy a portion of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark. Now there's a new potential buyer in the mix: Johnny Depp.

By Kristi Eaton
Oglala Sioux President Bryan Brewer, whose tribe lives on Pine Ridge, said he has not been contacted by anyone in Depp’s camp and was first notified of the actor’s interest when someone from England called him for reaction. Brewer said he and a group of descendants of Wounded Knee survivors are hoping to meet with Czywczynski soon.

The possibility of the celebrity purchase is generating debate in Native American communities. Some question Depp’s motives due to the timing of “The Lone Ranger” release, which debuted with a dismal $19.5 million in ticket sales on its opening weekend in early July. Depp, who plays the part of the Native American character Tonto in the film, has been accused of playing into stereotypes and misappropriating Native American culture. Tonto speaks broken English, wears a stuffed crow on his head and has a face painted with white and black stripes. Some Native Americans view the character as a parody.

Depp’s also been criticized for saying that he does have Native American ancestry, but he’s unsure if it’s Cherokee or Creek.

“People I’ve talked to think he’s in it for redemption because he’s gotten bad reviews,” said Oglala Sioux tribal member Dawn Moves Camp, 30.
And:"Honestly, I don't think it would be a bad thing if Johnny Depp would purchase it with the cooperation of the tribes," he said. What's most important, he said, is that the land is preserved and an accurate account of what happened is shared with visitors through a monument.

Tribal members have disagreed over the years about how to commemorate the lives lost at Wounded Knee. While there is a small monument listing some of the names of those killed in 1890, some tribal members think a larger statue or structure is needed to educate the public.

Sonny Skyhawk, a Sicangu Lakota actor and founder of American Indians in Film and Television, said although he was not a fan of Depp playing Tonto in "The Lone Ranger," purchasing the land would be a "great opportunity" for Depp to step forward and do something for Native Americans.

"If it's from the heart, we accept it. If it's not from the heart, we'll accept it anyways because it's such a meaningful undertaking when you look at the significance of what the sacred ground next to it is," he said.
Divided opinions over Johnny Depp's offer to buy Wounded Knee

By Daniel Simmons-RitchieTribal officials have repeatedly called Czywczynsk's price inflated to the point of extortion. Shannon County has appraised the combined value of the parcels at $14,000 by county appraisers.

But now Depp's offer has caused the Oglala to reassess their position.

"You see these celebrities with a lot of money and a lot of times you hear about the useless spending they do, this is something different, something that's unbelievable," said Garfield Steele, a council representative for the Wounded Knee District, who believes the tribe should take Depp's offer.

But others were less convinced. Nathan Blindman, a descendant of the survivors of the Wounded Knee massacre, said that, although Depp's offer is well-intentioned, the hearty profit that Czywczynski would make from the sale would be disrespectful to those who died.

"The bottom line is it's still selling the tragedy and violence," he said. "It's still making money off it, no matter who buys it."
And:While he agreed that Depp has good intentions, Stainbrook said Depp's best approach would have been to privately offer a contribution to the Oglala and ask them how they could best use the money.

Instead of 80 acres, he said, the Oglala could use $4.9 million to buy thousands of acres of reservation land from non-natives.

"There's plenty of land not in Indian ownership that they could have used," he said.
My Image is Not For Sale

By Taté WalkerDepp is offering Indian Country, especially those of us in South Dakota--the poorest communities in the entire nation (cue violins)--a wonderful gift. Is it a peace offering for that terribly offensive movie? Maybe, but I’m willing to let that go. A gift is a gift. But it’s like the generic body wash set your Christmas visitors get you (“Oh, I love the smell of strawberry passion!”); if you know anything about me, you’d know NOT to get me body wash. And there’s the rub: Johnny knows nothing about Indian Country, so much so that he based his whole Tonto look off of a painting whose creator acknowledged was NOT historically accurate. Like, at all. If Depp got to know his newly adopted brothers and sisters of the Plains, he’d realize there’s a TON that could be done with $5 million. Scholarship endowments, capital-building projects, infrastructure development…

So, yes, thank you for this gesture, Mr. Depp. But, please, look into how you can really help us. Pump some funding into programs trying to dig us out of crippling poverty and unemployment; advertise and promote ventures trying to get traditional foods back into our diets; talk to the dozens of kids who contemplate suicide every day; visit our underfunded schools and hospitals. Don’t want to get too deep too fast? That’s OK. Produce a Native-led film project. Start an arts program. Protest Big Oil with us. Be #idlenomore
Harriman: Is Johnny Depp really going to save Wounded Knee?

By Peter HarrimanDepp said he might buy Czywczynski’s land for the tribe, evidently undeterred by a price approaching $4 million.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Depp has a movie in theaters this summer in which he plays the Lone Ranger’s iconic sidekick. In interviews, Depp has said he might be a descendant of Cherokee or Creek ancestors, and in New Mexico last year, where “The Lone Ranger” was in production, Depp was adopted into the Comanche Nation.

But Depp has not traded on a tribal past until now, and his painted-face portrayal of Tonto has raised eyebrows. Is his Wounded Knee offer in the nature of appeasement?
And:Depp might be entirely well motivated. But instead of spectacularly overpaying for land recent Shannon County sales suggest is worth about $300 an acre, if Depp wants to write a big check on the tribe’s behalf, he should give them a stake in the 21st century Black Hills.

Economic development at Pine Ridge is nearly impossible, in part because of its remote location. But the Black Hills are thriving. A cursory check of Rapid City realtors’ commercial listings shows a 10-building tract with an accompanying liquor license and 300 slot machines on Deadwood’s Main Street is available for $4.5 million.

There is an ice plant in Rapid City for sale for $3.2 million. A 105-room Rodeway Inn on the road to Mount Rushmore is being offered for $2.25 million. About 200 acres of development land near Sheridan Lake can be had for $1.59 million. Any or all of these would be of greater tangible benefit to the Oglala Sioux in 2013 than overpriced rangeland at Wounded Knee.
Johnny Depp's Wounded Knee offer called generous, but some think it's misguided

By Leslie ReedChuck Trimble of Omaha, a Native American rights advocate and journalist who is an enrolled member of the Oglala Lakota nation, is among those who think Depp should do something else with his money.

“I think it's very generous of him, but there are quite a number of people who wish he wouldn't do this,” Trimble said. “If he wants to give millions, he should give it to a cause, and not pay it to a man who is holding the Wounded Knee site for a price—and it's very questionable how he got it in the first place.”
And:Trimble said the pain of Wounded Knee remains fresh.

“The sore just won't heal,” he said. “Poor Johnny Depp. He's still trying to sell his Tonto role and hoping there won't be a backlash from Indian country. He's doing his best—he meant well. He still means well.”
Why Johnny Depp spending anything more than a few thousand bucks for Wounded Knee would be a big mistake

And finally:

Indians to Johnny Depp: 'Keep Your Word, Buy Wounded Knee'Neither party has heard from Depp yet, but an online petition at Change.org directed at Depp and his agent seeks to push the actor to make good on his statements. Referencing Native peoples' history of disappointment at empty promises, the petition reads as follows:

"Keep your word. Promises to indigenous people are frequently made and broken. You promised to buy Wounded Knee and give it to the Sioux Nation. The owners want to sell. Keep your word. Buy Wounded Knee and gift it freely to the Sioux Nation."
Comment:  The consensus seems to be that regardless of Depp's motives, buying Wounded Knee would be a good thing to do. But he could help more by donating money to other causes rather than wasting it on overpriced land.

The more cynical among us thought, "If Depp wants to purchase Wounded Knee, why doesn't he pick up the phone and do it? In fact, why didn't he do it in June, when the property went on the market? It's a mighty big coincidence that he mentioned this idea only after The Lone Ranger started tanking."

For more on Johnny Depp and Tonto, see Why The Lone Ranger Flopped and Ranger too Racist to Reboot.

1 comment:

Rob said...

Still no word on Depp's alleged interest:


Questions remain about Johnny Depp's offer to purchase Wounded Knee

Depp's offer changed the calculus of the tribe, and reaction from officials was jubilant.

"This is a great thing that is happening," President Bryan Brewer said in a statement.

But, since the initial announcement, details have been scarce.

Brewer has not responded to repeated calls by the Journal over the past month. Joel Mandel, Depp's business manager, has also not responded to repeated calls for comment.