March 20, 2014

Johnny Depp, white man

Every time I mention Johnny Depp on the NativeCelebs page in Facebook, people claim he's Native. No, he isn't. Let's put this myth to rest once and for all.

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, 2002JL: Now a question that has come up more frequently than I would have expected on this stage. Do you have any Native American ancestry?

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.
Johnny Depp wants 'The Lone Ranger' to back off Tonto: Why is the f–––ing Lone Ranger telling Tonto what to do?'

By Anthony BreznicanTonto’s treatment especially bugged him because Depp had always been told his family was part Indian. “I guess I have some Native American somewhere down the line,” he says. “My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.”And...that's it. If any statements of his ethnicity exist other than these, I can't find them. Two flimsy claims, period.

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.

Johnny Depp

By EthnicEthnicity: English, along with smaller amounts of Irish, Northern Irish (Scots-Irish), Scottish, Welsh, French, Dutch, Belgian (Flemish), German, as well as 3/2048 African.

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.
The Cherokee Princess Phenomenon, and Other Tall Tales of the West

By Ehud WouldAnother such case to recently garner national media attention is that of Harvard Law professor and Democratic Senator, Elizabeth Warren: she, like the majority of White Americans today, claims some Cherokee background. But the New England Historical Genealogical Society found no evidence of any American Indian lineage in her.

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.
That would seem to be conclusive. Until Depp provides hard evidence that one of his ancestors was Cherokee, the facts indicate they were white. Which mean he's white too.

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 AleissThe actor has said he hopes to fix years of Indian misrepresentations in Hollywood and has repeatedly stated that his great grandmother had mostly Cherokee blood.

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.
An Open Letter to Johnny Depp's Tonto

By Natanya Ann PulleyIs Johnny Depp Native American or Native enough? Does he, like so too many others, have a distant Indian princess in his lineage? He’s said his great grandmother is Creek or Cherokee. Creek or Cherokee. He’s not sure which—this Creek-or-Cherokeeness of him amounts to one line on his Wikipedia page. Can casually embracing being part of this-or-that tribe somehow carry us forward?For more on Johnny Depp, see Johnny Depp Looks Indian? and Johnny Depp, Cherokee?


Anonymous said...

I don't see anywhere that Depp had a DNA test done. I'd like to see that, if he has one he would share. The only thing I see is that his ancestors were listed as white on a census.

Everyone knows just because an ancestor was listed as white in a census doesn't make it so.

There are so many who have been lost to their people because it was a survival choice to be passing as white when the census folks came through.

Do these people, and those who were born into mixed families, not count? What about their children, who truly didn't have a choice? And their grandchildren?

I am asking because I want to understand what the point is in denigrating someone's oral history and holding up dominant culture written historyas the Truth without checking all the facts there are to be checked first.

Martha Hardcastle said...

Sorry, but Mr Depp, who is my fifth cousin once removed. is a black man. As his ninth-great grandmother was an African slave who gave birth to a baby girl fathered by her master Thomas Key in Virginia his one drop of blood is easy to determine.

The poet Langston Hughes said black blood must be powerful if only one drop makes a black man.

Anonymous said...

His family comes from the Warren side of the Cherokee Tree, I'm from the Warren side myself and my mother. We are called white because of being off the Reservation. Bottom line Johnny is a Warren.

Stephen Kerry said...

Johnny Depp does indeed have Native American Hertiage through the Bradleys and Slones and Sizemore lines on his Mother's family, it includes both Cherokee and Creek. People like to call out others but do your homework!!!

Stephen Kerry said...

Johnny Depp's family does have Creek MARY ALICE SIZEMOORE mother of the eastern KY SLONE family and also Cherokee through the Bradleys among other family lines on his Mother's side, some of the WHITAKERS also married into mixed White- Native American families. Do your homework. Some Native Americans have lived

Rob said...

Feel free to link to his DNA results or family tree online. Educate us all.

And FYI, having a tiny bit of Native blood doesn't make one Native. I hope you can do better than a distant ancestor who makes him 1/64th or 1/128th "Native."