Depp's Tonto Is Faithful to Comanche Culture, Says Consultant

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With the July 3 premiere of The Lone Ranger approaching, a new article by the Associated Press asks "Will Disney’s new Tonto be any better?", and presents comments by various experts, including a Comanche consultant on the film.

“There are a lot of people out there screaming who are not Comanche, as in this story Tonto is supposed to be,” said William "Two-Raven" Voelker. “They know nothing of bird culture. When we wear or use those feathers, we’re calling on the energy of the entire bird.”

The article also cites comments by Michelle Shining Elk that appeared at LastRealIndians.com in which she made the case that Depp's portrayal reinforces the idea “that we are uneducated, irrelevant, noncontributors to society living in teepees out on the Plains.” Shining Elk focused on Depp's choice to make Tonto speak in the familiar Hollywood Indian dialect. "Never was there a time when our ancestors or our elders spoke the way Depp portrays Tonto" she said. "Thanks Johnny Depp for not exercising your gifts of being an amazing actor who is typically able to bring amazing life to your characters using that talent. Sadly and so disappointing is seeing that all you have done here is simply mimic the pathetic speech patterns created and always depicted" in mainstream Westerns.

The Associated Press article also addressed the idea that Depp's Tonto displays a sense of humor that will appeal to Indians. Comedian Ernest Tsosie of the duo James and Ernie is open to the possibility. “From what I saw, there’s some moments in there that are meant to be funny but not outwardly funny," he said. "I think most Natives will pick up on it.”