Johnny Depp, LaDonna Harris, The Lone Ranger, and the Comanches
Repost from David Yeagley · June 9, 2013
July 3, 2013, the new movie, The Lone Ranger, will appear in theaters across the country. The special effects film, long in making, stars Johnny Depp as “Tonto.” The constellation of irony and controversy about the film and the star is stunning, and continually growing.
Perhaps the easiest solution is to recognize that the film has nothing to do with history, with Comanches, or with reality. It is a fantasy film, using some historical figures in a creative way, but having nothing to do with historical reality. The film should not be evaluated on authenticity of any kind. There isn’t any such authenticity.
The Lone Ranger, a 1933 radio show, later feature a Patowatami Indian named “Tonto.” The story became a television series, and feature a Canadian Mohawk Indian by the name of Jay Silverheels. So, in this fictionalized entertainment series, Comanches never had any association.
So, how is it that Comanches are now associated?
The one authentic historical element employed in the film is the Texas Rangers and their attack on the Comanche Indians. The Texas Rangers were created as a state agency to protect invading settlers from the Indians of Texas–mainly the Comanche Indians. The Texas Rangers became infamous for adopting ruthless Comanche war tactics and using them against the Comanches. This was unprecedented.
Now, in 2013 Lone Ranger movie, Tonto is a Comanche, but in name only. There is nothing in the character that is derives from Comanche people or Comanche ways. Especially the unique costume worn by Johnny Depp (as the Comanche “Tonto”) is utterly aberrant. But, remember, it is not intended to be authentic. It is the clear indulgence of stereotypical Indian images, all thrown together with Hollywood creativity.
Of course, Disney producers hired William Voelker, an enrolled Comanche, as their Comanche adviser. Voelker, whom media now says is William “Two-Ravens” Voelker, assured Depp that his costume was not far-fetched. Voelker talks about a ‘bird culture,’ but, this was never part of Comanche tradition, least of all was the vulture part of it. If the bird on Depps head is a raven, it bears no semblance of Comanche association, other then William Voelker’s new media name, “Two Ravens.” Voelker is a bird expert, and created a non-profit for the care of eagles, especially, called SIA. But the program is not funded by the Comanche Nation. See more