Natanya Ann Pulley: Open letter to Johnny Depp's Tonto

Photo from Jerry Bruckheimer on Twitter

"Dear Johnny Depp’s Tonto,

We are going to have a lot to talk about next year when your Disney movie about the Lone Ranger and Tonto hits. An in-production photo of you has emerged and it makes me nervous. You have a blackbird on your head. Johnny Depp Tonto Blackbird-head. Tsk. That bird might pluck your eyes out, man. The moment it hit my Facebook newsfeed the updates from my friends went nutso. What is this look? Is it genuine? Is 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? I get stuck somewhere between the first and second question: (shamefully) am I suppose to know, as a half-Navajo, if this look is genuine? Will my (half)blood tell me, or, can I google it?

I googled it. And there’s some history there. It took some work though—to worry and to google the Native American images and questions that come to me. I’m not sure if educating the public is your intention, Johnny Depp Tonto. And if so, I doubt non-Native folk will do the same. It’s exhausting. I’m not sure you know what it is like undoing stereotypes and ignorance from a laptop. Someone else dressed you. Fancied you up. You’ll be huge and flat on the big screen. A glossy fetish truth to someone."

Get the Story:
Natanya Ann Pulley: An Open Letter to Johnny Depp’s Tonto. (McSweeney's 4/13)

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