Column: Tracking down the 'real' Indians who played Tonto

Photo from Jerry Bruckheimer on Twitter

"First, there was the photo released by the film’s producer, Jerry Bruckheimer, last Thursday morning. If you’ve been curious about how Johnny Depp is going to play the Lone Ranger’s friend and faithful companion, Tonto, the photo tweeted around the world shows Depp in white-face with war paint makeup and wearing what appears to be a stuffed dead crow on his head. So … Capt. Jack Sparrow on a horse?

Then, there were the alert honorary members of the Lone Ranger fan club who pointed out my mistake in saying Jay Silverheels was the only Native American actor to play Tonto. Hold your horses, kemo sabes! Two bona fide tribal members played Tonto in the 1981 “The Legend of the Lone Ranger” also filmed right here in New Mexico.

Yaqui actor Michael Horse played adult Tonto, and Isleta Pueblo member Patrick Montoya played Tonto as a child.

As is my custom when I make an error, I got busy with personal apologies. I tracked down Montoya, who was 14 when he was plucked from a casting call in Santa Fe to don a red headband and play the role of young Tonto, who adopts into his tribe the young, orphaned John Reid, who would later become the Lone Ranger, and teaches him Indian ways."

Get the Story:
Leslie Linthicum: Hi-Yo, Silver! Tonto Rides Again (The Albuquerque Journal 3/15)

Related Stories:
Column: Johnny Depp, 'vague' Indian, plays Tonto on screen (3/8)

Join the Conversation