My Image is Not For Sale

I am a modern Lakota winyan.

No accent.

No paint.

No feathers.

I’m like no Indian you’ve ever seen.

Because I am not a mascot. Or a blockbuster archetype.

Someone dressed like a gothic taxidermist

Is trying to sell me my own culture.

“Your values and beliefs are for sale!” he proclaims in redface.

“So is your land. I’ll buy it for you [if you see my movie].”

Good trade?

Spending $5 million

On land worth $14,000

To sell a movie made for $250 million.

I’m no good at math.

But that seems

Excessive. Over the top. Not enough.

And I feel funny 😐


The worst part?

Our people are so starved for attention,

That we’ll take it in whatever form it comes in.

When Racism knocks on your door,

It’ll be riding a pinto, wearing a bird, and wrapped in a Comanche flag.

But that’s OK.

Because Racism makes it RAIN.

Yes: $5 million is a lot of money the Oglalas need.

Yes: Johnny Depp is a great actor and it’s OK to be a fan.

Yes: Depp was adopted into the Comanche tribe.

Yes: Tonto is a fictional character.


If the goal was to show the world a

Positive image of Native Americans,

Why not choose a Native actor for a Native role?

Why use Sattler’s weirdly mystical [false] depiction for historical reference?

And why – WHY?!? – Tonto?

So a new generation can play Cowboys & Indians. Stereotypes sell.

Why put $5 million into the pockets of a

Greedy old white man?

Why not give the $5 million directly to the tribe?

Why not consult with the people you’re hoping to impact

Before rushing out and doing what YOU think is best for them?

Who knows what’s best, anyway?

And that’s what this is really all about.

Natives don’t have control.

Of anything.

We’ve been on our backs for so long

That being on our knees and

Taking scraps from Hollywood, and Anheuser-Busch, and Congress

Seems like an improvement.

Get over it, Taté. It’s just a movie.

Outsiders tell us what we need.

How much we need.

What we can have.

Where we can have it.

Our images are not our own. They belong to those with money.

And I want to scream, “THESE IMAGES YOU CREATE HURT ME!”

You may not know it, but they hurt you, too.

Ours is

A Halloween heritage.

A logo legacy.

Slot machine sovereignty.

Tonto traditions.

Ancestry for the price of admission.

Native AmeriCAN?

Or Native AmeriCANT?

Marginalize me some more.

It’s Johnny Depp, for gootness sakes.

And the world goes on.

Here we are now. Entertain us.

I’ve been feeling very frustrated lately over this whole Tonto business, and during a time in my life I’m frustrated in general. (Final semester of grad school, people. No pressure, or anything.) Many folks – more than I’d like to admit – have told me my feelings on this issue are stupid (ironic, eh? Because, you know, Tonto means stupid, right?). There are real issues to concern myself with. It’s just a movie. Tonto is fiction. I liked that Twilight stuff, so why am I being such a hypocrite with Johnny Depp?! I LOVE Johnny! We share the same first name!

What’s more, he goes and tells someone he’s going to buy some land in South Dakota. And now I’m REALLY the bad guy. Because Depp’s not just buying land. He’s mother-effing GIVING IT BACK to the tribe. And I’m like, yeah, that’s super-awesome… He’s dropping millions on 80-omg-that-is-the-most-overpriced-land-EVER acres some crotchety old bigot is selling because 40 years ago a destructive protest made it famous.

A lot of media hype went up about this land being for sale. The land Depp is considering sits adjacent to the Wounded Knee Massacre (1890) site. It’s not the massacre site itself. Aside from its history with the Wounded Knee Occupation (1973), there’s really nothing particularly worthwhile about this property. Before Dawes laws chopped up the reservation, these 80 acres were part of the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Don’t get me wrong. Land reclamation is HUGE and a very important factor in what makes us sovereign to begin with. South Dakota tribes have pushed to buy back significant properties (Pe’Sla in the Black Hills, for instance). If anything, the federal government should create a national memorial (tribally run, of course) out of Wounded Knee, as they did with Little Bighorn. But that’s another post for another day.

Depp is offering Indian Country, especially those of us in South Dakota – the poorest communities in the entire nation (cue violins) – a wonderful gift. Is it a peace offering for that terribly offensive movie? Maybe, but I’m willing to let that go. A gift is a gift. But it’s like the generic body wash set your Christmas visitors get you (“Oh, I love the smell of strawberry passion!”); if you know anything about me, you’d know NOT to get me body wash. And there’s the rub: Johnny knows nothing about Indian Country, so much so that he based his whole Tonto look off of a painting whose creator acknowledged was NOT historically accurate. Like, at all. If Depp got to know his newly adopted brothers and sisters of the Plains, he’d realize there’s a TON that could be done with $5 million. Scholarship endowments, capital-building projects, infrastructure development…

So, yes, thank you for this gesture, Mr. Depp. But, please, look into how you can really help us. Pump some funding into programs trying to dig us out of crippling poverty and unemployment; advertise and promote ventures trying to get traditional foods back into our diets; talk to the dozens of kids who contemplate suicide every day; visit our underfunded schools and hospitals. Don’t want to get too deep too fast? That’s OK. Produce a Native-led film project. Start an arts program. Protest Big Oil with us. Be #idlenomore

… [T]he motion picture community has been as responsible as any for degrading the Indian and making a mockery of his character, describing his as savage, hostile and evil. It’s hard enough for children to grow up in this world. When Indian children watch television, and they watch films, and when they see their race depicted as they are in films, their minds become injured in ways we can never know.

– Marlon Brando, 1973

My closing thoughts are this: Everyone has their own opinion, and that’s fine. This is mine. Depp will do whatever he wants – obviously. This is NOT an issue worth dividing ourselves over. Debates and disagreements are fun, sometimes, but let’s keep what’s important – our children, families, and tribes – in the forefront. Pick something to be passionate about, and work hard to make things right. I may not support your cause, but I will support you. Let’s not tear each other down for having opinions.

For myself, I will always push for fair and accurate media representations of – and demand justice for – marginalized people. My feet vote, my wallet votes, and I use my voice when I have something to say.

137 thoughts on “My Image is Not For Sale

    1. I was wondering why Jonny Depp was playing Tonto & why the make-up choices? Also wondering how the native community was reacting to the movie?
      Even stranger in an interview he didn’t say he was adopted. he said he was part native American..interesting… And then the” Land for Sale ” topic. How did someone come to own the Land & have the right to sell it? It was Stolen from the from the Native Americans. Why is it not being given back to them,the rightful owners. I am so perplexed by this whole situation..I have decide I will boycott the movie.
      I have been to Pine Ridge Indian Reservation,October 2000. Actually we were invited to the reservation by the people who lived there. I was traveling with a theatre company in the USA “Upstart Aussies”, with a group of Australian Aboriginals. They came to The States, to tell the story of the “Stolen Generation”. The Aborginals told the producers that they needed to invite Native Americans to every show to honour them & their ancestors & ask permission to open each show with them & then at the close of the show to make sure their ancestors would leave with them. It was an amazing experience for all of us..We saw the conditions at Pine Ridge, yet they welcomed us with open arms fed us lunch.We shared each others language & native dances. It was a remakable day

  1. well done. You have a lot of insight that I have not seen in other critiques of the film and Depp’s motives. thank you for writing it.

      1. Dear MissusWrackspurt. Well here comes a long winded reply. I hope you have time to read it. you seem to be a pretty busy young lady. And from what I have read in your article, I believe you to be a strong and courageous woman whose voice needs to be heard by the millions of us in this country. So. If you don’t have time, then just skip to the last two paragraphs.

        I have a pretty fair knowledge of the historical, economic, social, and cultural disenfranchisement and rape of the Native American Nations.I know a lot of intellectual “stuff ” that the golden age of leftist writers (1960’s and 70’s)wrote about at the time, e.g. Noam Chomsky, Howard Zinn, Sartre, et al and the intellectual liberal voice of academia of my era namely the late 1960’s to 70’s. (isn’t strange how the word “liberal” has been so beaten up by today’s media that its almost a “dirty” word?). And as a young woman coming of age in this era, I was right there in the midst of many a peaceful and violent (by cop) protests, sit ins, and occupations, rubbing shoulders and elbows and sharing ideas, writing articles, and staging protests with my Native American bronze, and brown and black and pink and yellow fellow students who brought Viet Nam down to its very slow and tortured knees, finally destroying that War forever. We also invaded the world with some pretty wonderful ideas such as women’s liberation, ending the draft,integration of schools,colleges, stores etc, and just plain freedom. But some where along the way over the subsequent thirty years, America took many steps backwards and all the hopes and dreams and anticipation for a new America kind of got dumped in a cesspool of a dumpster swallowing up idealism and truth in big ugly gulps. we didn’t lose our way. Our way lost Us.
        Just a few of us stayed in the fray, while most of us(who weren’t born with a silver spoon in our mouths) had children, and grand children and simply had to work , tow the line, and survive. And many many of my fellow student protesters either became dope headed hippies without a cause, idealists turned into white collar business men and women, or just got old,sick and tired and truly stopped caring.

        Eleven of my high school and college buddies died in Viet Nam and seven might as well have been dead, their minds destroyed forever by the brutality, and ugliness and craziness of a war they did not want or understand. In essence, our Generation “gave out”. (Notice I didn’t say “give up”).Those student goals of Utopia where all people are free and peace is the dominating force of the world, have been tossed and torn like a broken sail in the middle of a Texas hurricane.

        My question to you now is: Where are the young spirited young folk of today? Are they trying to survive a government that has plied them with poisonous drugs, two Evil Wars that are killing thousands of young men and women every year, and a media of caustic Rush Limbaughs and the Fox News brigade? Are the young folk of today enmeshed in a fantasy world of ” reality” television and drinking Kool Aid mixed with online quasi celebrity twitter- trash? Has the pop media, reality stars, and thug rap artists poured piss and slop in the vessels of their brains? And as soon as one of the youngsters gets up the moral courage and pluck to organize a protest of some kind and actually rage against injustice, does the all powerful cartoonish silly news media erase them from America’s memory by ignoring them and their issues? Maybe all the above.(oops, that’s more than one question, sorry).

        I do not believe it is the fault of the young folk of today. I believe one must consider the betrayal of those who we have voted into power. Too many of our minority leaders have been corrupt, and spoiled, and greedy and have sold their own people out for a slice of the American pie. And I mean leaders of ALL minorities. I can only speak for my own African American leaders. I can think of at least two “all fired up black preachers so-called civil rights activists” who do not address the real problems that are destroying the young minds of urban youth in America. I am speaking of the many corrupt black politicians, school administrators, and officials, church leaders et al. The best known examples would be the members of school boards and the alderman and county representatives of large urban cities.I can speak only for my own people, because I would never presume to speak on the leadership of my Native American, Latino, or Asian brothers and sisters. i will never speak on what I do not know.

        This is not to say that their is no great leadership among my people or among other minority groups. Actually there are thousands who make a difference in poor and minority communities every day of the week( I include yourself). But the difference is that the so called free Press refuses to cover their stories and their agendas. Only the two aforementioned “leaders” are the ones that receive Press coverage or media attention. They have been honed and polished and selected to be puppets of a complacent government and a small number of very wealthy men(and women). They are “THE ” African American leaders. They are the two mouthpieces selected by our government, the very wealthy, and the Press to speak on behalf of millions of people and who are trained to pick and choose who among them will take their places.
        They have grown fat and comfortable with their positions and their fame. They need to step down and let the leaders who truly fight for their people take their over. And these “new leaders” must train the young people in the Right way with the morals, and values, and ideals and the will to continue the struggle for dignity and freedom.

        Now here I am. I am an overtaxed, over worked, but not yet over the hill 63 year old grand mother. I still keep a bit of the fight in me as a member of “AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL ” for the last 35 years. All this to say: Girl you are spot on! And I am so very happy that there is someone left in this country who has not gotten the life beaten out of them and their determination and PURE heart and soul to set things right. You are the kind of leader that I am talking about. You are the leader who is unheard and ignored by the media because you are for real. And your poem and article and the work you do for at risk Native American youth is leadership at its best. I only wish I had the solution to get folk like you on the radar.
        When I first heard that Mr. Depp would be “playing” the part of Tonto, I cringed, and the hairs on my neck began to stand straight up, and my body gave a slight jolt of disgust, disbelief, and yes, anger. I was so mad I could spit! My three year old grand daughter looked up at me and said “Aba, you don’t have your nicey face on”. And God bless her, she was right, I guess I did look pretty ticked off. Three little letters entered my brain immediately “WTF”. I MEAN SERIOUSLY? In this day and age, after so many folk, above all Native Americans, protested and died and suffered so this kind of nonsense would be destroyed and dismantled forever? I simply could not believe it. I could not believe that this cinematic rape of Native American identity and dignity and history could happen after all these years. I truly believed, hokey though it was, that the Oscar Night Marlon Brando thing had jolted the status quo with a new way of thinking. I thought after all the Native American protests and sacrifices of the sixties and seventies and there on, did indeed make non-Native Americans into people who acknowledge our Native American brothers and sisters with the truth and brilliance of their heritage. Well, this old lady was certainly wrong.
        That is why I salute you and I am so glad that you wrote that powerful poem and wrote this tremendously well written and poignant article. I will not be seeing that Lone Ranger and Tonto movie, my family will not be seeing that movie, and none of the people that I know to be my friends will NOT be seeing that movie. Once more, I am very disappointed at Johnny Depp. How can one so young and educated be so stupid? I would have liked to have seen Depp forgo the role of “Tonto” (gee I hate that name) and put right the image and integrity of this character. I would have thought that he would be aware enough and intelligent enough to demand that this role be acted by a Native American actor. (and Please not some one who says their 1/64th Native American. Sheesh!)
        Well, you are wonderful, Missus W. You are strong. You are courageous. And if there is anything I can do in my own small way to “FIX” this idiocy, please let me know. And please continue your work with children AND continue with your much needed leadership. God bless you!

  2. I trace a small portion of my lineage back to Native Americans (Ojibwa). I know far less than I should. I care more infrequently than I should. I’m proud of that part of me and I have no right to be.

    I come from a part of this country that has a fairly tight connection with its native peoples (not my ancestors). The weren’t forced to move as far.brutalized as much, but were still marginalized, trivialized, patronized… their culture stolen, re-packaged, sold as a curiosity.

    I don’t know what we do about it now. How we stop continuing bad behavior. But I am glad that your voice is heard. Help us see when we do unthinking things. Remind us that you were here first. That our way was not the only way. That you were doing just fine before we “civilized” you.

    Some of us are ready to listen.

    1. My husband is Ojibwe from Minnesota. I love that he is able to teach our daughter his language, because his tribe was better able to hold onto their language and traditions than mine was. Keep up the good fight, Al, even if that just means you support indigenous voices and perspectives 🙂 I know I appreciate your kind words. Wopila.

      1. Small world gets smaller – friend in Canada part of the Ojibwe nation raised in a small community near Bellville, Ontario. Ran into guy at high school reunion here in Ohio that I went to school with who was raised as a child by his grandparents on that same reservation. I was the Irish/Protestant kid in the Italian/Catholic neighborhood – I love the diversity and we can all learn from each other – sending much aloha to everyone – Dahmia

  3. Excellent…..bravo and so much more. You said it all. I just wish our Comanche Leaders and those who support them would read this and try to understand what you said is without malice…….The Comanche Nation did not adopt Johnny Depp, a Comanche family did……the Nation as a whole knew nothing of this adoption until after it went public for the movie and the snowball effect. I am 4/4 Comanche and I approve your message!

    1. That Comanche adoption story was like crack for an addicted entertainment media junket. Sadly, those of us outside your nation only got what was showcased – thank you for your input. The “adoption” was flashy and a nice way for the LR production team to say, “Looky here some real live Injuns approve of our campy Western!” This whole thing is a circus and we – you, me, us – we’re the sideshow.

      THANK YOU for your words.

      1. This is beautifully written and powerful in its unflinching look at the reality of the situation. I suspect Depp’s motives, after announcing in a UK tabloid his desire to buy Wounded Knee, without talking to the Oglala Lakota about it first, right after a disappointing opening weekend and a hailstorm of criticism in the US. There is far less of that over in England, since there are no pesky Native Americans to kick up a fuss.

        Maybe he means well, but he didn’t seem to think this through, for all the reasons you mention. It also bugs me that he could not personally call President Brewer himself, he had his reps do it (“I’ll have my people call your people”). Not sure why he could not have quietly done this, and instead took a route to guarantee maximum publicity for himself. Hmm, so many questions.

        And as my fellow Comanches have stated, the nation did not adopt Depp and had no say, it was one family. This “fact” has been exploited as a rubberstamping from all. Anyone who knows the proud history of the Comanche, especially in Texas, where I’m from, knows that no warrior would have let a white man name him stupid, nor joined forces with a Texas Ranger (rogue or not), whose express purpose was to destroy the Comanche and drive the survivors off to the reservations so the whites could finally settle our lands. It’s the worst kind of whitewashing of the actual history. There are many who feel betrayed by what LaDonna Harris did, it utterly disrespects what happened to our ancestors, “taking scraps from Hollywood”, indeed.

        There’s nothing about Tonto that honours any nation.

        If Depp wants to help, he ought to put his ego and publicist aside and ask first. I said he was acting like a white saviour and DAMN, the backlash was immediate, I even got called a racist against white people by a white man who said he knows what it’s like for us Natives to be oppressed, since he used to be a hippie with a beard and cops always bugged him back then. Yes, totally the same dynamic as 500 years of genocide!

        Ugh 😦

    1. Ugh. A lot of people are hating on me today. Like, awfully so. I can roll with the punches, but MAN, some of the ish people throw out is just UGLY. Like, way off point and super-racist-trollish. I just wanna be like, “I’m a peaceful Lakota Libra mom and dog owner who works with troubled/at-risk youth for a piddly salary! And I sometimes write poetry… Can’t we hug it out?!”

      But I really appreciate your words, even if we’re not on the same side with this. We’re getting Lakota perspectives to the outside world, and that counts for something, right?

      1. Bummer about the haters. They may, (or may not) get over it. Yup, lets hug it out.
        I am grateful for different perspectives on any information. Tired of one-sided opinions and prejudices.
        This is the best information/opinion I’ve seen at all. We need more articles like this.
        Me? I’ve heard lots of talk from lots of people. Waiting to see what happens, and how its dealt with.

    2. As a 71 year old wasicu man, who used to lay on the floor in front of the radio, listening to the Lone Ranger, I have to take issue with your comment that everyone hates him, assuming that you mean either Tonto, whom I always loved as a boy and have not thought of much since then, or Johnny Depp who played Tonto. I admire him for doing something that the US Government should have done in either paying the guy selling the land a legitimate price for the land or taking it away from him and giving it back to the tribe, since he somehow got it illegally. In either case, hate is a very strong word that is used way to much in our world today and particularly in regards to the way the Native American population are treated in South Dakota.

  4. Thank you for speaking your mind! I feel very strongly about a lot of issues! I’m from the Rosebud reservation. I have family that suffer daily! All the money that is being made in the Badlands & Mt Rushmore could be used to help the Natives! South Dakota is such a beautiful state. If people took a tour of the reservations & could see what I’ve grown up to view SD as! Poor. Rundown. Drunks. Violence. Sadness. Abuse. Horrible healthcare! My step dad (RIP) moved us off the reservation many years back because he couldn’t take the torment of the “rez life!” I still go back to visit my relatives & it hurts my spirit to see that nothing has changed! I pity the children the most :o( I always say that if I win the lottery I will go back to my rez & fix the schools, playgrounds, and the homes! All these famous people waste sooooo much! They could turn around &do such great things for the ssuffering tribes :o( I WISH!!!!!

  5. As one of my grandmothers would have said, Good on you!

    I never let my children see that other Disney abomination, Pocahontas why would I want to see another stereotype. Ït’s entertainment!” No it’s not. It matters and what we think as Indigenous women matters.

    You said everything I’ve been feeling about this whole thing. Thank you.

  6. The land for sale is absolutely where our Hunkpapa, Mnicojou, Itazipco & other non-Oglala ancestors were massacred. That’s why our tiospayes ride there to pray, heal & remember every year. While both the cemetery/church land & the massacre site were wrongly allotted (stolen) from Oglala territory, it’s the WK Survivors Assoc. who should take care of the massacre area today – not OST (which alreafy owns the church & cemetery). Our Oglala ancestors provided care to the dead & dying from Standing Rock & Cheyenne River in 1890 & your angry dismissal of the land in question as ‘nothing particularly worthwhile’ both takes my breath away & bolsters my point that survivors’ tiospayes & descendants of the murdered can best honor & remember all the suffering that occurred, including by Oglalas who tried to help well after the 7th was finished with their vile slaughter…

    Great poem, but the history of killing on that land matters. Respect that truth.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts and comments. The Wounded Knee land issue is definitely up for debate, and you are completely correct to say many people hold dear all the land of Wounded Knee, just as many of us hold dear all of, say, Paha Sapa (the Black Hills), the state of South Dakota, and all of the traditional homelands of the once great Oceti Sakowin. I don’t pretend to know everything. Wow, do I know very little in the grand scheme of things, and I’m still learning – everyday. That said, my point isn’t to downgrade the sovereign land rights of our Lakota people. The 80 acres (in two parcels) for sale by He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named (current owner) sit adjacent/near/close to the burial grounds of those lost in the Massacre. I absolutely totally 100% agree that land this should be returned to the Lakota, as I believe the Black Hills is ours by right and treaty (and we Lakota have been offered billions as compensation, which we continue to refuse — and rightfully so, I might add). My comment about not worthwhile is said in a purely financial context – the owner wants an ungodly amount of money for land with little to no natural resources, in an area hard to travel to (for tourism purposes) and as someone looking to the future – not the past – I would prefer my children and my grandchildren have access to life-saving social and human services than a plot of land rooted in violence and greed. I am not in support of land acquisition if it’s at the expense of our wakanyeja; we can’t save our culture and history if our children are forever impoverished and starving.

  7. Damn well told. That’s the difference between a publicity stunt and a real contribution. We are seldom objective about our greed and our WTF attitudes about everybody that isn’t us. It’s astonishing to me that we’re into the 21st century and we’re no closer to fixing this. Most of us are stunned that we’ve gone so far from reason that we can’t find our way back. I hope the path becomes evident to us all. You write very well and have taken me back to reality. Thanks!

  8. What a wonderful piece you have presented and I deep in my heart wish the realism- isms you speak of would come true. The truth is we (white men/women) screwed your people out of your land to make everyone’s lives better. This too is bullshit. We have never made your life better we just keep taking things that mean something to you and your forefathers not to us. I am proud of the small amount of Apache blood that runs in my veins I just wish I was in a place I could help the “real” people of this land. Godspeed my brothers and sisters.

  9. I am so glad you wrote this and I’m not surprised you are being attacked for your point of view -people hate when their hero is proven to have clay feet and they always go after the one who points it out.
    I’m white without even one drop of Native American blood,but I’ve kept on top of the issues involving the Lakota for a number of years, doing what little I can manage to try to help. When the Depp story came out yesterday I said it was probably a publicity stunt for the movie, just like the Comanche adoption. I’ve had any number of people jumping on me for saying that because, hey, isn’t he doing a wonderful thing by giving the land back and giving it to the people who owned it to begin with?
    Don’t get me wrong – I’ll be glad to see the land back in your hands again,but I hate the fact that the creep who is selling it will be making so much money off of it and I agree with you that there are so many other issues that 5 million dollars can help with.

  10. This moved me to tears. Just want you to know that at least one non-Native girl hears what you’re saying and is going to keep fighting to make sure other people hear you too.

  11. well said! Keep writing out your message to the world. Your voice will hopefully hit enough heart strings that eventually those with bucks to spare, will learn to put it where it can do the most good…even if that is not the way to get the most personal popularity attention.

  12. Thank you for writing this. It’s pretty clear that Johnny Depp is attempting to buy the privilege of acting in Redface without consequences. I for one am not fooled.

    1. I write with caution and deep sorrow here…as a “privileged white person” I sit here shedding tears, as I have done since childhood, for the ignorance we have indulged throughout history. And as such I have spent my life looking for even the smallest glimmer of hope in situations such as this movie. Apart from the character of Tonto, what I perceived was the emphasis on corporate greed and the extent to which it goes (even now) to oppress not only a single culture, but all cultures. At 60 years old I still live to zero every month. I work a minimum wage job. I have raised three absolutely unprejudiced daughters and I endeavour every day to be a good human. Here now to you I want to say with all my heart, I am sorry. And again, I bow to you with deep gratitude.

  13. I saw a poster for the movie a few weeks ago when I was at the theatre and I could hardly believe my eyes! I really don’t know what was going through the mind of the person who thought this was a good idea. In this day and age, they should know better. And I agree, if you absolutely must re-make this film because the adoring public is crying for it (is that the sound of crickets I hear?), SOMEONE! ANYONE! should have done some research first and hired an appropriate actor.

  14. Excellent entry – very, very well written! I am not Native, but agree – Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Tonto is just total rubbish; appropriate for 1940, maybe, but certainly not appropriate for 2013! Disney really dropped the ball on this one. Big hugs to you.

  15. I don’t have a really articulate response to this. I just wanted to say that I read it, and I’m glad that I did. It’s beautifully and thoughtfully written and I’m glad I found your blog.

  16. Excellent writing! Very well done. I don’t know what Johnny Depp’s motivations are concerning the Wounded Knee land buy, but I think that if he really wants to understand the situation, he should take some time to get to know the real Native Americans who live in the Pine Ridge area and then decide what would be the best way to spend five million dollars.
    Three years ago I took part in a college class that visited Pine Ridge and the Wounded Knee site. Teachers from all over the United States rode through Whiteclay, Nebraska to Pine Ridge and over to Wounded Knee. It was a very moving experience I will never forget. Since that visit, I have contacted my state representatives about the appalling situation in Whiteclay with the alcohol sales which mainly go to Pine Ridge residents. Just this past week, Oglala Sioux Tribal President Brewer was to meet with NE governor Heineman about alcohol sales in White Clay. The meeting ended quickly with no discussion of White Clay.
    I have lived in Nebraska and South Dakota all of my life. Ethically, I can hardly believe Nebraskans allow the White Clay situation to exist. However, if you look at the biased beliefs concerning Native Americans held by some Nebraskans it isn’t surprising this has gone on for so long. It boils down to moral superiority. Some get a boost to their egos by condemning those they don’t understand. “If those Indians had will power and work ethic they would stop drinking, get a job, and take care of their families like I do.” I’ve heard similar sediment expressed many times over the years while living in both states. With beliefs like this embedded in the minds of run-of-the-mill people, legislators, and government officials, it is difficult to be optimistic about this mess. Not to mention the money that is at the root of much of this–political donations, tax receipts, etc…–which just keeps flowing into big pockets.
    I will continue to talk about White Clay with friends and I will continue to contact state representatives, because there are a lot of good, caring people in Nebraska and South Dakota who do care about the fate of Native Americans.
    I’ll buy your book–whether it is poetry or prose–when you publish, because you do have a great way with words!

  17. I think this is a beautiful blog- well put, engaging and true. I understand all of your valid points. I am wondering, did Dep confer with the Nation people? I am sorry for the oppression white western colonist implicated against your people for centuries. I am a white woman, but also understand oppression and discrimination on a multitude of levels, and although I can’t say I understand your journey, as I have not walked in your shoes. As a first born American and decedent of Jewish Holocaust Refugee survivors, and as a woman who worked in a male dominated field- I have risen to have a voice, ideas, thoughts, opinions and to speak out about the things I have distaste, mistrust and disgust for. I am honored to read your words, and see another woman, striving to better her own world, people, and your plight to find equality. Bless you and the Journeys ahead! wakan tanan kici un – may the Great Spirit bless you

    1. That’s a great question; there are reports stating Depp approached Oglala leaders in Pine Ridge AFTER his comments to a British media outlet went viral… Here is the full story from my good friend and amazing journalist Kevin Abourezk, who has been following and reporting on this story.

      [Oglala tribal president Bryan] Brewer said the tribe’s leaders must decide whether they want Depp to make the offer, considering it means paying far more for the land than they say it’s worth. The land has been appraised at less than $14,000.

      “We just hate to see that guy get rich off us,” he said.

      Tribal leaders and Depp’s representatives plan to discuss the offer in the coming days.

      1. It is simply deplorable, that the man selling the land, feels justified in charging this much for the sale. His actions will ultimately bring him something less then stellar in his life- and may the tribal counsel come out on the top in the end, full of all that they need, and making choices with pride and wisdom.

  18. To be fair, Depp’s character is supposed to be insane. The other Indians in the film do not look like him or act like him.

    Maybe go and see the film?

    1. Not just redface, but now an insane person to boot?!? Dude, that’s not a commendation. If anything, it further purports the disrespectful and harmful images people see of Natives as sub-human. The movie’s message is that Natives have a history steeped in drama (blood and massacre), but can get over it with a little help from face paint (dead birds!), a white hero, and some loose screws for comedic breaks. I’m not sure the majority of movie-goers care for the sideshow pickings of “authentic” Native extras included in this mess of a film. Believe me, I have better things to spend $9 on and would rather waste two hours of my life on things like watching paint dry than see this flop.

      1. “If anything, it further purports the disrespectful and harmful images people see of Natives as sub-human.”

        How does it possibly do that?

        You are very angry for having not seen the film, and not knowing that Depp’s version of Tonto is not meant to be representative. You are angry about something other than Depp or this film.

        You probably could have made this article 10,000 times more relevant (and interesting!) if you had seen the film before writing about it. You could have even kept the same opinion, if that was your choice. It’s usually better to have all information available to you before being tempestuous. Your discussion is valid but is not written from a strong position. The ‘white man’ in this film is portrayed as the demon — whether that be the law, the government, the army, or business.

      2. If you read this blog to get a review of the movie, you came to the wrong place, buddy. I am not critiquing the film itself (other, much better and more qualified people did this for me!) but the images found therein. Still pictures, Johnny Depp’s interviews (his OWN quotes!), and the fact we’re still talking about TONTO (!!!) are really all I need to decide I’m making the best choice for ME not to see this movie. Just like I don’t need to *try* drunk driving to know it’s bad for me, I don’t feel any need whatsoever to see this movie. As Fat Amy so eloquently stated in Pitch Perfect, “Sometimes I have the feeling I can do crystal meth, but then I think , mmm… better not.” I’m all about making good, educated decisions.


      Here’s a review from a Native writer who did see the movie and doesn’t seem to think Tonto’s farcical insanity is any kind of excuse at all.

      It’s really rude and disrespectful to come into the comments on a post like this and tell someone they shouldn’t be offended by something when they have every right to feel offended, disenfranchised and silenced.

      1. Me too! I became interested in Native culture for the first time after seeing the whole “hipster racist” appropriation of Native imagery. It made me curious about the real stories behind those images and the real people to whom they had significance. I’m Australian but my boyfriend is American and I’m planning to move there, so I feel like it’s important for me to learn as much as I can about America’s various indigenous people, in the same way that I’ve tried to learn about the cultures (plural!) of our Indigenous Australians. The idea that Native people are something to learn about in a history textbook and not actual people who are alive today is so damaging, IMO – both here in Australia and elsewhere. It makes it very easy for us to ignore the real problems people are facing today and the fact that the onus is definitely on us as people who have benefited from colonisation to contribute to solving those problems and making life better for everyone.


      2. US visas and all of that stuff permitting, hopefully in a couple of months. 🙂 Last time I came for a visit, I was able to visit a Cherokee reservation on the NC border. The country was so beautiful, but it broke my heart to see how poor the townsfolk were. I want to go back some time and hopefully learn more about their history and culture (it was a weekend, so the museums and whatnot were closed). I’d also really like to visit more reservations and talk to Native folk about their past and present experiences, provided they’d be willing to share them. (I’m pretty wary of being that one nosy outsider who thinks she has the right to demand that people educate her.)

      3. Yay!

        I don’t think you need to apologize for information you’re asking for. I think more often than not, indigenous people are eager to share their stories and experiences, because, as something like The Lone Ranger highlights, our voices and perspectives aren’t heard often (or accurately) enough. I worked for a civil rights agency a few years back and we took a digital video camera, a microphone and some lighting equipment to all nine reservations in South Dakota to get interviews on ICWA, incarceration issues, the youth suicide epidemic, domestic violence, health care, and, most importantly, positive stories about family, new businesses, and projects meant to build up the people’s spirits. We originally thought we weren’t going to get ANYone to talk to us, or maybe we’d even get thrown out… I’m Native, but outside of my own reservation and community I’m just another light-skinned, loud-mouth hippie wanting something from people who have very little left to give. What works – and I’m positive you know this! – is respect. People, in general, want their stories told. Tribal people, in particular, are magnificent storytellers and have such detailed histories and unique perspectives. We found on our trip that instead of us being turned away, we had to limit how many people we could speak to, because so many people had something to share. I hope you find this to be true, too.

      4. Thank you! That’s really encouraging. My interest definitely comes from a place of respect and a desire to know more so that I can do my part to raise awareness of issues and be a good ally to Native people. As a PoC whose ancestral home was colonised by whites, I’m acutely aware of how history gets whitewashed until horrifying events become footnotes in textbooks. If I can help people share their stories, even if it’s just by telling my friends about what I see and hear, then I would love to do that.

        You’ve really inspired me, not just with this post, but with your encouraging comments. I’m going to follow you on Twitter. 🙂

  19. After hearing about the land deal, it occured to me that the big winner would be the current owner who gets LOTS of money. The second winner is Depp and the movie people. Last come Natives who will get the land. I get that it is important land in Native history and a point of pride, but doubt that in the end it will mean much or help much.

    Depp’s money would be better spent given outright to the tribes to use where needed. And the current land owner can choke on that little chunk of land.

  20. Thank you. I had no intention of seeing this movie because of the fetishized depiction Depp portrays. But I heard/read no other critique or criticism. I’ve been holding my breath, waiting… You’ve allowed me to breathe.

  21. That is absolutely the most well-written, cogent, and deeply moving thing I’ve read in a very long time. I’m a prominent member of the media in my community (Grand Forks, ND), and I’m putting your blog on my Facebook page. Thank you for writing it.

  22. Well written and thought out . Johnny Depp is the one that should read this. we Alaskan Natives fight for our land day in and day out every day. love it. keep on fighting , never give up! Athabascan Alaskan Native from Gwichyaa Zhee , Alaska.

  23. if people poured the same amount of energy into learning and defending treaty laws as hating on johnny depp and his small contribution good bad or indifferent…we might have a revolution on our hands. Energy flows where attention goes. keep in mind johnny depp doesn’t have to do anything and I truly hope he doesn’t with the amount of ungrateful hatred that seems to be forthcoming at a gift from the heart. Also, keep in mind he doesn’t have to give it to the Lakota if he does buy it. grow up ppl and stop using celebrities to highlight your own cause. again…you teach about cultural appropriation by asserting your culture, not flinging mud.

    1. Hate breeds hate. That’s what you are teaching your children with this kind of energy that you are putting out. Thank you Keetah for addressing this. My uncle, who was full blood Cherokee, acted so much like the character that Mr Depp played, that I laughed the entire movie. What people think and say is their business, not yours. If he wants to give a gift to the tribe, it’s kind of like when your grandmother gives you socks for your birthday, maybe not great, but she did it out of love and generosity. Not malice. Love and intelligence brings the same back to you. You cannot change what happened, only teach your children a different way. My people taught me love, respect and compassion and when to turn a deaf ear. What about yours?

  24. Sweetie, sometimes we make the most sense when we’re frustrated…..You hit the nail on the head that instead of buying back land the money should go back into programs and education. I truly wish Johnny would consider this and if he needs help he should go and visit the Crow Creek Reservation in SD for at least a week….There is an oppression and hopelessness that you can only feel by spending time there…..I’ve heard Rosebud and Pine ridge is in the same shape. The only way that I can think to help is education and programs strengthening the Native American Culture.
    Thank you for going against the grain in writing this, your education is already working for the people……:) ~hayley~

  25. Even though I am not “Indian”, I am Alaskan Native. I believe your post is so positive and thoroughly spoken from the heart. You have a great passion for your heritage and I appreciate that. It would be so great for this to be out in streaming media! People do need to know!

  26. Reblogged this on What the b**p am I doing?! and commented:
    Yes! “So, yes, thank you for this gesture, Mr. Depp. But, please, look into how you can really help us. Pump some funding into programs trying to dig us out of crippling poverty and unemployment; advertise and promote ventures trying to get traditional foods back into our diets; talk to the dozens of kids who contemplate suicide every day; visit our underfunded schools and hospitals. Don’t want to get too deep too fast? That’s OK. Produce a Native-led film project. Start an arts program. Protest Big Oil with us. Be #idlenomore”

  27. Thank you, from a white girl with no Native blood at all. I appreciate hearing your honest opinion on this. And I agree with you 100%. I only wish that there were something more I could do. (Or that I even knew what I could be doing.) And I hope you know that I am ashamed of my ancestors, though I guess that doesn’t really matter now, does it?

  28. As if I hadn’t already fallen in love with your gorgeous poetry and eloquent prose… you quoted Fat Amy! Righteous woman.

  29. I applaud you heartily for this. Sometimes I feel like the lone dissenter in a sea of star-struck Natives. I’ve taken a LOT of heat for my opinion on all this. We’ve been battling Depp and his depiction (He had creative control) for over a year, I believe. Then the hoopla over his ‘adoption’, and now this. I am glad to see from the comments I am not the only one who thinks Depp is trying to buy acceptance. To me, this makes him the Marlon Brando of our generation…Marlon also stood up for the Indians, he also used Sacheen LittleFeather, and when his ‘Indian Kick’ was over, he turned his back on her and Native people. I’d like to see the Lakota get this land back, but at what price, financially, spiritually, and morally? ANYONE would have to be a ‘tonto’ to buy this land at that price. Only the one parcel is really in discussion: Wounded Knee where the trading post was located, the other parcel isn’t really part of the deal. The 40 acre parcel is tax valued at $6,600, and he is asking $3.9 million for it. First, he was saying he sought reparations from the Siege at Wounded Knee burning it down (he’s also said a lot of very untrue things about what happened, and his facebook page is just a MOCKERY, trying to pretend he has ANY sympathy for Natives, after remarks he’s made elsewhere). Now he is claiming the value is in the historical significance. I think the state should say, “Oh, really? You think it’s worth THAT much, and we’ve only been taxing you on $6,600? (tax value is approximately half your market value)…well, I guess we’ll have to go back and tax you on $3.9 million…” This whole thing just reeks of publicity stunt. You do things because they need to be done, not to seek a spotlight, or gain attention to yourself. Some think he’s bringing light to problems in NDN country…not so. Every now and again, stories come out, get publicity, and nothing changes. So this is really all about him, and, “Hey, everyone, look at me, see the good deed I’m doing, because now, I’m an Indian, too!” Some are saying he IS Native, but, he has never proven it, he was told they had NDN blood, but he didn’t know if it was Cherokee, Choctaw, or Creek, and has never looked into proving it. He has NEVER identified as Native American UNTIL this film came along. He is messing up badly, and trying to cover his tracks by saying he CONSIDERED buying the Wounded Knee property…he never said he WOULD, but now people are trying to say he said that, and trying to hold him to it. It’s fast becoming a fiasco, and so now the Lakota, with some ridiculous petition, are trying to FORCE him to buy it. Sad, all the way around.
    Again, thank you for this, I want to share it a thousand times…for those who don’t ‘get it’.

  30. Firstly, as a Black man, respect to my Red brothers and sisters. Our histories share the same villain. But – if I may play Devil’s Advocate – doesn’t it come back to the band’s taking the $5,000,000 hush/blood money?

    What lesson is being taught to the younger members of the band when they see their chiefs, their elders, their PEOPLE essentially getting paid to accept someone mocking them in red-face? Can we seriously blame the other man for his treachery against us if our people refuse to give up our dependence on him? Even if it IS Johnny Depp?

  31. Us Hawaiians share some similar karma with you. One of my. Fav books. “Custer diied for our Sins”. My. niece Totie Tauala was in prisoni n Denver witha couple Lakota Souix (spell?) uose Bush Reservation?.wish you best health and lots of money tfrom dem frikken h.aoles (white gys) Aloooooha! sorry for mispelling.

  32. Pilamaye. I’m a non-Native living on the Pine Ridge Reservation right now and I have expressed similar sentiments to other non-Natives, but I’m thankful for your words to share with the Native community. I think it’s also significant that people don’t see it as an issue for a non-Native to be playing Tonto because that’s just how it’s been for the entire history of film. Why should we be challenged to think that it’s unacceptable, when it’s the norm? Again, thank you for articulating this viewpoint honestly and directly, while also showing creativity in the way you wrote. I want this to be a slam poem that you do as a TED talk.

  33. Exellent, thoughtful article. Made me think, see multiple facets I had not seen. I hope somehow he sees it. The suggestions of how better to spend the money are good ones. If his heart is in the right place – if he is thinking of doing it not for publicity but because he cares, who knows? Maybe he’ll buy the land AND spend another $5M on worthwhile projects!

    ps: This is an excellent point. It needs some congressional champions: “the federal government should create a national memorial (tribally run, of course) out of Wounded Knee, as they did with Little Bighorn.”

  34. “Why Tonto” is a good question to be asking, and I haven’t heard any answers I can respect. There’s another question we should be asking too: why not something better instead? Why, on a continent where indigenous peoples have tens of thousands of compelling stories, does Hollywood spend hundreds of millions recycling racist trash from the 1950s? Would it kill them to portray real people and real history from something other than a whiteman perspective? I’m sure they’d say there’s no market for that, but judging from the Lone Ranger’s box office, there’s not much of a market for Johnny Depp in redface either.

  35. UGH! Really? SMH…the movie was supposed to make an estimated $150 million dollars which is still a TON of money but no $250 million dollars…where did your figures come from? I thought the land was 3.9 million and in his interview he never once said “If you watch my movie, I’ll do this..yadda yadda yadda.” I am an enrolled member of a tribe and honestly I thought that was a nice gesture since that tribe was crying around about not having enough money to purchase land back but since someone is stepping up to help now you guys don’t want it from a “greedy white man” I feel sorry for Johnny Depp, Native Americans are the worst critics and hypocrites. If it were my tribe and my tribes land I would be more than happy to accept his help. Articles like this make me ashamed to be Native American. The movie was based on a fictional character and even though he may not be an enrolled member he is still Native American (descendent) whether you would like to believe it or not. As an enrolled Native American I think you are nit picking at this a little too much. Why don’t you guys tell him you don’t want or need his help instead of making him feel bad for wanting to help? Ridiculous…Can’t ever make Natives happy always gotta complain about something he’s caught up in a double edged sword no matter what he does our people are going to hate on him and that makes me feel sorry for him.

    1. 1) “Disney’s The Lone Ranger is reported to have cost a huge $250 million to make and stars Armie Hammer in the title role with Depp as his Native American sidekick Tonto.” Read more:

      2) “Owner James Czywczynski had said if the tribe did not agree to the $4.9 million asking price for that parcel and another parcel, he would open up bidding to outside investors. Tribal president Bryan Brewer tells The Associated Press the tribe will not purchase the land, which has been appraised at less than $7,000 apiece. Read more:

      3) Quotes in my poem are sarcastic and meant to showcase what I believe to be the message sent through Depp’s actions.

      4) Believe me, you are NOT alone in your support of Depp, his movie, or his reported (but not verified!) land grab. I have about 400+ emails from people who are ready to do deplorable and malicious things in order to protect their favorite actor from a bit of criticism from a 30-year-old, super-broke grad student. If my voice brings him down, then he was never standing on a firm foundation to begin with. I have a feeling he will survive just fine, while our Native people will go back to being sequestered to death.

      1. I don’t know where yahoo is getting $4.9 million from, everything else I’ve seen says $3.9 million. For a property tax valued at $6,600 (which is about half the market value) that is greed, usury, and extortion. I will repeat again, if Depp wanted to do it properly, he would do it quietly, not seeking PR…this is a big part of the problem people have with it. The movie tanked, he has pissed many off with the movie in the first place, so he’s possibly trying to save face by buying ‘respect’ or ‘acceptance’. Also, he had only mused about buying it, now everyone is saying he IS, and the Lakota are trying to FORCE him into it. Again, the right way to do anything is because it needs to be done, not to get attention for yourself. I deal with this issue a LOT. I get people looking down their noses at me saying, “The way we do it in NDN country is…” then they’re standing in the spotlight, yelling, “YES, THIS IS ME, I DID THIS, I MADE THIS POSSIBLE!” which is NOT the way it is done in NDN country. Everything he has done, so far, has been widely publicized. He’s trying to buy an identity that he could not prove otherwise. I would be all for him buying it and gifting it back, if he did it the right way. Even his video for GON came across as, “I know you’re all deeply disappointed that I can’t be there, because the whole thing hinges on me…” spoken in the stilted English, as if we can’t follow any other way. He needs to step back and LEARN. That is probably the largest part of the problem. People told him the movie was wrong, the outfit was wrong, but he insisted on doing things his way. It blew up in his face. So now he’s throwing cash around, quite publicly, because again, he has not taken the time to learn the RIGHT way…he wants to be an instant Indian.

      2. Great thoughts!

        Re: cost of land

        There are two tracts of land for sale, one selling at $3.9 million – where the old trading post sat – and one selling at $1 million, much farther down the Wounded Knee property line. The owner is selling both, but only as a package deal, hence 4.9 million.

  36. This is a study in bitterness and scorn… and that which is like unto itself is drawn… no one can “fix” anything for another human being… money does not fix a bad attitude… money just makes you more of what you already are… why do the off rez liquor stores earn millions of dollars, while those who give them those dollars lanquish in poverty? The Grandfathers want you to grow up now. We’ve all been wounded, both culturally and personally. How much more suffering do we want here. Could you just let one ray of sunlight pierce your bitter heart? If you want love, compassion and forgiveness then you must give it. We’ve all had a hard life….remember yourself… your ancestors didn’t whine like this. They were dignified, industrious and largely innocent… but very strong. It is important not to confuse strength for pride. Maybe that pride is what you are being asked to let go of. Who is going to let the forgiveness come? Could you let some healing even begin? There’s still a war going on and we don’t even know it. It is very sad…to live so firmly in the past is no way to a better future. Do you not call to your ancestors, Do you not feel the presence of your grandfathers… can you hear the grandmothers? Where is your spirit? If you don’t call your spirit home, you will forever remain homeless no matter how much land you have, Johnny Depp’s offer is getting some to see how possibly ridiculous the land mongering is on all sides. The reality of his offer to buy that land and give it back highlights just how ridiculous that is in light of how much more good that money could do for the youth on the rez. You all are getting your wish…wish granted… but if it’s not on your terms it’s not good enough. And that’s because you’ve found out that it is a dark wish… not of the light. Because all we hear about is the land, the land, the land…. but what about the people? When will we get over this awful grudge against people of all races that weren’t even alive at the time of these happenings? Do you know that practically all subgroups, cultures, religions and races have endured some form of bigotry, genocide, or discrimination at some point? And they’ve all had to overcome it and do something to take a step into their future selves. Now it is your time.

  37. Awesome. I mean AWESOME!!! REALLY. I ran an after school program for five years. For five years I tried to reach and defend the children of 100’s of years of historical trauma. I plumbed the depths of a hard earned spirituality. Another resource was an amazing on campus Counseling Dept..
    There doesn’t seem to be a point where the non-natives say “Sorry.” or
    “Enough.”, “We’re done.”, “We won’t steal or take anything else.”
    They can’t be us. We’re the only ones of us that there are. Tunkasila gave us this. He said, “You’re an Oglala Sioux. All your days.”

  38. As to the owner, the Gildersleeves somehow came into ownership long ago, and sold it to Czywcyznski, who then proceeded to charge Indians one price, and white people another, at the trading post. He was hauled into court (I have someone trying to find the legal documents), and plead the 5th to avoid incriminating himself a whopping 96 times! I don’t believe anything ever came of it. But, during the Siege of Wounded Knee in 1973, the trading post was burned to the ground. Whether the Natives did it, or the feds, he was originally claiming he was charging this price for reparations. Then he played the ‘historical significance’ card. No investor in their right mind is going to pay $3.9 million for a tax value parcel of $6,600. It’s a bit out of the way, and the permits, development, etc, could easily bring the price tag to near $1 billion…NOT a good investment either way, and anyone savvy in business would see that, and NEVER pay such a price, ‘historical significance’ or not. Not to mention most people are NOT interested in points of Native American historical significance. Hey, didn’t Costner claim that if the Lakotas let him build his resort, he’d hire Native people? And then that didn’t happen, either…I believe very, very few Native people work there, from what I’ve been told.

  39. My Image is not for sale:
    I am a mix , a mutt, a person made up of cultures and colors from east to west, French, Irish, Welsh, and yes Indian, but as you feel you are being sold up and slaughtered it seems I too have been on the chopping block. I am depicted as the murderous white man, the hated individual that steals and cheats and lies. I am none of these! I am a mix of many things and a thieving murderer is not one of them. I sympathize with every race that has been put through the hatred of the “white man” But, until we realize that in the end we are all of this earth we are all human. we all have a brain legs arms and torsos and a skin that is reflective of our place on earth and our ancestors, we as a human race WILL NOT MOVE FORWARD
    As for Johnny Depp, it doesn’t really matter what he does with his millions , if he buys the land there will be a slew of people calling him crazy for doing it and having hundreds of reasons why he shouldn’t have. If he dropped 10 million out of a plane over the whole Indian society it would be the same thing only the other half would call him crazy.
    People think to much these days, clouding their brain. What will be will be just let it be.

  40. Thanks for putting your feelings on the line and taking both the hits and the kudos. Many of my friends worked on the film, and I think did a great job. The script was really odd: scenes didn’t match, “Tonto” had a back story, the Ranger sounded like Don Draper; all in all the horses were the best part.

    But I wanted to point out because I am studying Gothic art, that the term “gothic” was coined as a derogatory term by the Italians way after the Germans came in with their sweeping architectural spires and stained glass windows. It means “vandal” and other nasty things. Your saying JD was a “gothic taxidermist” continues the centuries-old dissing. Hanay Geiogamah also used the term, calling the character a “gothic freak.” I’ve seen the term used in a more positive light, but not lately, and not when freak or another stereotype is attached. Just sayin’.

    1. Interesting. So when you say you’re studying Gothic art, how is that balanced as a positive? My ignorance in the etymological history of this word has been rectified; however, I think the description “gothic taxidermist” is now MORE apt…!

      Thank you for your comments and knowledge!

      1. haha, you have me there! No Gothics exist anymore, at least not their language. Enjoying your whole blog, glad I found this piece which introduced me to the rest.

      2. I was hoping some folks might scroll through. I mean – I’ve got some GREAT makeup tips and, if you want your fill of cute, my kid has some awesome videos 🙂 Thanks again for reading and dropping knowledge like a PRO!

  41. You have to scrape away the bullshit of Depp’s and Others’ gestures to rectify hundreds of years of genocide if one wants to see what the reality is underneath. Articles like this one help – no need for jokey apologetics either – say it straight; the Native American were fucked out of their lands and there’s no softening the blow. We’re not giving it back and ‘donating’ millions of dollars worth of marginal land back to the people does not solve or salve anyone’s conscience other than the noble bemused actor with money to burn….

  42. Beautiful piece, and I supported your views wholeheartedly, but the title is downright turnoff.
    you may have turned off many readers just because of the title, but trust me your cause is just.
    Your suggestions to wouldbe helpers are wonderful and just what the doctor prescribed.
    Keep the fire burning and keep voting!
    Minks Jalloh

  43. Love this – your anger, eloquence and your opinion… important words we all need to hear! very well said and thank you! all the best to you!

      1. I’m originally from Oklahoma but emigrated to Brazil a little over two years ago. (I did, however, come back for the 40th anniversary commemoration in February. Pine Ridge Reservation and Wounded are indelibly tattooed upon my heart.)

  44. Pilamaye for this! It is very inspirational and it takes a lot of courage to speak about this in an enlightened thoughtful manner. I’m on your side! Blihecya!

  45. I’ve never heard he was selling both as a package deal, but I have heard he wants the same $3.9 million for the other parcel, as well.

  46. From USA today:
    But Czywczynski also made it known to the Native Sun News that he does have other interested buyers who are non-Native. “I could sell the property to someone from outside the tribe, but I really do not want to do that,” he said. (MY NOTE: Because he knows he can’t. No one in their right mind is going to buy it at that price, now Depp has said this, there is NO WAY he would lower the price, since now he sniffs a millionaire on the wind!)

    Dillon, meanwhile, said that in his 15 years on the council, he regularly has seen the Czywczynski family offer to sell the land to the tribe. According to Dillon, the tribe holds the upper hand in negotiations because it owns all the land around the Czywczynski property.

    “It’s landlocked by tribal ground. It doesn’t mean anybody can just buy it and move in tomorrow,” Dillon said.

    To those who ask why the tribe doesn’t buy it themselves?
    The outlook for acquiring the Wounded Knee parcel, which sits on the Pine Ridge Reservation, is not as bright. The burden for buying the land will probably fall to the Oglala Sioux tribe, which is at least $60 million in debt, according to its treasurer, Mason Big Crow, and would need to borrow money to meet Mr. Czywczynski’s asking price. (MY NOTE: There is already a loan out for the purchase of PeSla)
    If the tribe does not buy it by May 1, Mr. Czywczynski said, he will put it up for auction on the open market. (MY NOTE: Notice it hasn’t really been done. He’s bragged that there were several developers willing to pay his price. He was trying to scare the tribe into giving up the cash. Again, no business savvy person is going to pay such an inflated price for a chunk of land that could be so much more trouble).

    From CBS news:
    Earlier this month Czywczynski said he had three offers from West Coast-based investment groups interested in buying the land for the original asking price. He didn’t return calls this week to The Associated Press seeking information about the prospective buyers. (MY NOTE: Because there ARE no investment groups interested…he’s lying to push the tribe to buy…he keeps saying things like this, then he can never come up with ANY further information)
    But even if an outside investor buys the land with intent to develop, there will be obstacles, said Craig Dillon, an Oglala Sioux Tribal Council member. The tribe could pass new laws preventing the buyer from actually building at the site.

    “Whoever buys that is still going to have to deal with the tribe,” Dillon said. “Access is going to be an issue. Development is going to be an issue. I’m not threatening anybody, but my tone is be aware you have to deal with the tribe if you purchase it.” (I LIKE THIS! heh heh)

    By the way, has Depp taken his kids to the rez? I mean, it’s all about family, right? But has he shared ‘his new culture’ with his kids?

    I also saw a great idea elsewhere…let the old fool die not having sold the property, then possibly buy it for a sensible price from his family! He hasn’t been able to sell it in all this time, anyway!

  47. Thanks for your well-considered and -expressed piece, and the opening poem in particular. This is the best piece I’ve read yet on the Depp-Tonto topic.

  48. I agree with you on every bit of pure passion and truth you have spoken. There are natives dying every year on the rez and it will cost about 3million to house them and heat them . It will also give them back some of their dignity as Lakotas which will fuel the will to try harder to survive…and if ny opinion make a difference there is Eddie Spears who could have played the part and could have brought more to Sd through this movie…I have so much more to say but you have put it all so perfectly….David Anthony…

  49. Hey! I met Johnny very briefly a couple of years ago when he was filming on location (I was one of the fans watching from the sidelines). I have to say, he is the most down to Earth, humble guy in Hollywood. Especially for an A+ lister. Maybe, since he obviously doesn’t know what the benefit of $5M can do for the people, YOU were meant to write to him, contact him and most of all, educate him. I mean, if this is how everyone feels, why didn’t someone just tell him forget the land, the financial assistance would be way more meaningful and useful? Education is key when it comes to those that do not know. Never assume they do. I’m a Johnny fan and I think he is a great character actor. But, even if they had Adam Beach as Tonto, people would probably still complain because he is from Canada or nit pick about something else. You can’t please everyone but I do think you can make the majority satisfied. All in all, I think you and maybe others should write to him. You never know, he may just want to sit down and listen and that may lead into a different form of action that could be positive and beneficial..

    1. His time to listen was when people were trying to educate him about how racist the Tonto character is, not to do it, let it rest. His time to listen was when he decided he wanted to be Indian. He has not taken the time to stop and learn anything about the culture, about how things are done, how to do them right. He is doing whatever he wants to do, regardless of how ‘his new people’ feel about it.
      I’m also sure no one would have nitpicked that Adam Beach is from Canada, etc, but they’d still have a problem with this racist concept being relived.

    2. Exactly , My great grandmother was full blooded Lakota . & I’m not offended by a character from (1949) People need to grow up. Seriously, The One who takes offence is in the wrong. If everyone weren’t so selfish minded. They’d stop judging .
      & #check #themselves .

  50. I assumed that they didn’t ask an actual native american to play Tonto because they didn’t really want to give the impression that Tonto was an actual native american. I assumed it was kind of a signal that it was more of a surreality.

  51. This may be a stupid question, but still: Why hasn’t the tribe followed the example of so many outside communities and simply seized the land through eminent domain? It seems to me that they could get a bond to build a memorial museum next door with exhibits explaining the massacre in detail – which might be a much better use of SOME of the money – and then offer the fair market appraisal of the property as absolutely necessary for the complete memorial.

    1. I believe they’re trying that, or have tried, but the government isn’t exactly happy to do it. It’s a Native American memorial, not a white American one, like Custer Battlefield. Matter of fact, if I have it right, Depp originally said that he hopes the government will look into taking it back, for FAIR MARKET VALUE, and giving it back to the tribe, otherwise ‘he might consider’ buying it himself and giving it back. Now everyone is claiming he said he’d buy it for them…

    1. He also said he never received reparations for the buildings being burnt down in 1973…turns out he got a $55,000 insurance settlement. He is again claiming he has three potential buyers. Disclosure laws would dictate he’d need to tell anyone wanting to buy the place that it is surrounded by tribal land, and the tribe has said they will NOT grant an easement to anyone wanting to develop the property, so that $4 million property is basically worthless.

  52. Maybe the State of South Dakota will buy the land. After all they paid an east river wasicu family 18,000 dollars an acre for 200 acres of land to add to the Blood Run State park.

    1. But, that is for WHITE people…they don’t do that for Native people. SD is known as the most racist state in the union. But seriously, the tribal lawyers are looking into eminent domain.

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