Comanche Nation adopts Johnny Depp

Actor will play Tonto in forthcoming Lone Ranger film

by Jennie Kermode

At 48, Johnny Depp has just been adopted. In New Mexico to research his role in the forthcoming Lone Ranger film, he was invited to become a member of the Comanche Nation Native American tribe, and reportedly responded with delight. After a special ceremony, he became, in traditional terms, the son of tribe member LaDonna Harris.

The adoption will ease tensions within some parts of the Native American community, where it has been argued that Depp's casting as the Lone Ranger's sidekick Tonto represents yet another instance of a white man being made up to play a member of another race. Depp has justified the casting by asserying that he does have native ancestry. In recent years, genetic tests have shown that many descendants of Native Americans lack visible native features.

Tonto, who was played by Jay Silverheels in the popular television series, has often been a controversial character. Early criticism related to his name, which means 'stupid' in Spanish, though in the local language where the series was set it means 'wild one'. As the character developed he was increasingly accepted by native people as a rare example of a positive portrayal. The film, due for release next year, centres of Tonto's story. The Lone Ranger is to be played by Armie Hammer.

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