Becoming Comanche

Andrew Sullivan —  Aug 31 2012 @ 6:01pm


Stacy Thacker is nonplussed by Johnny Depp's recent adoption by the Comanche tribe, which seems to relate to his having potrayed Tonto in The Lone Ranger:

Does that mean he can now apply for tribal scholarships? Can he list this on job applications and get jobs that have Native preference? (Not that he would need to of course….) While I love Johnny Depp and think that everything he has done with Tim Burton is pure magic I can't help but think that maybe this role is being taken a little too seriously. However if you decide to adopt a celebrity into your tribe, Johnny Depp is a good choice. Thank goodness Burt Reynolds wasn't adopted into the Navajo Tribe for "Navajo Joe."

Meanwhile, Dave Baldrige explains why, for many, the issue isn't merely a theoretical one:

While Native Americans have some of the worst health status, and Congress has tried to create an opportunity for them to access more health care resources [via the Affordable Care Act], this intent may be thwarted by a simple misunderstanding of the definition of American Indian. As federal agencies can't even agree about the definition of American Indian, once again, the U.S. government will have failed its trust responsibility to American Indians and Alaska Natives.

Baldridge illustrates with an example of past bureaucratic strife:

One of my best friends, a Cherokee elder, spoke the language fluently, was deeply couched in traditional spirituality, yet could not find public records to prove that he was an American Indian. His ancestors had settled in Missouri, outside of tribal lands, and so had missed being listed on the Dawes Roll created around 1900 and used as a criteria for determining who is a descendent eligible for Cherokee citizenship. His quest for identity became obsessive before he died of cardiac arrest, still unrecognized as an American Indian — still ineligible for care from the Indian Health Service.

(Photo of Johnny Depp as Tonto in Lone Ranger producer Jerry Bruckheimer's Twitter feed)