Johnny Depp has been adopted into the Comanche nation following a ceremony in New Mexico, according to reports.
The actor, who is currently playing Native American sidekick Tonto in Disney’s forthcoming big-screen adaptation of The Lone Ranger, gained a new mother at the age of 48 following an approach from LaDonna Harris, president and founder of Americans for Indian Opportunity. The pair were united at her home in Albuquerque, New Mexico, last week after Harris reached out to a cousin who is working as a cultural advisor on the film, which is currently shooting in the state. Depp, originally from Kentucky, has made it clear in interviews that he considers himself to be part Native American.
“I had read about him and his Native American heritage so I said to my children around Mother’s Day, ‘Why don’t we adopt him?’” Harris told the Chicago Tribune. “He was adopted into my family. The (Comanche Nation) chairman then recognised that adoption which made him an honorary member of the Comanche Nation tribe.”
Deep was given a Comanche name, “Mah Woo May”, which means shape shifter, a reference perhaps to his acting career. The nation is known, historically, as one of north America’s most inclusive tribes, with adoptive members from various ethnicities having risen to positions of influence in the 19th century and beyond.
“I guess I have some Native American (in me) somewhere down the line,” Depp told Entertainment Weekly in March. “My great grandmother was quite a bit of Native American, she grew up Cherokee or maybe Creek Indian. Makes sense in terms of coming from Kentucky, which is rife with Cherokee and Creek.”
Disney has been heavily criticised by some Native Americans for returning Tonto – a divisive figure seen by some as a stereotype – to the big screen, and casting a white man in the role. The part was played by a Mohawk actor, Jay Silverheels, in the original 50s TV iteration.
With Depp in the role, Disney’s take on The Lone Ranger looks likely to significantly enhance Tonto’s screen time compared to the original series. The Social Network’s Armie Hammer is playing the masked hero himself.
[Johnny Depp via cinemafestival / Shutterstock.com]