Originally published 08/12/2013
Art Burton listened intently as the old man on the other end of the phone cleared his throat and began telling him a story. Burton had only been researching the life of Bass Reeves for a short while but that afternoon what Reverend Haskell James Shoeboot, the 98-year-old part-Cherokee Indian, was about to tell him would persuade Burton he had stumbled upon one of the greatest stories never told.Born in 1838, Bass Reeves was a former slave-turned-lawman who served with the U.S. Marshals Service for 32 years at the turn of the 20th century in part of eastern Oklahoma and western Arkansas known as Indian Territory. Though he was illiterate, Reeves became an expert tracker and detective – a man who, in Burton’s words, “walked in the valley of death every day for 35 years and brought in some of the worst outlaws from that period”....It reaffirmed what Burton had suspected: that (Armie Hammer’s caucasian portrayal aside in the movie The Lone Ranger) Bass Reeves — perhaps the first black commissioned deputy marshal west of the Mississippi — could well have been one of the greatest lawmen of the Wild West. But most people hadn’t heard of him. Over the next 20 years, Reeves would become an obsession for Burton, culminating in a very interesting hypothesis, which he puts forward in his book Black Gun, Silver Star....
Originally published 07/09/2013
Kevin Gover (Pawnee) is the director of the National Museum of the American Indian.I admit that I went to see “The Lone Ranger” expecting to be disappointed and quite likely offended by the portrayal of Indians in the movie. Both Disney and Johnny Depp, the star of the movie, had promised to remake Tonto, the iconic Indian from the television series of the 1950s. Mr. Depp’s Tonto, they said, would not be simply the “faithful Indian companion” to the title character. No, indeed. Mr. Depp’s Tonto, they said, would be the star of the movie, a character who would make Indians proud.
Originally published 07/09/2013
Noah Gittell is the editor of ReelChange.net, where he writes about film, politics, and culture. He is a former independent filmmaker and political-campaign staffer. ...In discussing the progressive politics of The Lone Ranger, most critics have focused on the depiction of Native Americans, and with good reason. Over the history of the American Western, Native Americans have often been depicted as faceless savages whose efforts to defend themselves were merely obstacles to America's Manifest Destiny. Some cinematic efforts have been made to subvert this convention (The Searchers and Dances with Wolves are probably the most famous examples), but The Lone Ranger takes things a step further, making Tonto and John Reid (who will become the eponymous hero) dual protagonists. There is room for debate on this; some critics still feel that Depp's performance, with its use of "red face" and halted speaking style, is dehumanizing, but the increased role for Tonto is at least a step in the right direction.
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