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“I remember rooting for him as a kid, but even I was a little bit offended as a child,” said Fregoso. “For a grown white man to call someone `Tonto‘ meant that you were less than human, not fully human or childlike.”

In fact, Tonto’s character has historically been called “Toro,” which means “bull,” in Spanish-language versions of early films, and Spanish language stories about Depp’s role in the new film refers to his character as “Toro.”

Disney representatives declined to comment, but Depp has said the film will be a “sort of rock `n’ roll version of the Lone Ranger” with his Tonto offering a different take from the 1950s show.

Cheyenne and Arapaho filmmaker Chris Eyre is willing to give the actor a chance.

“Based on Johnny Depp as an artist, and him going all the way and making this film happen, in my book (he) deserves some credit,” Eyre told Indian Country Today for its occasional “Tonto Files” series. “He wants to change the view of Tonto, and he put his reputation and his career on the line.”

The “Lone Ranger” began on the radio in the 1930s. Tonto was played by an actor of Irish descent, according to the Lone Ranger Fan Club.

The show rocketed in popularity and made a seamless transition to television, running on ABC from 1949 to 1957. In 2003, a TV reboot flopped. That version featured a First Peoples actor from Canada playing Tonto.

But the 1950s portrayal of Tonto by Jay Silverheels, a Canadian Mohawk First Nations member, is by far the most recognized.

He spoke in pidgin and was the loyal partner of the crime-fighting ranger, often bailing out the masked avenger from treacherous situations.

“Here hat. Me wash in stream. Dry in sun. Make whiter,” Tonto says in an early episode setting up his relationship with the Lone Ranger. “Here gun to kill bad men.”

That Tonto has been criticized as being generic and subordinate _ a character with no individuality and no life beyond helping the Lone Ranger.

Tex Holland, executive director of the 600-member Lone Ranger Fan Club, defended the portrayal.

“I felt the Indians had their own language and in doing so, anyone learning the language is going to speak it broken, whether the person is from Japan or Mexico,” Holland said. “I did not look down on him. All of us thought that’s the way the Indians at that time communicated with us. Did we speak Indian fluently? We’d speak it broken it too.”

Holland and his fellow fans, however, were taken aback by Depp’s new look.

“Yuck. I can’t believe that he’s wearing a crow on his head. And he’s looking like some type of medicine man,” Holland said. “Disney chose (Depp) for one thing: box office draw.”

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