A lot of ink has been spilt over Johnny Depp's portrayal of Tonto in the Lone Ranger recently. For what it's worth, my take on it is that he's playing a man with a dead bird on his head, and the last man who was able to carry that off with a straight face was Valentine Dyall as the Black Guardian in Doctor Who. Also, of course, Johnny Depp is white, for all his protestations of Native American ancestry - and there are lots of roles for white guys and not so many for Native American actors. I remember Jay Silverheels - and at least he was a Mohawk Indian (I always liked him better than the Lone Ranger. I've always had a soft spot for sidekicks).
In all this debate, though, I haven't seen a single mention of a movie I remember seeing on TV a few years ago. Starring Raquel Welch, of all people, it was called The Legend of Walks Far Woman. Here, too, you had a white woman playing a Native American - but I was quite impressed with the story. While looting the bodies of US Cavalrymen after a battle, Walks Far Woman finds a small pouch full of pieces of paper. The other women can't see any use for it, but she keeps it - and the movie audience can see at once that it is a wallet stuffed with dollar bills.
Later, she wants to buy land, since her people are being kicked off the land that was theirs. The white man who is helping her tells her that she could buy land if she called herself Walks Far Jones or something - claiming white blood - but full blooded Indians are not allowed to buy land. She refuses to lie about her identity, and fails to buy any land. To bring us full circle, at the end of the film she is seen as an old woman on a reservation, watching the Lone Ranger on the TV.
I remember being impressed. Before I watched this film, I had no idea that Raquel Welch could act - I knew of her only from that picture of her posing in a fur bikini in One Million Years BC.
I think it's a film that deserves to be better known - maybe it's time for a remake with a Native American actress in the lead role.