SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – For months, questions have swirled about whether developers, activists or tribes would be willing to plunk down millions to buy a portion of the Wounded Knee National Historic Landmark. Now there’s a new potential buyer in the mix: Johnny Depp.
But is the star of “The Lone Ranger” really preparing to be the one who buys the property where hundreds of Native Americans were killed? Or is it just the latest rumor in the contentious debate over the landmark’s future?
Depp touched off the story when he told London’s Daily Mail newspaper that he is working to buy a piece of the landmark on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation to give back to the tribe because it’s important to their culture. The site is where 300 Native American men, women and children were killed by the 7th Cavalry in 1890.
“I am doing my best to make that happen,” he told the newspaper of a possible purchase. “It’s land they were pushed on to and then they were massacred there. It really saddens me.”
Landowner James Czywczynski, whose family has owned the property since 1968, is trying to sell the 40-acre fraction of the historic landmark and another 40-acre parcel for $4.9 million. The two parcels of land have been assessed for $14,000.
Since the interview was published last week, Depp’s been quiet, and there’s been no record of an offer made for the land.
Some Native Americans question Depp’s motives due to the timing of “The Lone Ranger” release. Depp, who plays the part of the Native American character Tonto in the film, has been accused of playing into stereotypes and misappropriating Native American culture. Tonto speaks broken English, wears a stuffed crow on his head and has a face painted with white and black stripes. Some Native Americans view the character as a parody.