Tonto is the Native-American partner of the Lone Ranger. He is from the Pottawatamie tribe.
In most versions of the Lone Ranger story, Tonto is the last surviving member of a wandering band of Pottawatamie indians. His tribe, in some versions including a sister, is massacred when he is young boy. A white boy named John Reid finds Tonto still alive and cares for him until he heals. Before they part company, Tonto gives Reid a ring, and calls him "Kemosabe," which means "faithful friend" or "trusty scout."
Years later, Tonto is hunting when he comes upon the scene of the ambush in Bryant's Gap, finding five dead Texas Rangers and one barely alive. He recognizes the living Ranger as the boy who helped him long ago, and now cares for him. He buries the other five Rangers, but digs six graves, to make the outlaws believe all six men were killed. When Reid decides to put on a mask and become the Lone Ranger, Tonto vows his loyalty to his friend and joins him in his pursuit of law and order.
Actor John Todd played Tonto almost exclusively on the radio series from 1933 to 1954. He even carried the majority of the action during the transition between Rangers Earl Graser and Brace Beemer, when the Lone Ranger character was injured and could not speak above a whisper.
For the entire run of the television series, 1949-1957, Tonto was portrayed by Jay Silverheels. Silverheels appeared in every one of the 221 episodes alongside both Clayton Moore and John Hart.
For the WB network's ill-received 2003 TV movie, Nathaniel Arcand assumed the role of Tonto. His performance was said to be one of the few highlights of the project. His Tonto was much more articulate, and much more of his own character than the previous interpretations of the character.