Remembering Sacheen Littlefeather’s contribution to the society on the occasion of her death

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This dates back to the infamous Oscars 1973. 

Marlon Brando, the veteran American actor, had made his comeback with the movie, ‘The Godfather’ after giving several flops back-to-back for which he won the 40th  Academy Awards. He was nominated for the category of Best Actor for the Oscars 1973.

Image Source- TheGuardian

Read more about Superstar Marlon Brando: https://www.newsweek.com/marlon-brando-life-story-you-may-not-know-1582190 

As his name was announced for winning the nominations under the best actor category, it appeared that he had not shown up for the event. Rather he had sent someone else on his behalf but not with the purpose of receiving the award. 

It was Sacheen Littlefeather. 

Who is Sacheen Cruz Littlefeather? 

Sacheen Cruz Littlefeather was an American actress, model and Native American civil rights activist born on November 14, 1946 in Salinas, California. She appeared in movies like Counselor at Crime and The Trial of Billy Jack. 

Sacheen Cruz Littlefeather was originally called Marie Louise Cruz. She became more aware of the Native American while she has pursuing dramatics and speech at California State College at Hayward. It was then when she adopted the name Sacheen Littlefeather. 

In an interview Sacheen described her niche for acting as a result of the difficulties she faced while communicating to her abusive father telling, “learned early in life that there was probably a place for me in the dramatic art field, acting … if you have a parent who’s deaf, you naturally have to act out messages to them,” 

She was involved in many events and protests with respect to the injustice against her community, the Native American community one of which was the Occupation of Alcatraz in 1970 where a group of Native Americans led by activists Richard Oakes and LaNada Means along with poet activists John Trudel occupied the Alcatraz Island. 

She significantly gained fame from the event of the Oscars 1973 when she turned up at the occasion when Marlon Bardon was announced as the winner of the Best Actor award for his performance in ‘The Godfather’.  

She went to the stage wearing her traditional buckskin dress when Brando’s name was announced and informed the crowd that the actor had declined the award in protest against the treatments towards American Indians in the film and television industry and also the addressing the events taking place in Wounded Knee in protest at the Oglala Lakota president Richard Wilson and the U.S. government’s failure to fulfill treaties with Native Americans. 

She said that Brando had sent her to deliver a speech which he wrote himself after which she spoke against the portrayal of Native American and Indigenous people community of America in Film and Television. 

This was followed by few appreciations and mostly disapproval from the crowd. 

Sacheen had later revealed in many interviews how she was misbehaved and disrespected by the Oscar Award Committee for raising her voice against injustice. She was criticized and mocked by many actors and celebrities present at the event after she was done giving the speech. People also criticized Marlon Brando for the same. 

50 years later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is formally apologized to Littlefeather for the mistreatment she experienced during her speech and in the years to follow. 

They wrote to Sacheen: 

“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified……. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.” former Academy president David Rubin wrote in a letter to Littlefeather.   

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences also promised an apology in person by inviting Sacheen at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures to discuss her history-making Oscars appearance and the future of Indigenous representation onscreen. 

Undoubtedly, Sacheen Littlefeather remains one of the greatest figures of all times specially with respect to her priceless contribution towards the Native American Indigenous Community. 

She passed away of breast cancer at a hospital on 2nd October 2022 at an age of 75 leaving her legacy behind for us to remember. 

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Tiasha Debnath.
Tiasha Debnath.
Tiasha believes in writing about what is important rather than what is popular. She also believes that people can formulate social narratives if they want and that they should use their individual platform to be the reason for a change for the good.

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