Published on March 19, 2012 by Amy
Sacheen Littlefeather is a Native American activist who donned Apache dress and presented a speech on behalf of actor Marlon Brando, for his performance in The Godfather, when he boycotted the 45th Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1973, in protest of the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.
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Littlefeather was born Marie Louise Cruz November 14, 1946, Salinas, California, U.S.). Littlefeather’s heritage includes Apache, Yaqui, Pueblo, and European ancestry. On her official website, she states her father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes from Arizona and that “Cruz” is her father’s recognized tribe name.
A member of Indians of All Tribes, Littlefeather had participated in the occupation of Alcatraz Island by American Indians’ rights activists in 1969.
Marlon Brando became involved with the American Indian Movement (AIM) in the early 1970s. In 1973, he decided to make a statement about the Wounded Knee incident and contacted AIM about providing a person to accept the Oscar for him. Dennis Banks and Russell Means picked Sacheen Littlefeather.
She represented Brando and his boycott of the Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather (1972), as a way to protest the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee and Hollywood’s and television’s misrepresentation of American Indians. Brando had written a 15-page speech for Littlefeather to give at the ceremony, but when the producer met her backstage he threatened to physically remove her or have her arrested if she spoke on stage for more than 60 seconds. Her on-stage comments were therefore improvised. She then went backstage and read the entire speech to the press. In his autobiography My Word is My Bond, Roger Moore (who presented the award) claims he took the Oscar home with him and kept it in his possession until it was collected by an armed guard sent by the Academy.
The incident provoked the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rule out future proxy acceptance of Academy Awards.
Currently, Littlefeather is the coordinator of the Kateri Prayer Circle in San Francisco and resides in the San Rafael, California area.