Sacheen Littlefeather

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Sacheen Littlefeather
Born Marie Louise Cruz
(1946-11-14) November 14, 1946 (age 70)
Salinas, California
Occupation Civil rights activist

Sacheen Littlefeather (born Marie Louise Cruz,[1] November 14, 1946) is an actress and an activist for Native American civil rights. She gave a speech at the 45th Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1973, for actor Marlon Brando, who was declining the Academy Award for Best Actor which he had won for his performance in The Godfather. The speech was a protest of the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.[2]

Early life[edit]

Littlefeather was born in Salinas, California.[3] Her ancestry is Apache, Yaqui, and Pueblo on her father's side, while her mother is of French, German, and Dutch descent. On her official web site, she states that her father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes from Arizona and that "Cruz" is her father's recognized tribal name.[4]


A member of Indians of All Tribes, Littlefeather had participated in the occupation of Alcatraz Island by American Indians' rights activists in 1969.[5]

Academy Awards controversy[edit]

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 wore an Apache dress on the occasion.[6]

Littlefeather represented Brando and his boycott of the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal as Don Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), as a way to protest the ongoing siege at Wounded Knee and Hollywood 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.[7] 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 and had recently been announced as the new "James Bond, Agent 007") stated 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. Moore also stated this to Johnny Carson on the Tonight Show.[8]

The incident prompted the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to rule out future proxy acceptance of the Academy Awards.[9]



  1. ^ "Sacheen Littlefeather". Sacheen Littlefeather. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  2. ^ "Indian Terms Words Hers, Not Brando". New York Times. Associated Press. April 1, 1973. 
  3. ^ "California Birth Index, 1905-1995 -". 1905-07-01. Retrieved 2012-10-04. 
  4. ^ Sacheen Cruz Littlefeather Biographical details
  5. ^ James Stuart Olson. Historical dictionary of the 1970s. 1999, page 232
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ personal interview in Neil Diamond's Reel Injun, (2009)
  8. ^ "The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, March 30, 1982"
  9. ^ "Oscar Watch; Oscar takes a bow for legacy of controversy", Stephen Schaefer, Boston Herald, March 16, 2003

External links[edit]