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 American actress and activist for Native American civil rights. She gave a speech at the 45th Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1973, for actor Marlon Brando, to decline the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather. The speech was a protest at the treatment of Native Americans by the film industry and television.[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. She claims that her father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes of Arizona and that "Cruz" is her father's recognized tribal name.[4]


A member of Indians of All Tribes, Littlefeather 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 Academy Awards.[9]


Jada Pinkett Smith wrote to Littlefeather saying that watching her Oscars speech encouraged her to boycott the 88th Academy Awards.[10]



  1. ^ "Sacheen Littlefeather". Sacheen Littlefeather. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Indian Terms Words Hers, Not Brando". New York Times. Associated Press. April 1, 1973. 
  3. ^ "California Birth Index, 1905-1995 -". July 1, 1905. Retrieved October 4, 2012. 
  4. ^ Sacheen Cruz Littlefeather Biographical details
  5. ^ James Stuart Olson. Historical dictionary of the 1970s. 1999, page 232
  6. ^ Oscars (October 2, 2008). "Marlon Brando's Oscar® win for " The Godfather"". Retrieved February 3, 2017 – via YouTube. 
  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
  10. ^ "Meet the woman who refused Marlon Brando's Oscar and inspired Jada Pinkett Smith's boycott". Retrieved February 3, 2017 – via LA Times. 

External links[edit]