November 14, 2012
Unless you watched the 1973 Oscars, you’ve probably never heard of SACHEEN LITTLEFEATHER (Marie Louise Cruz, born 1946). An activist of Apache, Pueblo, Yaqui, and European ancestry, she had previously participated in the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz by American Indians’ rights activists, as well as in the February ’73 occupation (in protest of a broken treaty) of the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota. When Marlon Brando, who supported the American Indian Movement, and who’d been nominated for the Academy Award for Best Actor for his performance The The Godfather, boycotted the Oscars in protest of Hollywood’s depiction of American Indians, he sent Littlefeather to deliver a speech in his stead. Threatened with arrest if she spoke for more than 60 seconds, Littlefeather ad-libbed a quick speech, then later shared Brando’s original text with the press; not many people could have retained such composure in front of a crowd of angry Hollywood elites, but poise and dignity were two things that she had in abundance. Though the native peoples of the Americas had lost the battle against European invaders centuries before she was born, Littlefeather refused to stay silent while her people were cheated.
READ MORE about members of the Blank Generation (1944-53).