Marie Louise Cruz was born in 1946 to a white mother and a father of Apache, Yaqui and Pueblo descent. After high school, she took the name Sacheen Littlefeather to reflect her Native American heritage.

 Soon thereafter, she became an activist for Native American rights. She joined the organization Indians of All Tribes, and participated in the group’s spectacular 19-month occupation of Alcatraz Island to protest the mistreatment of Native Americans by the U.S. government. The protest, which lasted from November 1969 to June 1971, garnered widespread sympathy and was visited and supported by celebrities including Marlon Brando.

In February 1973, another group, the American Indian Movement, staged an occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the site of a brutal 1890 massacre of hundreds of Lakota men, women and children, to protest corruption and the failure of the government to honor treaties with Native American tribes. Meanwhile, the Academy Awards had nominated Marlon Brando for Best Actor for his role in The Godfather. The actor had become a more vocal supporter of the movement for Native American rights.

Hoping to direct attention to the ongoing protest in Wounded Knee and the misrepresentation of Native Americans in Hollywood, Brando asked Littlefeather, who had recently begun an acting career, to appear in his place at the Academy Awards on March 27.

Littlefeather arrived at the ceremony dressed in traditional Apache attire, carrying a 15-page speech written by Brando. Backstage, a producer confronted her and threatened to have her forcibly removed and arrested if she spoke for more than a minute.

When Brando’s win was announced, she stepped to the stage and declined to accept the statuette offered by presenter Roger Moore.Her improvised remarks outlining the reason for Brando’s refusal were met with a smattering of boos, which were then drowned out by supportive applause.

After leaving the stage, she read the entire lengthy speech to the assembled press. The act refocused public attention on the siege at Wounded Knee, and possibly staved off more deadly military intervention. Littlefeather continued to act in films and organize in the Native American community.

"I beg at this time that I have not intruded on this evening, and that we will, in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity." Sacheen Littlefeather

Responses to "March 27, 1973: Unforgettable Moments With Sacheen Littlefeather at the Oscars"

  1. Anonymous says:

    Such dignity and loveliness. Such grace that my heart trembles!

  2. Turenne says:

    It takes courage, moral strength and confidence in such adversity and never ending fight... and the fight shall continue...

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