Sacheen Littlefeather’s Sisters Claim She Lied About Being Native American
Her family is attempting to set the record straight just weeks following her death.
Sacheen Littlefeather, an actress and Native American activist, contributed to one of the biggest Oscar moments in history, but now, weeks after her death, her sisters are calling her a fraud.
Littlefeather’s two sisters, Trudy Orlandi and Rosalind Cruz, spoke with Native American journalist and activist Jacqueline Keeler for a piece featured in the San Francisco Chronicle. Keeler is best known for co-creating the #NotYourMascot hashtag in 2013 and running a list called "Pretendians," which exposes those who falsely claim to be of American Indian heritage.
During the interview, Cruz and Orlandi alleged that Littlefeather's claims to Apache and Yaqui ancestry through her father are false.
“It’s a lie. My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico. And my dad was born in Oxnard California," said Orlandi before Cruz added, “It is a fraud. It’s disgusting to the heritage of the tribal people. And it’s just … insulting to my parents.”
“I mean, you’re not gonna be a Mexican American princess,” Orlandi noted regarding her sister's false claims, adding, “You’re gonna be an American Indian princess. It was more prestigious to be an American Indian than it was to be Hispanic in her mind.”
The article also traces Littlefeather's family tree, with Keeler noting there is no evidence pointing to American Indian roots.
Littlefeather had previously made additional claims that she experienced poverty and abuse as a child from her father, which was also shut down by her sisters, who said they are speaking out to restore their father's name.
"My father was deaf and he had lost his hearing at nine years old through meningitis. He was born into poverty. His father, George Cruz, was an alcoholic who was violent and used to beat him. And he was passed to foster homes and family. But my sister Sacheen took what happened to him," said Cruz, adding, “The best way that I could think of summing up my sister is that she created a fantasy. She lived in a fantasy, and she died in a fantasy.”
Littlefeather made a statement during the 1973 Oscars with a speech refusing the best actor award on behalf of The Godfather's Marlon Brando, which faced swift and intense pushback and cticizism.
She passed away on Oct. 2 at the age of 75 due to breast cancer.
Prior to her death, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which organizes the Oscars, formally apologized to the activist for the way she was treated during the ceremony. Littlefeather responded stating, “Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years! We need to keep our sense of humour about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.”
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