Claims that Sacheen Littlefeather lied about native ancestry sparks controversy, grief and anger

Sacheen Littlefeather’s legacy of activism was cemented with her appearance at the 1973 Academy Awards, where she took the stage on behalf of Marlon Brando to speak out against the widespread mistreatment of Native Americans in the film industry.

Less than a month after his death, the San Francisco Chronicle posted claims in the outlet’s opinion section that Littlefeather was not native and spent most of her life fraudulently supporting the ancestors of Apache and Yaqui, sparking furious criticism of both Littlefeather and the author.

Littlefeather died on October 2 following a diagnosis of breast cancer. She was 75 years old.

Writer Jacqueline Keeler, whose controversial story includes publishing a list of people she called “Pretendians” in 2021, said she interviewed Littlefeather’s younger sisters, who claimed Littlefeather lied about her ancestors to advance his career.

The article and Ms. Keeler’s allegations sparked significant backlash from Native American critics who accused Ms. Keeler of targeted harassment, Native identity checking, and defamation of Littlefeather’s reputation when she is no longer alive for defend yourself.

“I hate that natives have to spend a single breath talking about Jacqueline Keeler,” Anishinaabe writer Ashley Fairbanks said on Twitter. “There are so many things that harm our communities, and there are so many beautiful things to celebrate, and her witch hunt sucks all the oxygen.”

He added: “It is up to the community of origin of the people, or the one they claim, to speak up if they feel they have been harmed. Using tribal inscription as the only measure of native identity is so colonial. “


This was stated by Joseph M Pierce, an associate professor of Latin American and indigenous studies at Stony Brook University The everyday beast that while he wouldn’t be surprised if Ms. Keeler’s claims were true, “it’s a little disappointing to me how people can get pleasure from this.”

“[The piece] he tries to create things in black and white that actually have shades, “according to Pierce, adding that the piece” preys on people’s insecurities rather than proposing a kind of repair. “

Ms. Keeler has been criticized for a document listing people’s names and identifying information which implies some sort of “ethnic fraud” in progress. Critics have also condemned a highly controversial “colonial” blood measurement to identify native ancestry.

Indigenous authorities have stressed that tribes and sovereign nations should conduct their own investigations into citizenship claims and that alleged “pretentious” fraud with incomplete or unreliable research and bias – while falsely accusing real natives along with allegations against others – could advance a damaging agenda and complicate a nuanced understanding of those identities.

Several people on the list have denied the allegations against them in Ms. Keeler’s document, including Nadema Agard, who criticized the document as a “witch hunt” against the natives.

“I don’t want to give Keeler’s oxygen shtick,” he wrote Rutherford Falls the showrunner Sierra Ornelas.

On October 21, Littlefeather’s sisters appeared at her funeral mass, where they told mourners that she had lived with a mental illness all her life and slandered her parents with her tales of a violent childhood.

Ms. Keeler said there were no family records of their membership in any tribe, and Littlefeather’s sisters said they were troubled to see her “worshiped as a saint.”

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