Sacheen Littlefeather “invented” Native American ancestry, the sisters say

Sacheen Littlefeather rejects Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award (AP)

Late civil rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather was accused of lying about her Native American heritage by her two sisters.

Ms. Littlefeather, who died aged 75 on October 2, was best known for turning down the 1973 Oscar for Best Actor on behalf of Marlon Brando.

The Academy held a ceremony for the activist two weeks before her death – which she had attended – and apologized for the treatment of Ms. Littlefeather who claimed she was blacklisted in the industry.

But her biological sisters, Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi, have said her claim that she is of mixed European and Apache-Yaqui ancestry is a lie.

Sacheen Littlefeather in 2010 (Getty Images)

Sacheen Littlefeather in 2010 (Getty Images)

Instead, they claim that Ms. Littlefeather is half Mexican with origins due to her father’s Spanish roots.

Ms. Cruz and Ms. Orlandi also refuted the claim that the father was a violent alcoholic and that the children had grown up in a “shack”.

“It’s disgusting the heritage of indigenous peoples,” Ms. Cruz told the San Francisco Chronicle, “and it’s just … an insult to my parents.”

She added: “[Our father] was born into poverty. His father, George Cruz, was a violent alcoholic and beat him. And it was passed on to foster families and family members. But my sister Sacheen took what happened to him.

Ms. Littlefeather was known as “Deb” growing up, Ms. Cruz added, and Maria Louise Cruz was born – with a survey showing no Native American ancestry within the family.

Both sisters said they found it troubling to see Ms. Littlefeather declare herself a “saint” and thought her fame would run out.

Ms. Littlefeather said John Wayne had to be restrained from attacking her by six security personnel at the 1973 awards, where she refused Mr. Brando’s gong for The Godfather. Mr. Brando had asked her to give the speech after he made the connection to her through her interest in the Native American movement. She detailed, amid boos and cheers, how she disagreed with Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans in the film.

Accepting the Academy’s apology in September, he said, “I’m here to accept this apology. Not just for me alone, but as a recognition, knowing that it was not just for me but for all our nations that even tonight they need to hear and deserve this apology.

“Now, I wish all the Indians in this audience would stand up. Look at our people, look at each other and be proud of having survived, all of us. “

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