Was Sachin Littlefeather a “pretender”? Activist’s sisters say she’s not Native American

Sachin Littlefeather gave a speech at the 1973 Academy Awards that highlighted the film industry’s misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native Americans.
But her family claimed that she misled people about her Indian heritage.
In a review article published in two women believed to be her sisters told writer Jacqueline Keeler that their family was not Native American.
Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi said their sister, who famously turned down the 1973 award on behalf of Marlon Brando and created a fraudulent identity.
But a number of Native American activists and writers attacked the column of Ms. Keeler, herself a Native American writer who compiled a list of so-called applicants.
One of them, @carlymbutton, tweeted: “Her desire to weed out the Pretenders has led to a violent vendetta against genuine reunification of natives who do not live up to colonial standards.”

Another claimed that Mrs. Keeler had given the sisters “an incomplete and inaccurate genealogy”.

Why the topic of pedigree is difficult

In a Variety column, Yahoo’s In The Know Associate Editor Laura Clarke wrote that the problem is “more complex” than many think.
The Muscogee/Cherokee woman said, “I don’t pretend to know about her (Little Feather’s) tribal connections. What I do know is that she was a strong voice in the Indigenous community and that she created space for other Indigenous people to feel empowered in their Indigenity.
“Furthermore, since citizenship requirements vary from tribe to tribe, this connection is her tribe’s call, not mine or anyone else’s.
“But not only that, a lot of people don’t understand about the existence of natives, it’s that some natives are not registered. Some natives are reunited with their tribes. Some natives do not have enough “Indian blood” to register due to the amount of blood. lows. And some Indians have almost erased their tribes to the point where organized citizenship records simply don’t exist.”
It was no secret that Littlefeather was born Marie-Louise Cruz, but Miss Cruz and Miss Orlandi said that Littlefeather’s painting, or “Deb” as they called her, painted her childhood was a fabrication.
They said they identified as Spanish on their father’s side, and the details that their father’s family came from Mexico were confirmed by the author’s research of their family tree, which found no connection to any Indian tribes.
In a San Francisco Chronicle article, Ms. Cruz and Ms. Orlandi said their sister appeared to have adopted some of their father’s childhood, growing up with an abusive alcoholic father, as her own.
Miss Orlandy told the Chronicle: “My father’s father, George, was an alcoholic. My father never drank. My father never smoked…”
They told Ms. Keeler that they hadn’t said anything before because they thought Littlefeather’s attention would fade, and their motive for speaking now was to restore the truth about their parents.

The whistleblower also spoke to Native American activist and Shoshone woman LaNada Warjack, who said that despite Littlefeather suggesting she was involved in the Occupation of Alcatraz Island that began in 1969, she “never really didn’t know her until the Oscars evening.”

In 1969, over 70 Native Americans and their supporters occupied Alcatraz Island in San Francisco Bay for more than 18 months to lay claim to the land that was the site of the Alcatraz prison from 1934 to 1963.
Sachin Littlefeather died on October 2. The article states that neither Ms. Orlandi nor Ms. Cruz were invited to her funeral.

Ms Orlandi said her sister created a fantasy for herself: “Sachin didn’t love herself. She didn’t like being Mexican. So yeah, it was better for her to play someone else.”

Littlefeather told the audience at the Academy Awards during her famous speech that she is Apache and has identified as such multiple times throughout her life.
In later comments, she said that she “paid to enter so others could follow her… I was the first to make a statement, a political statement. The first Native American woman, the first woman of color, to ever make a statement at the Oscars telling the truth as it really is.”
It appears that Littlefeather’s identity has been called into question at least once previously.
The website, which says it is Sachin Cruz Littlefeather’s “only authorized website” and does not appear to have been updated since her recent death, is considering similar claims.
“Contrary to the misinformation that has been published on the Internet, Sachin Littlefeather is indeed of Native American origin.
“Sachin was born Marie Cruz in Salinas, California … her father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes of Arizona.”

It stated that she was not a Mexican actress, that Cruz was the recognized name of her father’s tribe, and she took the name Sachin Littlefeather after school to reflect her natural heritage.