Sacheen Littlefeather’s younger siblings oppose their sister’s statement about her heritage.
Littlefeather is the late actress and Native American civil rights activist famous for stepping up the stage to reject Marlon Brando’s Oscar during the Academy Awards ceremony in 1973.
Her sisters, Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi stated Littlefeather wasn’t Native American. They revealed the information in a new probe report issued in the San Francisco Chronicle on Saturday.
“It is a fraud,” Cruz said.
Additionally, Orlandi said: “It’s disgusting to the heritage of the tribal people. And it’s just insulting to my parents. It’s a lie.”
Littlefeather said she was from White Mountain Apache and had Yaqui Indian heritage all her life. But her sisters revealed to Native American journalist Jacqueline Keeler that they are Spanish. Furthermore, their family had no connection to any tribal identity.
Keeler’s research on Littlefeather’s ancestry revealed something in favor of her sisters’ claims. The journalist found that the actress was born Maria Louise Cruz to parents Manuel Ybarra Cruz and Gertrude Barnitz in Salinas, California, in 1946.
In her research, Keeler said, “My review of her father’s side of the family tree, where she claimed her Native heritage, found no documented ties between his extended family and any extant Native American nations in the United States.”
Orlandi and Cruz noted that their choice to repulse their sister’s claims came from the need to vindicate their parents’ names. (Littlefeather’s nickname is “Deb.”)
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Littlefeather Lived a Fantasy
The actress said in a 1974 interview with The Berkeley Gazette that poverty was what raised her. She was living “in a shack in Salinas,” according to the Chronicle. Additionally, she said her father was abusive.
“My father was deaf. And he had lost his hearing at nine years old through meningitis,” Cruz elaborated.
“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.”
In addition, they disputed Littlfeather’s claims about how she got her last name.
The sisters said: “That she danced in front of my father and always wore a feather in her hair, in her head? And that’s when my father called her ‘Littlefeather’? That’s another fantasy.”
Furthermore, her sisters were not informed of her death and were not invited to her funeral.
The sisters also noted they were worried after witnessing their sister “being venerated as a saint.”
In August, The Academy formally apologized for the “abuse” and “emotional burden” that weighed her following her appearance at the ceremony.
“Sacheen did not like herself. She didn’t like being Mexican,” Orlandi claimed. “So, yes, it was better for her that way to play someone else.”
Cruz added: “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.”
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