- Sacheen Littlefeather’s sisters told The San Fransisco Chronicle that she wasn’t really Native American.
- Littlefeather refused an Academy Award on behalf of Marlon Brandon for his role in “The Godfather” in 1973.
- Littlefeather’s sister, Trudy Orlandi told The Chronicle that Littlefeather “lived in a fantasy.”
The sisters of Sacheen Littlefeather, an actor and activist who refused an Academy Award on behalf of Marlon Brando in 1973, claimed that she wasn’t actually Native American.
“The best way that I could think of summing up my sister is that she created a fantasy,” her younger sister Trudy Orlandi, told the San Fransisco Chronicle. “She lived in a fantasy, and she died in a fantasy.”
In an opinion column published Saturday by the San Fransisco Chronicle, writer Jacqueline Keeler interviewed Littlefeather’s sisters, Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi, who claimed that Littlefeather is not actually Native American.
“It’s a lie,” Orlandi told The Chronicle. “My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico. And my dad was born in Oxnard.”
“It is a fraud,” Cruz said, according to The Chronicle. “It’s disgusting to the heritage of the tribal people. And it’s just … insulting to my parents.”
Littlefeather, who died on October 2 at the age of 75, famously wore a buckskin dress when she refused the Academy Award for Best Actor on behalf of Brando for his starring role in “The Godfather.”
Littlefeather, whose birth name is Marie Louise Cruz, gave a 60-second speech refusing the award on Brando’s behalf and decrying the treatment of Native Americans in Hollywood, which resulted in a mix of boos and cheers from the audience.
“[Brando] very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award,” Littlefeather said in the speech. “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.”
Littlefeather later said that John Wayne had to be restrained from storming onto the stage to attack her during her speech, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences penned an apology to Littlefeather, which was made public this past August, saying that “the abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified.”
It added, “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged.”
In response to the apology from the Academy, Littlefeather released a statement that said “Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people—it’s only been 50 years!”
According to The Chronicle, Orlandi and Cruz both said that their family has no known Native American ancestry and said their family identified as “Spanish” on their father’s side.
White Mountain Apache tribal officials told The Chronicle that they found no record of either Littlefeather or her family members ever being enrolled in the White Mountain Apache.
A representative for the White Mountain Apache did not immediately return Insider’s request for comment on Saturday.
Littlefeather’s sisters also told The Chronicle that her claims of growing up in violence and poverty were not true. Both sisters said their central motivation in coming forward was to repair the image of their father, who Littlefeather had painted as a violent alcoholic.
“My father was deaf and he had lost his hearing at 9 years old through meningitis,” Cruz told The Chronicle. “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.”
Cruz and Orlando both told The Chronicle that they learned of Littlefeather’s death through the internet and neither was invited to their funeral.