It is with great sadness that I write about the passing of Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather who passed away on October 2, 2022, only a few days ago. Her passing did not get a lot of news coverage, so I want to remedy that by giving the spotlight to this beautiful actress who made film history with her activism. Let's talk about the life of the extraordinary Sacheen Littlefeather.

R.I.P. Sacheen Littlefeather 1946-2022

Sacheen was born Maria Cruz in the Salinas Valley in California where she was raised by her saddle-making parents. She was always in touch with nature, horses, and her tribal heritage. Her father was a Native American who was part of the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes. Maria got more in touch with her native heritage as she got older and she decided to fight for Native American rights in the 1960s and 70s.

In 1969, Maria changed her name to Sacheen Littlefeather to honor her Apache heritage and she took part in the Native American occupation of Alcatraz. That was a major moment in history where Native Americans tried to take their land back on Alcatraz Island. The Indians of All Tribes group, as they were called, successfully occupied the territory for a little over a year and she was one of them who lived there as a form of protest.

R.I.P. Sacheen Littlefeather 1946-2022

She dipped into modeling and won a few pageants which is when she became more well-known to those in the entertainment industry. She even had the attention of Playboy who wanted to use her for a Native American-inspired spread, but the spread was canceled after some Native American protests in the early 1970s turned sour. That's what brings us to the event that thrust her into the national spotlight.

R.I.P. Sacheen Littlefeather 1946-2022

Her major moment happened at the Oscars when she accepted the Best Actor Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando in 1973 for his role in The Godfather. She wore her full Native garb and she used the platform to highlight atrocities that the government committed on her people and the harm that had been done during the standoff at Wounded Knee which had just happened at that time. This entire thing was done in protest of the portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood, which was why Brando was boycotting the award ceremony and using Sacheen for the stunt. This caused a HUGE stir.

You can even hear her being booed in the speech - which seems crazy today because she did have a point - and allegedly John Wayne was backstage and had to be restrained from charging the podium to get her off the stage. Watching her speech now, it is really quite tame. You can see it here:

Between 1973 and 1978, she appeared in seven movies including Johnny Firecloud in which she was stripped nude. Her round mounds look absolutely amazing as she lays on her back on a desk. That's a pair that would make her ancestors proud!

She took a step back from acting and focused on her activism, inspiring new generations of Native American youth in film and television. She is an inspiration to many and a skinspiration to us. She will be dearly missed.