The siblings of Sacheen Littlefeather are accusing the actress of faking her Native American ancestry. The late actress is known for famously taking the stage for Marlon Brando in 1973 to decline the Best Actor Oscar.
In an article in the San Francisco Chronicle, Littlefeather’s sisters Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi said that their sister’s claim to have Apache and Yaqui ancestry through her father was “a lie” and “a fantasy.”
Orlandi told the Chronicle: “It’s a lie. My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico. And my dad was born in Oxnard.”
“It is a fraud. It’s disgusting to the heritage of the tribal people. And it’s just … insulting to my parents,” Cruz added.
The two sisters who spoke to the outlet claim they did so out of a desire to clear their parents’ names.
Littlefeather was known as a Native American civil rights activist. She received backlash following her protest at the Academy Award for which she called out Native American depictions in Hollywood. Throughout her life, Littlefeather claimed to be of both White Mountain Apache and Yaqui Indian heritage through her father.
However, the San Francisco Chronicle reports they found no evidence of any connection or claim that her father, Manuel Ybarra Cruz, had to Native American ancestry.
The news comes as more Americans self-identify as Native American. Census data from 2020 found that the number of Americans identifying at least partially as American Indian or Alaska Native grew from 5.2 million in 2010 to 9.7 million in 2020. This amounts to an 86% spike, a figure backed by no evidence of an influx of Native American expatriates returning to the U.S. as reported by the Conversation.
Littlefeather died in October shortly after receiving a formal apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the body that organizes the Oscars. It issued it as a response for the the way she was treated at the 1973 ceremony.
At the time Littlefeather responded saying “Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!