Sacheen Littlefeather’s younger siblings reject their sister’s statement about their origins.
For context, Littlefeather is the late Native American actress and civil rights activist famous for taking the stage at the 1973 Oscars to turn down Marlon Brando’s Oscar.
Her sisters, Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi, said Littlefeather was not Native American. They revealed the information in a new investigative report published Saturday in the San Francisco Chronicle.
“It is a fraud,” Cruz said of Littlefeather, who recently died.
In addition, 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 the Yaqui Indian heritage throughout his life. But her sisters revealed to Native American journalist Jacqueline Keeler that they are Spanish. Furthermore, their family had no connection with a tribal identity.
Keeler’s research into Littlefeather’s ancestry found something in favor of her sisters’ claims. The reporter discovered that the actress was born Maria Louise Cruz in 1946 in Salinas, California to parents Manuel Ybarra Cruz and Gertrude Barnitz.
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 decision to deny their sister’s claims stemmed from a need to defend their parents’ names. (Littlefeather’s nickname is “Deb.”)
Littlefeather Lived and Died in Fantasy
The actress said in a 1974 interview with The Berkeley Gazette that she was raised in poverty. 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.
Meanwhile, the sisters noted they were worried after witnessing their sister “being venerated as a saint.”
In August, the Academy formally apologized to her for the “abuse” and “emotional burden” that weighed her after her appearance at the ceremony.
Orlandi claimed: “Sacheen did not like herself. She didn’t like being Mexican.” And she added, “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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