Saturday, October 22, 2022


10/22/22 San Francisco Chronicle.  If you are as antique as me, you may recall Sacheen Littlefeather's denunciation of Hollywood when she refused Marlon Brando's Oscar in 1973.  But amazingly enough she was that era's Sen. Lie-a-Watha:

And interviews she gave in the intervening years, describing a childhood of poverty growing up in a shack, where she and her white mother were victims of domestic abuse and violence by her White Mountain Apache and Yaqui Indian father, made her story a sympathetic one. As such, she enjoyed incredible public support when it was announced months ago that the Academy would finally apologize to her after nearly 50 years....

But Littlefeather didn’t tell the truth that night. That’s because, according to her biological sisters, Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi, Littlefeather isn’t Native at all.

“It’s a lie,” Orlandi told me in an exclusive interview. “My father was who he was. His family came from Mexico. And my dad was born in Oxnard.”

“It is a fraud,”  Cruz agreed. “It’s disgusting to the heritage of the tribal people. And it’s just … insulting to my parents.”

Littlefeathers sisters both said in separate interviews that they have no known Native American/American Indian ancestry. They identified as Spanish” on their fathers side and insisted their family had no claims to a tribal identity.

I mean, you’re not gonna be a Mexican American princess,” Orlandi said of her sister’s adoption of a fraudulent identity. You’re gonna be an American Indian princess. It was more prestigious to be an American Indian than it was to be Hispanic in her mind.”

The sisters reached out to tell me their story because, for some time, I have been compiling a public list of alleged “Pretendians” — non-Native people who I or other Native American people suspect or proved to have manufactured their Native identities for personal gain. Littlefeather was among them. 

The sisters told me that their family never claimed this heritage growing up. After hearing her sister’s stories, Cruz checked with White Mountain Apache authorities to see if she or anyone in her family were members of the tribe. She says no enrollment records were found. The sisters also assert that Littlefeather’s stories about their violent and impoverished upbringing were also patently false. 

On Dec. 6, 1974, the Berkeley Gazette quoted Littlefeather calling herself “an urban Indian.”

“Never saw a reservation till I was 17,” she said. “I lived in a shack in Salinas, Cal. I remember the day we got a toilet, and I brought the neighborhood kids in and gave them the tour.”

“That infuriates me,” her sister Orlandi said when told of the quote. Our house had a toilet … And it’s not a shack, OK, I have pictures of it. Of course, we had a toilet.” 

Both sisters insist that their primary goal in coming forward is to restore the truth about their parents, who they said were good, hard-working and caring people.

They both insisted that Littlefeather assumed the life story of their father, who in no way resembled her characterization of a violent Apache alcoholic who terrorized them and their white mother.

“My father was deaf and he had lost his hearing at 9 years old through meningitis,” Cruz said. 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 a separate interview, Orlandi agreed: My father’s father, George, he was the alcoholic. My dad never drank. My dad never smoked. And you know, she also blasted him and said my father was mentally ill. My father was not mentally ill.”

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