Monday, August 16, 2010
Awhile back I started writing posts about women who I admired, I wrote about three (Marlee Matlin, Hermione Granger, and Nujood Ali), before I promptly stopped. I can't say why I did although I have the habit of forgetting about things so that could be one reason why. The fact that I have maintained this blog for as long as I have still amazes me every time I write a new post. However I think its about time that I bring back these posts about kick ass feminist women and men!
So now I introduce you to Sacheen Littlefeather. Many people haven't herd of this courageous soul but I wish more would learn about her. Sacheen Littlefeather is most known for her involvement with the 1973 Oscar ceremony.
On February 27, 1973 the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota was seized by followers of The American Indian Movement (AIM). AIM took control of Wounded Knee in protest of the terrible conditions of the Pine Ridge reservation, one of the poorest places in the United States, where very few opportunities to make a living were available. The governments response to this was to surround the town which lead to 71 days of shootings on both sides of the conflict. The Wounded Knee Incident, as it was later called, became media frenzy and began to highlight the inhuman treatment of Native Americans. However, Native Americans continued to receive backlash and still were not treated as they should be. If you ask me, they still aren't. Native American tribes are still not recognized as their own nation by the U.S. government. They still have not received enough compensation for all the horrors they have experienced in the past by those of European decent (although I don't know if it is possible to completely compensate someone for past wrong doings).
So what does this all have to do with the glamorous Oscar ceremony? Also in 1973 Marlon Brando was nominated for an Academy Award for his role in The Godfather. The awards occurred during the height of the standoff between AIM and the federal government during which Brando choose to make a statement about his feelings on the issue. Instead of accepting his rightly earned Oscar he sent Sacheen Littlefeather in his place. Littlefeather was told not to accept the award and instead to deliver a fifteen page speech written by Brando. Backstage before giving her speech the producer of the show threatened to physically remove and arrest Sacheen Littlefeather if she went beyond speaking for forty-five seconds. So instead she went on stage and improvised what Marlon Brando wanted her to say. She spoke saying, owing to the "poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry" Marlon Brando would not accept the award. He also in part would not accept the award because of the events at Wounded Knee. After Sacheen Littlefeather delivered her short speech she went backstage and read the speech which Brando had written to the press. This Oscar moment is considered a huge success by those supporting the AIM. However this is not the end of the story. Both Littlefeather and Brando received much criticism and even death threats. Sacheen Littlefeather's acting career was also cut short, people refused to hire her because of her participation in Brando's Oscar boycott and because she was Native American.
Although Sacheen Littlefeather suffered from this event I still believe that she is an amazing women. It takes a lot of guts to stand up in front of all of Hollywood and proclaim that their treatment of Native Americans in films and tv is completely awful. Also I have to give major props to Marlon Brando for giving her the chance to call Hollywood out on their actions, it takes a lot of courage to do whats is right, even if it means sacrificing accolades for your career. Please check out the video of Sacheen Littlefeathers Oscar speech on Youtube, its incredible to watch.