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From the Oscars Stage, She Sacrificed Her Career To Make Way For Indigenous Voices

From a young age, Sacheen Littlefeather knew racism through experience. Her mother was white and her father was of White Mountain Apache and Yaqui heritage. When she was born in Arizona in 1946, mixed-race couples were still illegal there. Raised by her white grandparents, it wasn’t until she went to university that she says she met people she could identify with. 

She began her activism there and continued pressing for equal rights and representation while pursuing a career in the arts.

Her career was forever changed in 1973, when she used what would have been Marlon Brando’s Oscar acceptance speech to call out the treatment of Native Americans and their depiction in Hollywood.

She came to StoryCorps in 2019 to talk about how that historic night changed her life and paved the way for those who came after.

Top Photo: Sacheen Littlefeather at her StoryCorps interview in Novato, California on October 2, 2019. By Rochelle Kwan for StoryCorps.
Bottom Photo: Sacheen Littlefeather at the Academy Awards ceremony on March 27, 1973. By the Associated Press.

This broadcast is supported in part by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a private corporation funded by the American people, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Originally aired October 7, 2022 on NPR’s Morning Edition.