Like the other 85 million TV viewers around the world, Rosalind Cruz wasn’t expecting to see her sister on stage at the 1973 Academy Awards. When Marlon Brando won Best Actor for The Godfather.“
“Hello, my name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m Apache and I’m the chair of the Native American Positive Image Committee. I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you… it is very sad that he cannot accept this generous award. The reasons for this are the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans today. … “
Rosalind, then 15, was moved by disbelief from her grandparents’ home in rural Salinas, California, where Little Feather—who was known by her 26-year-old sister, Marie-Louise Cruz—performed what would become the most pivotal 75 seconds to her acting career. .
But there was one problem. ‘I lied’ Rosalind, now 65 and living in Lake County, Montanahe told The Post.
Now, weeks after Littlefeather died of breast cancer at the age of 75, Rosalind is revealing to The Post’s JOSHUA RHETT MILLER what really happened — and who “Sacheen Littlefeather” really was.
We have been slaughtered.
Before Mary left for the Oscars, she told us, “Just watch it. I can’t tell you anything else, but just watch.” A few years ago, my older sister started acting at the American Institute Theater in San Francisco, but she wasn’t Still desperately trying to make a name for herself.
So when we saw Mary identifying herself as “Apache,” my grandparents and I were dumbfounded. I will never forget how utterly dumbfounded we stared at each other.
The shocking moment was the first time, as far as I know, that my older sister claimed to be part of a tribe—a fake identity she purposely concocted while wearing a suede borrowed dress for maximum effect.
My sister Marie, who actually spent a year in a mental hospital after attempting suicide when she was 19, assumed that fake photo for nearly 50 years. Her elaborate ploy discredits the memory of our late parents, Manuel Ybarra Cruz and Jerroldin Marie Cruz, who were Native Californians with no prior tribal ties.
I am now ready to restore their honor by finally telling the truth: Our family has no known Native American heritage, including links with the Arizona and Yaki Apache White Mountain tribes, as Mary falsely claimed. Our father is of Spanish descent from Mexico, while my mother’s ancestors were French, German and Dutch.
Like me, two older sisters, Mary and Trudy, were born and raised in Salinas, where we lived in a two-bedroom house with my parents. It wasn’t this ramshackle hut that Sachin began describing to reporters in the mid-1970s. The house was behind our parents’ custom saddle shop, Cruz Saddlery, in the Santa Rita section of town, where we kept our horse Zurc.
As a family living in rural California, we grew our own fruits and vegetables; Fig was Mary’s favourite. We also sewed our own clothes, which is where I thought Mary and Trudy got the inspiration for the alter ego of Native Americans. The thread and ribbon we used at the time were made by the Sasheen Ribbon Company. I just took out the second ‘S’ and put the ‘C’ in there. That’s all you did to start living this fantasy.
I’m still not sure what really inspired Mary to choose “Littlefeather,” a nickname she adopted after high school to “reflect her natural heritage,” her official website claims. But many of the dramatic stories she’s told over the years have been nonsense—like the one that our deaf father gave her that name as she danced around it with a feather in her head, or claimed he was an alcoholic.
These tales of torture or allegations of abuse came years after my father died of cancer in 1966 at the age of 44. They’ve become increasingly fierce too – as Mary claims he tried to run over her with his truck. But those were just bogus accounts from a sick liar.
Our mother developed dementia around 1978 and could not defend herself. She passed away in 2009. Meanwhile, Mary was busy manipulating everyone with her American Indian act, and lied so much that Trudy and I couldn’t keep up. However, Mary’s undisputed accounts did not include any word about her sisters. We simply do not exist.
We lived in the countryside and didn’t have many visitors, so none of our family shy away in public. However, Marie did her best to embarrass the Cruz family forever when she appeared in Playboy about seven months after the Oscars. We were a conservative family, we went to Catholic schools – we were not ready for all this.
Marie’s false claim of Native American heritage was nothing more than an opportunistic way for an aspiring actress to join Hollywood. She made her way into Brando’s orbit while living in San Francisco, spotting The Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola as he moved into an old Victorian home in Pacific Heights. Mary introduced herself and befriended him.
With Coppola’s help, she then captured Brando’s growing interest in supporting the Native Americans by writing him a letter claiming to be an Indian activist. Mary was always opportunistic, and eventually managed to win over the star of the movie by admitting that she was someone else. I realized that Brando had already advocated for the Black Panthers and was now changing gears, joining the American Indians. I knew it.
I was embarrassed more than anything when I saw my sister wearing this uncommon dress on the coolest Hollywood stage. Now we’re pretending to be Indians? You just don’t do things like that. But Mary saw it as a way to advance her career and get herself into the industry.
I first tried to unravel this nasty secret about 15 years ago, even reaching out to The Oprah Winfrey Show at some point. I wanted to expose Mary as a mentally unstable person who unfairly destroys our family with the same old deception. But who was going to listen to me? She was the Great Saint who actually sells to people who buy tickets.
I hadn’t spoken to Mary in 13 years when my friend texted me to check the news on October 3, the day after her death. Trudy and I have dealt with her mental illness our whole lives and I can’t stand it anymore. Over the years, Mary has escalated her mischievous slander, and done severe damage to our family only to feed her fraudulent personality. But she never mentioned the inconvenient fact that her biological sister isn’t quite as Native American as she is.
Marie also confirmed that she was “red-listed” for her Oscar speech – unable to land even the smallest role due to the direct orders of no less than J. Edgar Hoover. But my sister was once again blinded by her grandiose narcissism. Hoover died on May 2, 1972, nearly 11 months old Before Sachin took that stage.
Hoover gave orders from the grave, it seems. Now do you see how her mind worked? And the no one challenged her at it.
When I learned last month that the Academy was officially apologizing to Mary for blacklisting her after her Oscar bus, all I could think about was that they had been scammed. And the funny thing? The Academy Museum honored her as Aboriginal even though she is not. Our family is not Native American. Can you imagine how stupid these guys are?
[The Academy Museum acknowledged claims disputing the late actress’ background on Friday in a statement to The Post. “This is something both Littlefeather and the Native American community have addressed continuously since the 1970s. Native American and Indigenous identity is deeply complex and layered, especially in the United States, and these communities have long battled erasure and misrepresentation. With the support of its Indigenous Alliance — an Academy member affinity group — the Academy recognizes self-identification.”]
Mary kept her plan to the end, telling a captivating Los Angeles audience of how she arrived at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion Theater in 1973 with dignity, grace, and humility as a “proud Indian” woman. Ironically, she insisted she should “tell the truth” all those decades ago.
Mary, who had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer years earlier, then accepted the misguided academy’s mistake and asked all Native Americans present to stand up. She then referred to “our people,” praising them as survivors like her while insisting that defending the truth would keep her voice alive.
My sister’s last words on the so-called “Evening of Conversation, Healing, and Celebration” were “I am still Sacheen Littlefeather.” You know, why would you give up the role after 50 years?
The purpose of my introduction now is to honor my parents and tell the truth. By doing so, I will naturally reveal my late sister. The chiefs of the White Mountain Apache have no record of “Sacheen Littlefeather” – the fictional character Mary created to fill a huge void because she didn’t love herself. May she rest in peace, though I hope she has internalized the agony she has caused to my family through her life of lies.
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