An ugly stain of prejudice in Oscar history has finally led to a celebration of indigenous culture at the iconic center of the motion picture industry, nearly half a century later.
On Saturday, the Academy welcomed Sachin Little Feather to its museum for an evening in his honour, an event to apologize and reconcile with the actress and activist. There was an end to the effort and a continuation of being blacklisted from the industry for speaking out. In protest of the treatment of Native Americans on and off screen.
“In our many conversations with Sachin in preparation for this event, we asked, what does reconciliation look like to you?” said Jacqueline Stewart, director and president of the Academy Museum, and that single, powerful question led us this evening. , who participated in the program with Little Feather’s longtime friend Earl Niconi (Kiowa/Okla.). “Tonight is his vision of what the way forward looks like, that we all celebrate Native Americans and Native cultures. , can share space to collectively support each other in this circle of reflection, healing.”
The result was a nearly two-hour program, attended by a mixed crowd of local people and those from outside what is now the United States, which took place at the David Geffen Theater. I saw local people and culture taking center stage and made an offer. An intimate look at the community that Little Feather (Apache/Yaqui/Ariz.) has dedicated his life to.
Bill Kramer, former director of the museum and president and current CEO of the Academy, introduced instant historic footage of Little Feather’s 1973 Oscars moment, when he refused Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award at his behest. appeared for, and absorbed a humorous and professional response in its place. “When we opened the museum, we focused it on reflecting our past. Tonight is an evolution of that work, and it all really started with this clip,” he said.
Out of breath, Stewart then welcomed Little Feather himself to the stage, and the minute-plus standing ovation that followed was a stark contrast to the boos he received the last time he attended an Academy event. Littlefeather, 75, now uses a wheelchair, but her warm and unflappable demeanor was unchanged from the 26-year-old who made a political statement on stage for the first time in Oscars history. In his conversation with producer Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache/NM), the co-chair of the Academy’s Native Coalition and the first person the Academy reached out to Little Feather, the elder pauses, breathless, but At the same time. No lack of wisdom.
“Well, I made it – 50 years later. You know how we Indian people are, we are very patient people,” he said as he greeted the crowd.
Little Feather provided both the levity and gravitas that anchored the evening, admitting she was in awe when she realized she would have to turn down an Oscar from co-presenter Liv Ullmann, one of her favorite actresses ( As for Ullman’s co-presenter: “Roger Moore, 007? Ehhh!”), and embracing his role in seeking justice for Native Americans: “I was there representing all Native voices, because we That was never heard of before. And if I had to pay an entrance fee, that was all right, because they had to open the doors – like Yosemite Sam. Somebody had to.”
In keeping with cultural tradition, Little Feather also took the opportunity to give a few personal gifts to a handful of the evening’s program participants — Nikoni, musical leader Michael Belanger (Ojibwe/Minn. and Kickapoo/Okla.), Steve Buhoy (Kiowa/Okla. ) .) and Joe Tohonnie (Apache/Ariz.) and Stewart, who apparently moved in as Little Feather’s adoptive niece and caretaker, Kelina Lawrence (Suquamish/Wash.), cast her in deep purple. Wrapped in a colored shawl. “I’m going to the spirit world soon,” said Littlefeather, who revealed last year that she had metastasized breast cancer. “And you know, I’m not afraid to die. Because we come from a we/us/our society. We don’t come from an in/me/self society. And we learn to give from a very young age. When If we get respect, we give it.
David Rubin and Janet Yang, former and current presidents of the Academy, respectively, then stepped forward to publicly offer the organization’s apology to Little Feather. Crediting input from staff members including Running Water, producer Heather Rae and other members of the Indigenous Alliance, as well as the Academy’s executive VP of Impact and Inclusion Jenelle English, Ruben read the apology letter that first appeared in Little Feathers in June. was presented privately, followed by Yang’s remarks, which brought tears to his eyes: “Today our support, celebration and recognition of American and Native communities and storytellers never ends. … We made the future of film. has been collaborative, conversational and solution-oriented. Representation without inclusion or access is not enough. I look forward to being here with you today and to our future, which you have so inspired. I I would also like to reiterate our apologies and our gratitude to you.”
As part of his response, Little Feather asked all the locals in the theater to stand up. Almost half the room rose to their feet. “I am here accepting this apology, not just for myself but in recognition, knowing that it is not just for me, but for all our nations who will hear and deserve this apology tonight. need,” he addressed the crowd. “Look at our people. Look at each other and be proud that we stand as survivors, all of us. Please, when I’m gone, always remember that every time you stand up for your truth , you will keep alive my voice, the voice of our nations and our people.”
As Little Feather read his prepared remarks from center stage, Rubin, Yang, Stewart and Running Water stood off to the side — a stunning tableau that captured the current diverse state of the academy’s leadership and as a complement to the future. Also worked on that throughout life. The worker had hoped for it. The first Academy speech, almost 50 years ago.
The evening also included a land tribute by Virginia Carmelo (Tonguay/So. California) and performances by the Bohoe and the Sooner Nation Singers and Dancers, the Belanger and All Nations Singers and Dancers, and the Tohoni and White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers. As an intertribal powwow in which eight performers dance to the same song in their individual styles: Teresa Littlebird (Northern Cheyenne/Calif), grass dancers Wesley Belanger (Ojibwe/Minn. and Kickapoo/Okla.) and Randy Pico. Jr. (Navajo and Luiseño/Calif.), Southern Straight Men Traditional Dancer James Gregory (Osage/Okla.), Southern Women’s Dress Dancer Michelle Gregory (Pit River/Northern Calif.), Fancy Shoal Dancer Olivia Gone (Southern Cheyenne /Okla.), jungledress dancer Sophia Seaboy (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Sisseton/SD) and chicken dancer Akshkii Keediniihii (Diné Navajo/Ariz.) Lawrence, a singer-songwriter, also sang two numbers, the hip-hop-inspired “Don’t Count Me Out” and “ʔəshəliʔ ti txʷəlšucid”, a modern R&B-style number in the Lushootseed language.
After the event, which was free and open to the public, 300 invited guests—friends of Little Feather, filmmakers, creators, as well as members of community organizations including the Los Angeles County/City Native American Indian Commission, International Indigenous Youth Council, IllumiNative and Miztli Projects – adjourned upstairs to the fifth floor tea room for a reception featuring a buffet prepared by Chef Crystal Wahipipah (Kikapo/Okla.) featuring smoked cedar bison roast, roasted agave Included were Hubbard Squash Salad and Black Oak Dioclette. cake