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How Sacheen Littlefeather Paved the Way for Indigenous Actors Like Me

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Jacobs is an actor, filmmaker, and a member of the Kanien’kehá:ka (Mohawk) people.

I was 11 years old, the first time I watched the clip of Indigenous actor Sacheen Littlefeather at the 1973 Academy Awards. Littlefeather, who died Oct. 2, 2022 at 75, took the stage on Marlon Brando’s behalf, accepting his award in protest of Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans. That night, while calmly delivering her speech, Sacheen received boos and threats for her message.

Sacheen’s impact shaped my perspective on what it means to be an Indigenous actor and activist. It also reaffirmed my responsibility to carry the voice of my community into the entertainment industry—despite it not always welcoming us.

Being part of a new wave of Indigenous creatives, and being on a show like Reservation Dogs, has felt like whiplash. Only recently have our stories been told in mainstream media. Every inch has been fought for.

The groundwork laid by Sacheen Littlefeather and other Indigenous trailblazers, continues to help make our successes possible.

—As told to Sanya Mansoor

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