Here is a summary of Native American-related news around the U.S. this week:
Oscars Apologize to Sacheen Littlefeather 50 Years After Marlon Brando Protest Speech
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is apologizing to Sacheen Littlefeather, the actress who spoke for Marlon Brando at the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony rejecting his Best Actor award over the mistreatment of Native Americans.
In a 45-second speech, Littlefeather explained Brando’s rationale was to protest “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee,” referencing the then-month-old occupation of a small settlement on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota.
She was ushered offstage to gasps and jeers; backstage, she read out loud a more than 700-word statement from Brando protesting America’s treatment of Native Americans.
“We lied to them. We cheated them out of their lands. We starved them into signing fraudulent agreements…” Brando wrote. “What kind of moral schizophrenia is it that allows us to shout at the top of our national voice … that we live up to our commitment [to Indians] when every page of history and when all the thirsty, starving, humiliating days and nights of the last 100 years in the lives of the American Indian contradict that voice?”
Littlefeather’s speech broke an FBI-imposed media blackout of the Wounded Knee standoff.
“After that incident I was boycotted,” Littlefeather said in a 2019 short film, Sacheen: Breaking the Silence. “The FBI went around Hollywood and told … production companies that if they had me on their show that they would shut down their production.”
On June 18, then-Academy head David Rubin wrote an open “statement of reconciliation” to Littlefeather, which will be presented to her in person during an event at the Academy Museum in September.
“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” the letter states. “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”
Littlefeather, 75, reacted with wry humor.
“Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people—it’s only been 50 years!” she said.
Educators Challenge Oklahoma Critical Race Theory Law
Two school systems in Oklahoma are appealing a decision by the state’s education board to downgrade their accreditation for alleged violations of a year-old state law banning discussions of race or gender in the classroom.
In Tulsa, a high school teacher complained that during professional development training in August 2021, she heard “statements that specifically shame white people for past offenses in history, and state that all are implicitly racially biased by nature.”
In January 2022, a parent complained that children in a Mustang municipality public school were made to feel uncomfortable during an anti-bullying exercise.
On July 28, the Oklahoma Education Department downgraded both schools to “accreditation with warning” status, which, according to the department’s website, means that they “failed to meet one or more of the standards and the deficiency seriously detracts from the quality of the school’s educational program.”
“This isn’t about hanging their head in shame, this is about knowing what happened," Cherokee Nation Chief Chuck Hoskin, Jr., told Tulsa’s KTUL Monday. “I think if any point in history needs to be examined critically, it is how the federal government, how the United States has dealt with Indian tribes. Young people need to know this.”
Inflation Reduction Act Invests Millions in Native American Climate and Energy Projects
President Joe Biden Tuesday signed the Inflation Reduction Act, a law which aims to control inflation by reducing the deficit and lowering prescription drug prices and to combat climate change by investing in domestic energy production and promoting clean energy solutions.
The IRA will invest more than $720 million to support Native-driven climate solutions and advance Tribal energy development priorities, including:
- $150 million to help tribes install electricity in homes.
- $75 million to assist tribes in energy development.
- $225 million for developing Tribal high-efficiency electric home rebate programs.
- $235 million for Tribal climate resilience, including fish hatchery operations and maintenance.
- $25 million for climate resilience funding to the Interior Department’s Office of Native Hawaiian Relations.
- $12.5 million for Tribal emergency drought relief
The law also establishes an energy loan guarantee program to give eligible tribes and Native communities access to billions of dollars through competitive grants, loans, loan guarantees and contracts.
Ireland Honors Haudenosaunee Passports
Members of the Haudenosaunee Nationals (formerly, Iroquois Nationals) men’s under-21 lacrosse team were in Ireland this week to compete in World Lacrosse Men's U21 World Championship games and were thrilled when Dublin customs authorities acknowledged and stamped their Haudenosaunee passports.
It was a diplomatic courtesy that not all governments have extended them. As the Buffalo News reported last week, they were unable to compete in world championships in Great Britain because that nation refused to accept their passports.
"They treated us the way anyone would hope to be treated," said Nationals board member Rex Lyons.
It’s only fitting, considering that it was the Haudenosaunee who invented the game more than 1,000 years ago, and they have been playing ever since.
The Haudenosaunee Confederacy consists of six Nations, the Mohawk, Oneida, Onondaga, Cayuga, Seneca and Tuscarora Nations of New York and Canada. It began issuing passports to its citizens in 1923 as an expression of their sovereignty, but other Nations haven’t always honored them. In 2010, the team was unable to participate in the championships in Great Britain, which wouldn’t accept their passports.