Editorial by Jonathan Garlow
The Godfather is recognized as one of the best movies of all time, always beside films Gone with the Wind and Casablanca in the top 10 lists made by important critics.
Marlon Brando won an Academy Award in 1973 for his convincing role in the film, as he played mob boss Vito Corleone – the Godfather himself. Brando beat out some of Hollywood’s greatest movie stars to win the highly coveted Oscar.
But Brando did something that no other actor has done since. He rejected the Oscar award. At the award ceremony he sent in his place Sacheen Littlefeather to read a statement prepared with his own ink.
Dressed in her beaded regalia, Littlefeather with extreme grace and poise said that Brando was rejecting the award due to “the treatment of American Indians by the film industry,” and also listed other grave injustices such as Wounded Knee. Boos could be heard coming from the rich and fancy crowd.
Sacheen then meekly apologized for ruining everything and said she hoped that “at some time in the future we will meet with love and generosity.”
And that was that. No award.
Sacheen was also the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, an organization most people didn’t even know existed. Sacheen was a trailblazer and did what no other indigenous person had ever done until that very moment. She managed to get an indigenous-positive message heard by an estimated 83 million people.
She didn’t know it would happen at the time, but she also got millions of people pretty damn angry. Littlefeather said that she received persecution and increased racist treatment afterwards.
Reminding your enemy that you aren’t quite dead yet will do that. Not that we ever wanted to be enemies with our visitors, but the crude and ignorant Hollywood industry continues to portray the Onkwehon:we or the “Native American Indian” as crude, ignorant savages.
What was ground breaking history for indigenous people worldwide was just a little blip on the radar for the average American. A rank and file citizen may have thought “Whoa, that was weird.” And then instantly continued on, back to their normal everyday lives on Monday morning.
All of this went down way back in 1973 – does anyone remember that today?
I bet Leonardo DiCaprio does.
Perhaps he was subtly suggesting that his acting is on par with Marlon Brando as he took a huge risk by using the Golden Globe pulpit to lend his credibility to the indigenous story on Sunday night.
“I want to share this award with all the first nations people represented in this film, and all indigenous communities around the world. It is time that we recognize your history and that we protect your indigenous lands from corporate interests and people that are out there to exploit them,” DiCaprio said.
If you happen to be from Six Nations or have a predominately indigenous friends list on Facebook it’s all our people were talking about after DiCaprio received his Golden Globe, on Jan. 10.
Most were delighted to share the stage with a man such as DiCaprio because the front line activists have seen him here and there at anti-corporate demonstrations in the last few years. DiCaprio seems like a true bro. Others are fairly cautious of his intentions and aren’t as hasty with their approval.
Either way, we can all agree that it’s good he read his own speech and didn’t send one of us up there to be fed to the wolves like Brando did! Soon we will be winning Oscars and Golden Globes for ourselves.