Marlon Brando won an Oscar for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972).
But he didn’t accept it.
Instead, he sent a Native American woman named Sacheen (pronounced sah-SHEEN) Littlefeather to the Academy Awards ceremony, which was held in early 1973. Sacheen refused the Oscar on Brando’s behalf, citing “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”
Right on cue, over two dozen babies are named Sacheen in 1973:
- 1975: 14 baby girls named Sacheen
- 1974: 25 baby girls named Sacheen
- 1973: 26 baby girls named Sacheen [debut]
- 1972: unlisted
- 1971: unlisted
Where does the name come from?
According to Sacheen’s website, she was born Marie Cruz to an Apache father and a mother of mixed European descent. (She was named Marie after her maternal grandmother.)
While participating in the Occupation of Alcatraz (1969-1971), her “Navajo friends nicknamed her “Sacheen,” a word she says means “little bear.” She liked the name and took it.”
Several online sources tell me that the Navajo word for “bear” is commonly written shash or shush, and these are similar to the Sach- of Sacheen’s name. But the Navajo words for “little” are yaz (yáázh) and yazzie (yázhí), neither of which resemble -een, so I’m not sure where the second part of her name comes from.
How do you feel about the name Sacheen?
- Snell, Lisa. “What would Sacheen Littlefeather say?” Native American Times 25 Oct. 2010.
- Marlon Brando’s Oscar win for “The Godfather” [vid]
Image: © 1973 Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences