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RED NATION
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INSTITUTE

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Behind the Scenes: The Motion Picture Academy & Native American Inclusion

Sacheen Littlefeather
Courtesy of Red Nation International Film Festival / Sacheen Littlefeather recipient of RNCI 'Brando Award'

Thanks to Red Nation Celebration Founder, Actor/Producer Joanelle Romero Apache dancers will now be a part of a special celebration featuring a long-awaited statement of apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences (AMPAS) to Sacheen Littlefeather on Saturday, September 17. It will also be a moment to reflect on those First Nation members, like Joanelle, who are still waiting for equality in the form of being accepted as full, voting members in the Academy.

In 1973, Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaqui/AZ), a member of the Screen Actors Guild, became the first Native woman to stand onstage at the Academy Awards ceremony, on behalf of Marlon Brando.

Instead of accepting his Best Actor award for The Godfather (1972), the actor asked her to give a passionate and moving 60-second speech regarding the stereotypes of Native Americans in the entertainment industry. She also brought attention to the 1973 Wounded Knee South Dakota protest.

As a result, Sacheen was professionally boycotted, personally harassed and attacked, and discriminated against for the last fifty years.

“Sacheen asked if I could bring in Joe Tohonnie Jr. and the White Mountain Apache Crown Dancers since an oversight had occurred and they were not invited,” said Joanelle. “Sacheen and I are both Apache. These dancers are needed culturally to bless this historic event, and to unite and heal our motion picture family.”

Joanelle’s organization has been fully accepted by other Hollywood organizations like the Location Managers Guild International ( LMGI), which honored RNCI Red Nation Awards (RNCI) on August 27, 2022 during its 29th Annual LMGI Awards for its trailblazing initiatives to promote inclusivity in the film industry and bring revenue to Native communities.

Actor Edward James Almos paid tribute to Joanelle for being “a woman who has dedicated her life to the advancement of all of us but especially the First Nations in this country and around the world.”

This Saturday’s event at AMPAS will be a special celebration of live Native American Indian performances featuring a long-awaited statement of apology from the Academy.

The evening’s program will include a land acknowledgment courtesy of Virginia Carmelo (Tongva/So. CA) and a conversation between Sacheen and Academy Member, producer, and co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache/NM).

Additional performers and speakers will include Academy CEO Bill Kramer, traditional vocalist and singer Calina Lawrence (Suquamish/WA), former Academy President David Rubin, incoming Academy President Janet Yang, emcee Earl Neconie (Kiowa/OK), emcee Jacqueline Stewart, Assembly member James Ramos (Serrano/Cahuilla/So. CA), The San Manuel Bird Singers (San Manuel/CA), Michael Bellanger (Ojibiway/MN & Kickapoo/OK) and the All Nation Singers and Dancers, and Steve Bohay (Kiowa/OK) and the Sooner Nation Singers and Dancers.

Contact Imal Wagner PH: (301) 325-4085 | Email: Imalwagner@gmail.com

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