The official version of American history, the one they don’t teach in public schools and in civics classes, is anything but the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. The brutal conquest of North America and the genocide of North American Indians by the United States government is still a source of extreme sensitivity and cognitive dissonance in our society today.
Actor Marlon Brando, famous for his role in the classic film The Godfather, was also well-known for his devoted support of the rights of Native Americans. In 1973 he made history when he turned down an Oscar Award for his for his role as Vito Corleone in order to protest the treatment of American Indians by Hollywood.
Rather than accepting the award for best actor, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather as an emissary to reject the award on his behalf. Before being booed by the audience she remarked:
“I’m representing Marlon Brando this evening and he has asked me to tell you … that he very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry —”
Later, in a 1973 television interview on the Dick Cavett Show, Brando explained the basis for his convictions behind his support of the cause of Native Americans. In the interview he spoke frankly about the truth of about the American relationship with Native Americans, and how America does not like to violate the image that it has of itself. He remarked:
“I… realized that I knew nothing about the American Indian and that everything we are taught about the American Indian is wrong. It’s inaccurate. And our school books are hopelessly lacking, perhaps criminally lacking, in revealing what our relationship was with the Indians.”
He went on to speak about the hypocrisy involved in how we still treat Native Americans:
“When we say that we are going to keep our treaties and that we do keep our word… I think it’s important to mention that there have been nearly 400 treaties written by the United States in good faith with the Indians, and every single one of them was abrogated.”
American Indians still suffer under severe systemic racism and oppression some 40 years after this clip. Watch the clip for yourself and share your thoughts in the comment section.
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