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Native American ties with Oscars a (very) slight one

The Academy Awards are Feb. 9 and rarely does the public agree with all of the nominees put forth by those who vote, let alone those who emerge as the ultimate winners.

One film this year might be of interest to Indigenous People – “Jojo Rabbit.” The director and one of its producers are Indigenous themselves – Taika David Waititi and Chelsea Winstanley.

Waititi and Winstanley are married and identify as Māori – the Indigenous Polynesian people of New Zealand.

Taika David Waititi (right) is the director of Jojo Rabbit – a best picture nominee. (Photo: Facebook)

It is extremely rare to have any Indigenous nominee; there have only been a handful in the more than 90-year history of the Oscars.

Recognition has been even rarer for Native Americans.

The only Native American to be awarded an Oscar is actor Wes Studi. He was given an honorary award for career achievement in 2019.

Studi did appear in a previous best picture winner – “Dances with Wolves” – in 1991. The 72-year-old has also appeared in Avatar, Heat and “Street Fighter.”

Notably, the Indigenous Canadian American and musician, Buffy Sainte-Marie, shared an Oscar for best original song for “Up Where We Belong” from the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But one of the more memorable Oscar moments during its broadcast did involve Native Americans.

In 1973, actor Marlon Brando declined his Oscar for “The Godfather,” because of what he said was Hollywood’s poor treatment of Native Americans.

Brando sent Apache actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather to the stage to accept his award.

She gave a speech in Brando’s place and said the reason he was declining the award was due to the “poor treatment of Native Americans in the film industry.”

Reports said Littlefeather received a mix of cheers and boos from the audience.

However, the incident is still considered an important moment in recognizing Indigenous rights in the U.S.

The Academy Awards air on ABC at 8 p.m. EST.

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Damon Scott
Damon is a multimedia journalist for the Seminole Tribune. He has previously been an editor and reporter for digital and print media in Florida and his home state of New Mexico. Send him an email at damonscott@semtribe.com.
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