The Crashing of Sacheen’s Funeral

How Jacqueline Keeler used an incomplete genealogy and string of media errors to smear Sacheen Littlefeather.

Daniel Voshart
20 min readDec 4, 2022


On October 21st, people gathered in a medium-sized church for Sacheen Littlefeather’s funeral. Everyone in attendance was wearing purple. Some wore a purple tie, scarf or belt, others purple ribbon skirts and shirts. Everyone except two biological sisters and a writer preparing a story for the SFChronicle. After the first eulogy speech, a woman wearing all black removed her sunglasses and stepped into the aisles shouting “I’m Rosalind Cruz, Sacheen’s youngest sister”.

For those who don’t know: Sacheen Littlefeather came to worldwide attention in 1973 after turning down Marlon Brando’s Oscar for Best Actor in The Godfather. In her speech she mentioned the mistreatment of Native Americans on and off screen. She also mentioned the Wounded Knee Occupation by the American Indian Movement (AIM) which was under a media blackout. The speech was a mix of applause and jeers from the audience. Clint Eastwood presenting Best Picture later said “I don’t know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford westerns over the years”. The media scrutiny that followed focused heavily on her birth name Marie Louise Cruz and her “Mexican” heritage.

Sacheen continued to be Sacheen. After being blacklisted from major studios, she had to go back to school. She studied nutrition and healing. She co-founded the American Indian AIDS Institute in the late 80s, a support group, because friends were dying in isolation from what was initially an incurable and stigmatising virus. She lived a life of activism, eventually got remarried to Charles Koshiway Johnson, an enrolled member of the Otoe-Missouria Tribe of Oklahoma, a traditional dancer, and together they attended hundreds of powwows. Charles passed away in 2021 from blood cancer. In 2022, The Academy officially offered Sacheen an apology. Her breast cancer, which had briefly gone into remission, had moved to the lungs and she was not expected to live until the 2023 awards presentation. The apology was instead given at an event earlier this year. Her sisters did not attend. Sacheen passed away a few months later. Which brings us to Oct 21st…

Attendees of Sacheen’s funeral called for Rosalind, her youngest biological sister, to go to the microphone. She was escorted to the podium by Blackfoot Elder Theda Makoyohsokovi who was the next scheduled person to speak. The event was captured by the official live stream. The Elder, who is a board member of the Native Wellness Institute, wore a purple ribbon dress and reflexively rubbed Rosalind’s back. In the speech that followed, her sister claimed that Sacheen lied about her family, lied about the abuse she endured as a child and announced “Sacheen did tell the truth! She said she had a mental illness!”

The above video has the audio enhanced and subtitled. What compels someone to say this at their own sister’s funeral?

Jacquelin “Stands With a List” Keeler

Diné (Navajo) writer Jacqueline Keeler’s reputation has fallen considerably since she was fired from Indian Country Today for biased reporting and later her controversial research methods in building the “Alleged Pretendian List”. Now, after the SFChronicle opinion piece, people are drawing comparisons to Candace Owens and Alex Jones. In my opinion, Jacqueline masks a celebration of paper genocide under the guise of bravery, selflessness and martyrdom. She has dismissed this type of criticism on Twitter, with no citation, saying paper genocide only accounts for about 0.1% “of folks who claim Indian.”

Paper genocide is the erasure of Indigenous people or their descendants on paper. This erasure or loss of recognition happens through marriage, displacement (or failure to displace), adoption or the numerous ever-narrowing requirements involved in gaining or maintaining federal recognition. Jacqueline has repeatedly claimed she is only verifying if stated claims are true (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10 … 39) but isn’t happy until people publicly state their Certificate Degree of Indian Blood (CDIB), the federal government’s fictional standard of blood purity.

For this, she has been called “BQ Batman”. (Unlike Batman who beats up criminals and rapists, she will collaborate with one.)

Jacqueline doesn’t consistently and overtly condone Blood Quantum. When criticised, she points to a 2013 blog post where she wrote “We must do away with blood quantum as a requirement for citizenship if we are to be taken seriously as Nations […] blood quantum will be political death for all the Tribes, and we must let it go if we are to survive”. Earlier in 2013, she told a Cherokee lawyer on Twitter that all Nations “need to do away with BQ" and they should start a Facebook Group (no group with Jacqueline as a member can be found). Between 2014 and 2018, Jacqueline made several posts to Facebook denouncing Blood Quantum each beginning with strong statements:

Jacqueline’s actions however, over the last decade, speak louder than words. Consistently flirting with the Blood Quantum like when she showed off her blood quantum earrings that were meant “as a joke” or “form of protest”. Is it really a protest if you keep flexing it? 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021, 2022.

“My husband got me blood quantum earrings for my birthday!” jfkeeler on Twitter Nov 12 2013
“Blood Quantum earrings” jfkeeler on Instagram Feb 14, 2014

She uses family trees — not strictly to confirm — but to diminish other’s Indigeneity. After looking at Leonard Peltier’s family tree she called him “seriously Québécois”. When she was criticized by a Blackfeet language teacher who goes by DeadDogLake on Twitter, first she accused him of being Pretendian, badgered him for his name almost two dozen times (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23), then openly solicited his real name from her followers (1, 2, 3) then when she eventually found out, she made it a point to repeatedly state that he did not meet the 1/4 blood quantum of Blackfeet Nation (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6). I messaged DeadDogLake and, without getting into the weeds, Jacqueline is misreperensing his complicated, but common, situation.

Blood Quantum does seem to matter around the 1/16th to 1/32nd threshold — the fractions which Jacqueline has European Ancestors. At this point they become “distant” or “remote”.

“Although, truth be told the ideal BQ to profit off being native appears to be 1/16th to 1/32 and less” jfkeeler on Twitter Sep 26, 2019

This cutoff might be from insecurities of being descended of General Alfred Sulley who massacred over 400 Dakota and Lakota at Whitesone Hill in 1862. It might have something to do with her Six Nations husband who, being from Canada, doesn’t qualify for a CDIB. What is clear is she will make exceptions to the imaginary 1/16th to 1/32nd cutoff if you support her work.

Jacqueline changes the particulars of her argument depending on who she is interacting with. A politically slippery hypocrite. As one friend-turned-critic of hers put it “descendancy is acceptable except when it isn’t, enrolled & reconnecting is acceptable except when it isn’t, ‘lived experience’ is paramount unless you can enroll”.

Basically: blood quantum is evil, please tell me your blood quantum.

CDIB? Blood Quantum?

Tribal citizenship is unlike citizenship of United Nations countries which use either ‘birthright’ (Jus soli) or ‘blood’ (Jus sanguinis) of a parent (typically citizenship of one parent). There are no fractions of citizenship. Tribal citizenship is complicated by displacement and assimilation. Blood of parent would, from the US government’s perspective, result in ‘too many Indians’. As a result, there remains an archaic tracking of fictional blood purity.

Under the guise of tribal sovereignty Jacqueline Keeler seeks out people’s CDIB. She typically looks for pre-built family trees on and often collaborates with genealogists that share the same agenda, some of whom also have a history of anti-Black rhetoric. The researchers are only known because of leaked private chats, she blocks people who ask about who does the research. There is no accountability (Sacheen’s genealogy did not have an author listed). The research methods are both lazy and flawed and her results are error-ridden. When she makes a mistake, she doesn’t apologize.

Timeline of When Opinions Changed

The SF Chronicle opinion leaves the reader with the impression that the sisters always believed Sacheen was fraudulently claiming ancestry but this belief only solidified after Sacheen passed away. Up until two days after her death, Sacheen’s sisters believed they were of Apache / Yaqui descent. It was Jacqueline’s research that was posted to Twitter that made them change their minds.

“But Littlefeather didn’t tell the truth that night. That’s because, according to her biological sisters, Rosalind Cruz and Trudy Orlandi, Littlefeather isn’t Native at all.” – Jacqueline Keeler in SFChronicle Oct 22 2022

This is a chronology of events on social media:

Jacqueline in an argument with Jamie Pretell who was defending Sacheen: “…this family you are going to mat for…” April 1 2022.

Opinion First Shared on Right-Wing Conspiracy App

Shortly after Rosalind Cruz was convinced that Sacheen Littlefeather was a fraud, around October 14th, she posted to TruthSeeker— a news App for “alt media sources”. TruthSeeker app’s promo image and first podcast advertised is Alex Jones. It provides access to white supremacist and conspiracy theory podcasts that were banned from YouTube. (FYI: The app might contain malware and would not suggest installing it)

Rosalind appears to be deeply entrenched in right-wing conspiracy theories. In the short time on Twitter since April 27 2022, Rosalind has shared posts that are transphobic (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), anti-immigrant (1, 2, 3), and all manner of right wing themed conspiracy theories. (Clinton body bag conspiracy, claimed rigged elections, claimed “Wuhan Flu” created to bring about “New World Order”, “Resist Biden socialist Democrat NWO” etc.)

Criticizing Jacqueline Keeler as the ‘Alex Jones’ or ‘Candace Owens’ of Native American journalism would not have been a deterrent. It might even be a compliment.

“NEW WORLD ORDER. The Chinese Communist Party is to blame for the Whuhan Virus.[…] Kind of makes you yearn for the days of Muskets, Militias and Revolutionary Covert Ops.” (Source unknown) shared by Rosalind April 27 2022. First day using Twitter.

Sacheen Finds New Family

It is common in many Native communities that when a family member passes away, someone else informally fills the role — permanently or temporarily. In the case of Sacheen, the person who took on a fatherly figure was Adam Fortunate Eagle (Red Lake Band of Chippewas) then going by Adam Nordwall. In a 1997 interview, Sacheen told a PBS reporter “Adam took me into his family, and his daughters became my sisters.”

As Sacheen became an Elder, she took on the role of Auntie. In The Academy’s interview with Sacheen, she described Calina Lawrence the woman sitting next to her as her “adopted niece”. At the funeral, while the sisters were in attendance, Calina described Sacheen as “my Auntie, my adopted Auntie.” Always clear that the relation was not a biological one.

When I and others attempted to explain on Twitter, that terms like Auntie “are not fixed biological terms in many Native communities” Rosalind’s response was “We’re not native.”

Nothing in the Will?

Sacheen Littlefeather’s husband passed away from blood cancer the year before. They had no biological children. Sacheen in the Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather and in an interview with The Academy Museum said she was giving away everything before her death.

“I gave my car away already. I gave Charles’s car away already. I’m giving material things away already. I’m not gonna be takin’ it with me, I guarantee ya.” — Sacheen Littlefeather to The Academy Museum

Stories of her generosity were shared at her funeral. It reasons that the estranged sisters were left nothing in Sacheen’s will.

Rosalind Cruz shared on Twitter that she had been estranged from both Sacheen for 12.5 years [2010?] and her other sister for 11 years [late 2011?]. She also claimed that Trudy had had also been estranged from Sacheen for only 1.5 years.

On Sacheen’s Incomplete Family Tree

Building a family tree is not as straightforward as is seems. Errors compound each generation and the expertise needed to navigate finer details increases as well. Jacqueline and her associates are notoriously simple-minded in their work. The danger being that simplest way to erase Indigenous ancestry is to stop looking as soon as things get difficult.

Much of Jacqueline Keeler’s resentment seems to stem from Sacheen Littlefeather’s parents and cousins identifying as “white” on government documents. While most would see this as a survival strategy and as victims of paper genocide – Jacqueline uses it to shame others. Those who reclaim are accused of stolen ancestral valour.

Unsurprisingly, Jacqueline’s own ancestors were sometimes incorrectly labelled as white on Census. Jacqueline’s father Charles Keeler was W[hite] on the 1940 US Census. Jacquelin’s grandparents Edison and Marjorie Keeler were also both [W]hite on Census. On Indian Census of 1938 her father is 1/4th not 5/8th.

It is true that if an Indigenous person’s ancestors didn’t defend their treaty rights; stopped learning their songs; languages and cultures: there would be no identity beyond appearance. Does this mean: the only people allowed to reconnect must be vetted by a federally recognised tribal government first?

Sacheen never claimed to be enrolled in either Apache or Yaqui Tribes. She proved, as evidenced by her life’s legacy, that she was committed to her people. In doing so, she was claimed by citizens (not governments) of both Yaqui and Apache Tribes. Sacheen married a Tribally enrolled man who understood her, and plans to be buried next to him in the Otoe Tribe’s cemetery.

Sacheen’s great-grandparents born in Sonora Mexico via ReadMontana twitter via

Photos of her great-grandparents Benseslado Wenceslado Cruz and Mercedes Gonzalez, visually suggest Indigenous ancestry which would mean that Jacqueline and her anonymous team all stopped looking the moment they might have proved themselves wrong. In her SFChronicle opinion, Jacqueline wrote “Could their family have some distant drop of Indigenous blood from hundreds of years ago? It’s possible” but now Jacqueline has been revising history on Substack by saying she didn’t convince the sisters claiming “I told them they probably have Mexican indigenous ancestry.”

“Probably have” and “it’s possible” have different meanings. Probably means chances are high where possible means chances are not zero.

Jacquelin Keeler had this image in the family tree several months prior to the SFChronicle opinion. via ReadMontana Twitter

In response to me sharing the photo in a popular Twitter thread, Jacqueline unblocked me to share a photo of Sacheen’s ex husband’s family from Spain for reasons I don’t understand.

In the SF Chronicle opinion, Jacqueline wrote that “Marriage and baptismal records do not place the Cruz or Ybarra families near […] Yaqui communities in Mexico,” but when a baptism with “Yaqui criollos de la terra” [SP-EN: Yaquis bred of the land] surfaced, Jacqueline first stated on Substack that she was going to release an interview on Oct 29th with a Yaqui historian but it never surfaced. On Oct 30th, Jacqueline released a statement on Instagram that said the baptism “doesn’t change the fact they didn’t identify with the tribe when they came to [Arizona],” and “1819? My kids have an Italian ancestor who moved to Canada around then? Does this make them Italian?” No correction was added to the story.

Tribal Homelands prior to European colonization with Apache and Yaqui tribes highlighted. Atlas of Indian Nations p. 170

What I do understand is Jacqueline and the sisters are trying to smear Sacheen so they can bury her as a white American.

Did Sacheen Visit Alcatraz?

The SFChronicle opinion left readers with the impression that Sacheen Littlefeather never visited Alcatraz at any point during the 1969–1971 occupation. This impression must have been malicious as Jacqueline Keeler read and cited newspaper articles of people corroborating Sacheen’s story.

There is even a media instance linking Sacheen to the island prior to the 1973 Academy Awards. In Nov 1970, when Sacheen won a modelling competition a California newspaper referred to her as “Sacheen Littlefeather of Alcatraz” (another news story Jacqueline knew about) because, according to later columnist, she “listed her address as Alcatraz at the time”. Sacheen was known for her sense of humour.

After The Oscars speech, Adam Fortunate Eagle (then a fatherly figure going by Adam Nordwall) and a family friend vouched for her visiting Alcatraz.

“Adam Nordwall, one of the leaders in the Indian occupation of Alcatraz, said Marie supported that Indian protest action and adopted the name of Sacheen Littlefeather.” Santa Cruz Sentinel, 29 March 1973 (also quoted in Jacqueline Keeler’s SubStack)

Jacqueline included a negative quote from a photographer in 1973 saying “wanted to capitalize on the Indian thing,” and that Sacheen “a big phoney” but excluded a supporting quote in the same article of Miss Walter Silacci “a close family friend” of Sacheen saying that she had returned from Alcatraz.

“According to Mrs. Silacci the Alcatraz Indians were responsible for giving Miss Cruz the Indian name Sacheen Littlefeather.”

After one occasion in which Miss Cruz, 26, returned to Salmas briefly, Mrs. Silacci recalled Miss Cruz saying. “She was going to help the Indians.” — The Californian March 28, 1973 (also quoted in Jacqueline Keeler’s 78 page SubStack)

Cherry-picking media errors and holding that person accountable might be one reason Jacqueline is no longer welcome by Native American Journalists Association. One way to get a negative quote from a source would be to say that Sacheen “worked” the occupation of Alcatraz — not a direct quote. When asked in 1997 by a PBS documentary crew she was clear about not having a job there due to having a full course load and that she only arrived on weekends late 70 and 71.

Reporter: Did you have a job on the island?

Sacheen: No, I didn’t, because my job was being a student. I was a college student. I was taking 17 units.

Sacheen Littlefeather in 1997 interviewed by a PBS documentary crew.

Accurate reporting could have been included if Jacqueline had made an effort to be unbiased. NY Times reported in 2012 Sacheen “joined a group of Native American college students who, on weekends, would haul in fresh water and food on a resupply boat” in spring of 1971.

In 2016, Sacheen Littlefeather and Eloy Martinez shared stories together at an event in San Francisco. They spoke on a panel together again in 2017. In a video shared by The California Historical Society Sacheen said “was a visitor on Alcatraz. I call myself a weekender.” She used the bulk of her speech to honour and name all the original 14 occupiers.

“Scheen Littefeather and Eloy Martinez reminisce” photo by Elliot Karlan for The Ark April 9, 2016

In 2019, Sacheen was part of a group of 150 attending a 50th anniversary of Alcatraz Occupation. She was photographed writing about her memories of her visit to Alcatraz.

“What is your favorite memory of the occupation?” photo by Joey Montoya
Sacheen Littlefeather Nov 20th 2019, at 50th anniversary of occupation of Alcatraz. via PressDemocrat

Sacheen’s weekender status was clear from her own statements and on Wikipedia (which Jacquelin had edited on March 28th 2022) so it is all the more obscene that Jacqueline found one person, LaNada War Jack (then going by LaNada Boyer and later LaNada Means), who left the island on the weekend to state that Sacheen was never there.

“The occupation lasted 19 months, and War Jack was there most of the time. On Sunday’s she would go down to the docks and hitch a ride to the Berkley marina, go back to her apartment to cleanup and check in with her professors.” -Sho Ban News 2016

LaNada is a total badass, I have to speculate that for LaNada to say this she must have been given an exaggerated version of Sacheen’s involvement (eg: several weeks attending, or an official job on Alcatraz) which LaNada would have easily remembered. I’m not suggesting LaNada is lying, it just seems possible they just never crossed paths.

Jacquelin said that Sacheen would have been in the Alcatraz log book but this is wrong. The log books did not include everyone on the island and the online copy ends Nov 1st 1970 which is prior to when Sacheen said she visited which was sometime between late November 1970 and Spring 1971. The occupation lasted until June 11th, 1971.

Jacqueline tweeted at me “I was told Adam Nordwall was not allowed on Alcatraz. He was allowed on the island once but he did not ‘hold the Rock.’” and blocked me shortly after. Adam can be found in the Alcatraz log book at least twice.

On Religious Differences

Both sisters are extremely vocal about their Christian identity and Rosalind Cruz has tried to convince people on Twitter that Sacheen Littlefeather “was far right,” but “kept it under the radar.” Sacheen however explained in detail in a 1976 appearance on I Believe her polytheistic view that combined the similarities of God and the Great Spirit with the caveat “this is my personal belief and I don’t speak for anybody else”.

Sacheen later married the son of the founder of the Native American Church, a church that combines Pan-Indigenous spirituality and Christianity. Sacheen met Charles Koshiway Johnson at a powwow. They were married 32 years until he passed away from blood cancer in November.

Sacheen’s mixed religious views were reflected in her funeral which began and ended with a powwow drum. The service was conducted by a priest and contained several quotes from the Bible.

On Sacheen’s Father

In the SFChronicle opinion, Jacqueline Keeler wrote “Both sisters insist that their primary goal in coming forward is to restore the truth about their parents, who they said were good, hard-working and caring people.” Rosalind Cruz repeating this sentiment on Twitter (1, 2, 3). Sacheen has claimed that she was abused by her father but Rosalind is most vocal in disputing this.

The simplest explanation assuming there is truth to Sacheen’s claim is that Rosalind had a different experience with her father. There was an 11 year age gap between the two. Rosalind described her father to Jacqueline as being “very ill” from age 3–9 and there is reason to think his ill health could have changed his behaviour. There is also a pattern in child abuse called “Cinderella phenomenon” where the older sibling is at higher risk.

The more complicated explanation surrounding Sacheen’s childhood memories might have something to do with her hospitalization for a suicide attempt at the age of 19 which she has been candid in talking about as early as 1976. While hospitalized, Sacheen described undergoing experimental psychodrama therapy where doctors role played her parents and reenacted her childhood. Sacheen told The Academy Museum “I just relived all these horrible, horrible memories.” Psychodrama, as with hypnosis, is known to cause false memory syndrome and is the reason memories recovered under either are no longer allowed in court.

Rosalind told the NY Post she tried to “expose Marie as a mentally unstable person” on The Oprah Winfrey Show 15 years ago but they wouldn’t listen. Sacheen in a 1976 interview had already said she “suffered tremendously from mental illness” she spoke in greater detail about her diagnosis in the 2019 documentary short SACHEEN Breaking the silence and she told The Academy Museum in 2022 she was “diagnosed correctly as schizoaffective bipolar,” took medication and was seeing a therapist every two weeks.

Origin of Sacheen’s Name

Jacqueline Keeler’s reporting made it seem like “Sacheen” was a fabricated “Indian” name.

“When asked how their sister, who they knew by the nickname “Deb” growing up, came up with her “Indian” name, Orlandi recalled how the sisters all used to make their clothes in 4-H. The spools of thread and ribbon were made by a company called the Sasheen Ribbon Co. They suspect that this may have been the inspiration for Sacheen.”

Name changes are common in Hollywood because the Screen Actor’s Guild (SAG) has a near-manadatory policy that no actor use the same working name as another actor. At the time there was an actress by the name of Mary Cruz. Sacheen didn’t claim it was an “Indian name” in interviews. This is expressed most clearly in a TV interview from 1976. Jacqueline seems to have ignored this because it was referenced in a later Substack post.

“Interviewer: I know Sacheen is a nickname — almost.

Sacheen: That’s my nickname — right — of my family. Before I became Littlefeather I was Sacheen Cruz and then after I was given my Indian name ‘jah-gid-bah-see-da-yay,’ [phonetic transliteration of unknown Native language] which means little feather, I went by that. There’s no mystery to this at all.” Sacheen Littlefeather 1976 at 10min

(NOTE Dec 12 2022: Jacqueline also ignored an Oct 1971 marriage notice of “Sacheen M. Cruz” in The San Francisco Examiner which she clipped from a month prior to the SFChronicle opinion.)

Second, from book by an investigative journalist published in 1987:

“I had always been called Sacheen by my family, though my name of record was Marie. As for ‘Littlefeather,’ that came about during the protest and occupation of Alcatraz Island when I wore a small eagle feather in my headband” Oscar Dearest 1987

Final Thoughts

This is not a complete list of Jacqueline Keeler’s distortions. The volume of material Jacqueline needed to cherry pick is massive. At every opportunity, she chose the least charitable and most reputation-damaging interpretation possible. To share those interpretations with a grieving family is cruel. It leads me to believe this was a malicious smear and that she would do it again.


According to Jacqueline Keeler: Daniel Voshart is apparently Metis or moving in that direction and, after being linked a post on my metis identity she asked “Where’s your family tree ad documentation?”.

(NOTE Dec 5 2022: This story ran for one day with a section about the anonymous account VedarHe. It has been removed temporarily out of an abundance of caution until a better analysis can be done.)