Apologize and Learn from Native Americans

There have been spotty and minor repairs to Native Americans, including one this year at Sacheen Littlefeather.


Dedicated to Carl Hammerschlag, MD, 04/18/39-01/21/22

A day after discovering and writing a daily column about the Kaiser strike by mental health clinicians, I read an apology from the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the 1973 Academy Awards. ceremony, Marlin Brando refused to accept his award for best actor in his portrayal of Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”. Instead, he sent a young woman in native costume, identified as Sacheen Littlefeather. She spoke about the film industry’s problematic treatment of American Indians and was by no means greeted warmly.

On June 18, the Academy publicly apologized to Littlefeather in a “statement of reconciliation,” which included:

“The emotional burden you have experienced and the loss of your own career in our industry is irreparable.”

This line directly links the film industry to the psychiatric field. About a year ago, Psychiatric Reparations Opportunities (PRO) and Andrew McLean, MD, advocated for psychiatric reparations to various minority groups, including Native Americans.1 It is clear that past traumas with intergenerational transmission, as well as current challenges, have left Native Americans with high rates of mental illness and incarceration. Elsewhere I have called it “apart”. There were patchy and minor reparations in terms of land and hidden government apologies.

Native Americans had their own healing practices that helped with coping. The late great psychiatrist Carl Hammerschlag, MD, wrote about what he learned from them, including how to dance.2 I tried to capture his work in a eulogy shortly after his death.3

What the nearly 50-year gap between Brando’s refusal tells us is that such departures, refusals and strikes can have beneficial results many years later, as activism and history occur. Repairing past psychological damage takes time, but can be done.

Doctor Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specializes in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry. A prolific writer and speaker, he received the unique designation of Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Assembly of the American Psychiatric Association in 2002. He is an advocate for mental health issues related to climate instability, burnout professional, Islamophobia and anti-Semitism. for a better world. He sits on the editorial board of Psychiatric Times™.


1. Moffic HD, Bailey R, McLean A, Okamoto T. The case of psychiatric reparations. Psychiatric time. 2021;38(8).

2. Hammerschlag C. The Dancing Healers: A Doctor’s Journey of Healing with Native Americans. HarperOne; 1989.

3. Moffic HS. The death of our dancer healer, Carl Hammerschlag, MD. Psychiatric time. January 25, 2022. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/the-death-of-our-dancing-healer-carl-hammerschlag-md

Nohemi M. Moore