Native American actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who in 1973 was booed when she refused an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, has died at the age of 75. This summer, almost fifty years later, Sacheen Littlefeather finally received an apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Of Apache and Yaqui descent, actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather died at the age of 75, the Academy of Oscars announced on Sunday, October 2.
This summer 2022, the one who had been booed during the ceremony of Oscars from 1973 as she explained why Marlon Brando, who didn’t show up and couldn’t accept his best actor award for ‘The Godfather’, received an apology from the Academy.
In a text he had written himself, Marlon Brando had accused Hollywood of pouring into the stereotype by “degrading the Indians” and “mocking their nature, portraying it as savage, hostile and malevolent”.
Sacheen Littlefeather later reported that security guards had to stop Western star John Wayne from physically assaulting her. In the years since, Littlefeather has said she was mocked, discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief Oscar appearance.
insults “inappropriate and unjustified”
She explained that this speech had cost her her career, believing that the American government had encouraged the entertainment industry to avoid hiring her in order to end American Indian activism.
1973: Native American actor Sacheen Littlefeather boo’d (and cheered) by Hollywood at the Oscars before being mocked by Clint Eastwood and almost physically assaulted by John Wayne simply for asking that Indigenous people not to be dehumanized in film.pic.twitter.com/BgOiuBq4hR
— rafael shimunov (@rafaelshimunov) October 11, 2021
“The insults you suffered because of this statement were misplaced and unwarranted,” said the letter sent in June by then-Academy President David Rubin.
“The emotional burden you have carried and the cost to your own career in our industry is irreparable.” Rubin also called the actress’ speech “a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity.”
“For too long, the courage you have shown has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer you both our most sincere apologies and our sincere admiration.
The Academy released this letter as it announced that Sacheen Littlefeather would be invited to speak at the Oscars museum in Los Angeles on September 17. “We Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” Sacheen Littlefeather reacted.
“We have to keep our sense of humor about it all the time. It is our means of survival,” she added. “It’s heartwarming to see how so much has changed since I didn’t accept the Oscar 50 years ago.”
In a podcast earlier this year with Jacqueline Stewart, film scholar and director of the Academy Museum, Sacheen Littlefeather shared what prompted her to speak out in 1973.
“I had felt there should be Natives, Blacks, Asians, Chicanos – I thought there should be inclusion of everyone. A rainbow of people who should be involved in creating their own image,” she explained.
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Death of Sacheen Littlefeather: when the Academy of Oscars finally apologized to him