The Academy expresses regret to Sacheen Littlefeather for standing up for Marlon Brando and declining an Oscar.
(CNN)Sacheen Littlefeather’s speech at the 1973 Academy Awards was limited to 60 seconds. In her succinct statement, she declined the Oscar for best actor on behalf of Marlon Brando, drew loud jeers and boos, and spoke out in favor of Native American rights on live television.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is officially apologizing to Littlefeather for the treatment she received both during her speech and in the years that followed, over 50 years after it occurred.
David Rubin, a past president of the Academy, wrote to Littlefeather, saying, “The persecution you underwent as a result of this speech was inappropriate and wrong.” “You have suffered an irreversible loss to your career in our sector as well as an emotional hardship. The courage you have shown has gone unnoticed for far too long. We sincerely apologize for this and express our appreciation for you.”
According to the Academy, Littlefeather will speak on her historic Oscars appearance and the future of Indigenous representation on screen at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures next month.
Littlefeather described the approaching occasion when she would hear the apology in person, as “a dream come true” in a statement.
It’s only been 50 years! Regarding the Academy’s apologies to me, she exclaimed, “We Indians are very patient people. “We must always maintain our sense of humor about this. It’s how we stay alive.”
Several Indigenous performers will take the stage during the Littlefeather event, including Virginia Carmelo, a Tongva descendant who will conduct a land acknowledgment, and Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance.
Littlefeather added, “It is extremely encouraging to see how much has changed in the fifty years since I refused to accept the Academy Award.
She was booed and cheered for her speech.
Brando wasn’t present when he received the best actor award for his leading role in “The Godfather.” He asked Littlefeather, an activist and actress at the time, to represent him by attending the ceremony and declining the award.
Littlefeather seriously announced herself as an Apache woman and the president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee as she entered the platform in a buckskin attire.
She paused and appeared extremely agitated as she added, to boos and acclaim, “(Brando) very sadly cannot accept this very wonderful award, and the reasons for this are the treatment of American Indians today by the film business.” I humbly ask that I do not interrupt this evening and that in the future, our hearts and our understandings will come together in kindness and giving.
The American Indian Movement occupied the South Dakota hamlet of Wounded Knee but was faced with resistance from federal law enforcement. As a result, Brando declined to accept the medal. Littlefeather claimed that she made Brando a commitment not to handle the Oscar trophy.
She told the official Academy blog, A.Frame, “I concentrated in on the lips and the jaws that were dropping open in the audience, and there were quite a few.” But there weren’t many individuals of color in the audience, so it was like staring into a sea of Clorox, you know.
The conservative Western actor John Wayne, who reportedly claimed that “Indians were selfishly attempting to keep (the US) for themselves,” allegedly charged toward her to “remove (her) off the stage” before being held by security personnel.
Littlefeather claimed she struggled to find work in the film industry after the ceremony and felt “silenced.” After winning the Oscars, she devoted a large portion of her career to campaigning and creating performing arts groups for Indigenous actors.
Littlefeather claimed that she earned acclaim and support from figures like Coretta Scott King and Cesar Chavez despite the criticism she experienced from some in Hollywood who disapproved of her defending of Native Americans.
She said to A. Frame, “I knew I had done the right thing.”