Academy Apologizes To Sacheen Littlefeather Almost 50 Years After Her Oscars Protest
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Topline

The organizer of the Academy Awards has apologized to Native American actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather for the way she was treated when she protested Hollywood’s depiction of Native Americans at the 1973 Oscars.

Key Facts

In June, Littlefeather was presented with an apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ then-president David Rubin, the organization said Monday.

Rubin wrote that the abuse Littlefeather endured after speaking out against Native American stereotypes in the media was “unwarranted and unjustified” and that “for too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged.”

In a statement through the Academy, Littlefeather said it is “profoundly heartening” to see how much has changed since she declined Marlon Brando’s Best Actor Oscar, for his performance in The Godfather, on his behalf in 1973.

Littlefeather will discuss her experience in a live interview at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in September, which will be livestreamed to the public for free.

Crucial Quote

“We Indians are very patient people—it’s only been 50 years!” Littlefeather joked in a statement. “We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.”

Key Background

The 26-year-old Littlefeather appeared onstage at the 45th Academy Awards on behalf of Marlon Brando to decline his Best Actor Oscar for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather. Brando boycotted the award show to protest the industry’s portrayal of Native Americans and to draw attention to the ongoing occupation at Wounded Knee. When told she could not deliver a 739-word statement by Brando, Littlefeather gave an impassioned, 60-second, impromptu speech about Native American stereotypes in Hollywood. She also brought attention to the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota, which was seized by activists from the American Indian Movement over Native Americans’ treatment. Reaction to her speech at the awards show was mixed, and while she received some applause mixed with boos from the mostly perplexed crowd, her appearance largely garnered negative attention in the press and within the film industry. After the Oscars, Littlefeather was “professionally boycotted, personally attacked and harassed, and discriminated against,” the Academy said in a statement Monday.

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