Academy apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather, who turned down Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando

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Nearly 50 years later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially apologizes to Littlefeather for the mistreatment she suffered during her speech and in the years to come.

“The abuse you suffered because of this statement was unwarranted and unwarranted,” former Academy president David Rubin wrote in a letter to Littlefeather. “The emotional burden you have experienced and the cost of your own career in our industry is irreparable. For too long the courage you have shown has gone unrecognized. For this, we present to you both our most sincere apologies and our sincere admiration.”

In a statement, Littlefeather called the upcoming event, where she will receive the apology in person, “a dream come true.”

“As for the Academy’s apologies, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” she says. “We have to keep our sense of humor about it at all times. It’s our method of survival.”

Several Indigenous artists will perform during the event for Littlefeather, including Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance, and Virginia Carmelo, a descendant of the Tongva people who will lead a territorial reconnaissance.

“It’s deeply encouraging to see how much everything has changed since I didn’t accept the Oscar 50 years ago,” Littlefeather said.

His speech earned him boos and applause

When Brando won Best Actor for his lead role in ‘The Godfather,’ he was absent. In her place, he asked Littlefeather, then an actress and activist, to attend the ceremony – and decline the award on her behalf.

take the stage quietly and calmly in a buckskin dress, Littlefeather solemnly introduced herself as an Apache woman and president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee.
“(Brando) unfortunately cannot accept this very generous award, and the reasons for that are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” she said. said to a mixture of boos and applause, stopping and looking visibly upset. “I beg at this time not to interfere with this evening, and that in the future our hearts and understandings will meet with love and generosity.”
Littlefeather said she promised Brando she wouldn't touch the award itself.
Brando also declined to accept the award due to the federal response to Injured knee, when members of the American Indian Movement occupied the South Dakota town but encountered resistance from federal law enforcement. Littlefeather said she promised Brando she wouldn’t touch the Oscars statuette, she said.
“I focused on the mouths and jaws opening in the audience, and there were quite a few,” she said. Told the Academy’s official blog, A.Frame. “But it was like looking into a sea of ​​Clorox, you know, there were very few people of color in the audience.”
She also said that John Wayne, the conservative West star who once said “The Indians were selfishly trying to keep (the United States) to themselves,” he blamed for “taking her (her) off the stage,” although he was restrained by security guards.

After the ceremony, Littlefeather said she was “quiet” and had trouble finding work in the film industry. She dedicated much of her post-Academy career to activism and founding performing arts organizations for Indigenous actors.

Despite the condemnation she received from some in Hollywood who disagreed with her defenses of Native Americans, Littlefeather said she received praise and support from leaders like Coretta Scott King and Cesar Chavez.

“I knew I had done the right thing,” she told A.Frame.

Correction: This article has been updated to note that David Rubin is the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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