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.
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.