Sacheen Littlefeather, the histrion and activistic who declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award for “The Godfather” connected his behalf successful an indelible protestation of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans, has died. She was 75.
Littlefeather’s niece, Calina Lawrence, confirmed that she died peacefully Sunday, surrounded by loved ones astatine her Marin County, California, home. The origin was bosom cancer, the household said.
Littlefeather’s quality astatine the 1973 Oscars would go 1 of the grant show’s astir celebrated moments. Clad successful buckskin formal and moccasins, Littlefeather took the signifier erstwhile presenter Roger Moore work Brando’s sanction arsenic the victor for champion actor.
Speaking to the audience, Littlefeather cited Native American stereotypes successful movie and the then-ongoing weekslong protestation astatine Wounded Knee successful South Dakota arsenic the crushed for Brando’s absence. She said Brando had written “a precise agelong speech” but she was restricted by clip to little remarks.
“I beg astatine this clip that I person not intruded upon this evening and that we volition successful the future, our hearts and our understandings volition conscionable with emotion and generosity,” Littlefeather said, becoming the archetypal Native American pistillate to look onstage astatine the Oscars.
Although brief, straightforward and courteous, Littlefeather’s quality was contentious, receiving a premix of applause and boos from the audience. In the years after, Littlefeather endured sizeable scorn and maltreatment for her speech, she said.
“I spoke from my heart,” she told The Associated Press days aft the Oscars. “Those words were written successful blood, possibly my ain blood. I felt astir similar Christ carrying the value of the transverse connected his shoulders.”
Only precocious did the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences officially code the attraction Littlefeather received pursuing her appearance. In August, the movie academy apologized to Littlefeather. Two weeks ago, it held an evening of “conversation, healing, and celebration” successful her honor.
“The maltreatment you endured due to the fact that of this connection was unwarranted and unjustified,” the academy’s president, David Rubin, wrote successful a missive to Littlefeather. “The affectional load you person lived done and the outgo to your ain vocation successful our manufacture are irreparable. For excessively agelong the courageousness you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we connection some our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”
Littlefeather responded successful a statement: “We Indians are precise diligent people—it’s lone been 50 years!”
“We request to support our consciousness of wit astir this astatine each times,” she added. “It’s our method of survival.”
By Jake Coyle