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The Academy Expresses Regret To Sacheen Littlefeather For Standing Up For Marlon Brando And Declining An Oscar

At the 1973 Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather had just 60 seconds to address the audience.

The Academy Expresses Regret To Sacheen Littlefeather For Standing Up For Marlon Brando And Declining An Oscar but in her succinct speech, 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, nearly 50 years after it occurred.

David Rubin, a former president of the Academy, wrote to Littlefeather, saying, "The abuse you underwent as a result of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified."

"You have suffered an irreparable loss to your career in our industry as well as an emotional burden.

The courage you displayed has gone unnoticed for far too long. We sincerely apologize for this and express our admiration for you."

According to the Academy, Littlefeather will speak about 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 said, "We Indians are extremely 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 acknowledgement, 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."

Her Speech Earned Boos And Applause

Brando wasn't present when he received the best actor award for his leading performance in "The Godfather."

He requested Littlefeather, an activist and actress at the time, to represent him by attending the event and declining the prize.

Littlefeather seriously announced herself as an Apache lady 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 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 invaded the South Dakota hamlet of Wounded Knee, but were faced with opposition from federal law enforcement.

As a result, Brando declined to accept the medal. Littlefeather said 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 crowd, 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 said that "Indians were selfishly attempting to keep (the US) for themselves," allegedly charged towards her to "remove (her) off the stage" before being held by security personnel.

Littlefeather claimed she struggled to find work in the film business after the event and felt "silenced."

After winning the Oscars, she devoted a large portion of her career to campaigning and creating performing arts groups for Indigenous performers.

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 defends of Native Americans.

Key Points

  • When Sacheen Littlefeather spoke for Native American rights, the audience booed her.
  • After winning an Oscar for The Godfather, Marlon Brando offered her the opportunity.
  • The Academy expressed regret for the mistreatment she received.

Conclusion

When Littlefeather turned down Brando's best actor nomination for The Godfather, she became the first Native American woman to appear on the Academy Awards stage.

She said that the actor was unable to receive the honor due to "the abuse of American Indians today by the film business" while donning a buckskin outfit and moccasins.

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