The Academy Apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for Her Treatment at the 1973 Oscars: NPR

Sacheen Littlefeather arrives at the Oscars to announce that Marlon Brando has turned down his Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Godfatheron March 27, 1973.

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Sacheen Littlefeather arrives at the Oscars to announce that Marlon Brando has turned down his Best Actor Oscar for his role in The Godfatheron March 27, 1973.

AP

NEW YORK — Nearly 50 years after Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage on behalf of Marlon Brando at the Academy Awards to discuss Hollywood films’ portrayal of Native Americans, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences apologized to her the abuse she had suffered.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures said Monday it will welcome Littlefeather, now 75, on September 17 for an evening of “conversations, healing and celebration.”

When Brando won Best Actor The Godfather, Littlefeather, wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, took the stage and became the first Native American woman to do so at the Academy Awards. In a 60-second speech, she explained that Brando could not accept the award because of “the film industry’s treatment of American Indians today.”

Some in the audience booed her. Reportedly, John Wayne, who was backstage at the time, was furious. The 1973 Academy Awards took place during the American Indian Movement’s two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. In the years since, Littlefeather has said she has been ridiculed, discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief appearance at the Academy Awards.

In the announcement, the academy museum shared a letter that David Rubin, the academy’s president, sent to Littlefeather on June 18 about the iconic Oscars moment. Rubin called Littlefeather’s speech “a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity”.

“The abuse you suffered as a result of that statement was unjustified and unjustified,” Rubin wrote. “The emotional toll you have endured and the cost of your own career in our industry is beyond repair. For too long the courage you have shown has not been recognised. For this we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

Littlefeather said in a statement it was “deeply heartening to see how much has changed since I didn’t accept the Oscar 50 years ago.”

“Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” Littlefeather said. “We always have to keep our sense of humor. It is our method of survival.”

At the Academy Museum event in Los Angeles, Littlefeather will speak with producer Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance.

In a podcast earlier this year with Jacqueline Stewart, a film scholar and director of the Academy Museum, Littlefeather reflected on what compelled her to speak out in 1973.

“I felt like there should be Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, Chicanos — I felt like everyone should be included,” Littlefeather said. “A rainbow of people who should be involved in creating their own image.”

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