The Native American actress and activist reflects on the 1973 Oscars protest

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September 17 (Reuters) – Half a century ago, actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage in a traditional buckskin dress at the Oscars to turn down an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando and began a speech about Native’s mistreatment the film industry Americans.

She was booed off the stage at the 1973 ceremony 60 seconds later for the comments that drew attention to a Native American protest in Wounded Knee, South Dakota. She was then professionally boycotted by the film industry for decades.

On Saturday night, Littlefeather, now 75, received a thunderous round of applause as she took the stage to reflect on her protest at an event held in her honor at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles.

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“Well, I did it. It took 50 years,” she said.

The “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather” event featured live Native American performances and was streamed on the museum’s YouTube page.

Her boyfriend Brando boycotted the 45th Academy Awards because of the Native American stereotypes in film and television. The Best Actor winner for portraying Vito Corleone in The Godfather asked Littlefeather to take part in his place.

In addition to the boos, Littlefeather recalled on Saturday, people were making tomahawk chop gestures and taunting “Indian” whoops. “Big John Wayne was ready to attack me. He had to be restrained by six security guards,” she said.

The Saturday program featured the reading of a letter of apology to Littlefeather for her treatment by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“When you walked the Oscars stage in 1973 not to accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, you made a powerful statement in recognition of the film industry’s misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native Americans that continues to remind us of the need.” respect and the importance of human dignity,” the letter said.

She replied: “I accept this apology not only for myself, but an acknowledgment not only for me but for our whole (Native American) nation. Our nation needs to hear that apology.”

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Reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Adaptation by William Mallard

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