The Native American actress who refused an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando has died
Steph Deschamps / October 3, 2022
Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American actress and activist who in 1973 was booed as she turned down an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, has died at the age of 75, the Academy of Motion Picture Awards announced Sunday.
In its Twitter message announcing her death, the Academy quoted Littlefeather as saying, "When I am gone, always remember that whenever you stand for your truth, you will keep my voice and the voices of our nations and peoples alive." Two weeks ago, the Academy held a ceremony at its new museum in Los Angeles to honor Littlefeather and publicly apologize for her treatment at the Academy Awards nearly 50 years ago.
Littlefeather, who is Apache and Yaqui, was booed at the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony -- the first to be broadcast live around the world -- as she explained on Brando's behalf why he would not accept his Best Actor Oscar for "The Godfather." Brando had asked Littlefeather to decline the award for him in protest of the film industry's treatment of Native Americans. "I went in, as a proud Indian woman, with dignity, courage, grace and humility," Littlefeather said at the museum ceremony. "I knew I had to tell the truth. Some people can accept it. And some people can't." She recounted having to stop veteran Western star John Wayne from physically assaulting her as she left the stage. Littlefeather, a member of the Screen Actors Guild -- the first film actors' union founded in 1933 -- then had trouble finding work in Hollywood, with casting directors warned not to employ her.
Asked by reporters before the ceremony how she felt about waiting so long to receive an apology, Littlefeather was philosophical. "It's never too late for an apology. It's never too late for forgiveness," she said.