The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather 50 years after the 1973 Oscars ceremony. The Hollywood Reporter says that Littlefeather has been invited to be a guest of honor at the Academy Museum during an evening of reflection. The Academy will present Littlefeather a formal apology at the event. This is a significant shift from the treatment Littlefeather received at the age of 26 when she appeared at the 1973 Oscars on behalf of actor Marlon Brando to reject his Best Actor award for The Godfather. Littlefeather cited Brando’s reason for rejecting the Oscar as “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry… and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.”
Sacheen Littlefeather Faced Backlash For Oscars Speech
Littlefeather’s Oscars speech immediately made her an object of public scorn. She said that John Wayne was about to storm the stage and physically attack her before he was restrained. Littlefeather had worked as an actress before the Oscars, and she claims that the federal government threatened to shut down any talk shows or productions that put her on the air after her speech. More recently, Littlefeather was mocked by comedian Dennis Miller when he joked about Elizabeth Warren, saying Warren was “as much Indian as that stripper chick Brando sent to pick up his Oscar.” The Oscars have had numerous controversies ranging from questionable winners to the recent slap heard worldwide, but Sacheen Littlefeather’s Oscars speech on Marlon Brando’s behalf remains among the most infamous.
Sacheen Littlefeather Receives Apology 50 Years Later
The Academy apologized to Littlefeather in a letter from former Academy president David Rubin dated June 18. Rubin wrote:
“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”
Littlefeather has responded to the apology and her invitation to the Academy Museum by saying, “I was stunned. I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this. When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”
Sacheen Littlefeather is now 75 and likely in her final years due to cancer.
While Sacheen Littlefeather’s Oscars speech made her a pariah, she has remained diligent in her activism on behalf of Native Americans. The Academy is now recognizing Sacheen Littlefeather for her dedication.