Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American Actress Who Refused Oscar for Marlon Brando, Dies at 75

Sacheen Littlefeather appears at the Academy Awards ceremony to announce that Marlon Brand
AP Photo

Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who stood on the Academy Awards stage on behalf of Marlon Brando to refuse his Oscar in 1973, has died. She was 75.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced her passing Sunday in a tweet that quoted Littlefeather saying: “When I am gone, always be reminded that whenever you stand for your truth, you will be keeping my voice and the voices of our nations and our people alive.”

Two weeks ago, the Academy held a ceremony at its new Los Angeles museum honoring Littlefeather.

It used the event to publicly apologize for her treatment at the Oscars ceremony nearly 50 years ago, as Breitbart News reported.

At the 1973 Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather refuses the Academy Award for Best Actor on behalf of Marlon Brando who won for his role in The Godfather. She carries a letter from Brando in which he explains he refused the award in protest of American treatment of the Native Americans.

File/At the 1973 Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather refuses the Academy Award for Best Actor on behalf of Marlon Brando who won for his role in The Godfather. (BettmannGetty)

Littlefeather shot to global prominence when Brando won best actor for The Godfather, and she took the stage wearing buckskin dress and moccasins to address the gathered audience and through them the watching world.

In a 60-second speech, she explained Brando could not accept the award, adding the absent actor had asked Littlefeather to decline the award for him in an act of protest against the “treatment of Native Americans by the film industry.”

Littlefeather had been instructed not to touch the Oscar statuette and had been given a typed eight-page speech to read.

File/American Indian activist Sacheen Littlefeather adorned w. tribal, beaded pigtail decorations & feather in her hair as she wears a down jacket over squaw dress while marching in a parade; San Francisco. (Kim Komenich/Getty)

AFP reports she said Western star John Wayne had to be restrained from physically assaulting her as she left the stage.

Littlefeather, a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, subsequently found it difficult to get work in Hollywood, with casting directors warned not to employ her.

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.

Sacheen Littlefeather on stage at AMPAS Presents An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather at Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 17, 2022 in Los Angeles. (Frazer Harrison/Getty)

“I felt that there should be Native people, Black people, Asian people, Chicano people — I felt there should be an inclusion of everyone,” said Littlefeather.

“A rainbow of people that should be involved in creating their own image.”

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