Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather took the stage at Marlon Brando’s request to speak about Native Americans and was booed.
Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American civil rights activist who turned down Marlon Brando’s Best Actor Oscar in 1973, spoke about that infamous night and the recent apology from the Academy of the Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for the way she was addressed at an event in his honor this weekend.
Littlefeather’s speech has been a big part of Oscar history: After Brando won Best Actor for his role in The Godfather, Littlefeather took the stage and, at Brando’s request, refused to accept the award. She spoke about stereotypes of Native Americans in film and television, as well as the Wounded Knee protest in South Dakota. Littlefeather’s speech was met with boos: she was threatened with arrest and later claimed that John Wayne had tried to ” physically attack “.
Almost 50 years later, the Academy issued a formal apology to Littlefeather in a private statement in June. This apology was announced publicly in August, and over the weekend the Academy held an event in his honor, ” An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather “.
In a conversation with Academy member Bird Runningwater, Sacheen Littlefeather recalled the evening with as much gravity as humor. She joked that she saw some of her favorite actors in the crowd, like Lee Bowman and Roger Moore, and noted that her non-acceptance speech went ” less than 60 seconds “. But she also spoke of the commotion behind the scene, which she later learned was six security guards restraining a furious Wayne.
” This is the most violent act that has ever taken place at the Oscars ceremony”, said Littlefeather, adding that while walking backstage, she heard people mocking Native American chants and saw others doing the tomahawk stunt. “ I just kept walking, with dignity, to the four different newsrooms I went to. And then, after that, I kept my head up, and I left with a car waiting for me. »
After Runningwater remarked that Littlefeather gave one of the first, if not the first, political speech at the Oscars, she said, ” I was not representing myself, I was representing all indigenous voices. All indigenous peoples. ‘Cause we’ve never been heard this way before. »
Along with her chat with Runningwater, Littlefeather shared a short speech in response to the Academy’s apology. Speaking of the challenges she and other Indigenous peoples faced in a ” unworkable society that has deliberately set out to erase the existence and diversity of indigenous peoples through genocide and oppression Littlefeather said she agreed to Brando’s request knowing ” the impact and importance of representing all Indigenous peoples that night “.
She added: “ I am here to accept this apology, not for myself alone, but in recognition, knowing that it was not just for me, but for all of our nations, who equally need to hear and deserve this apology tonight . After asking all natives in the audience to stand up, Littlefeather continued, “ Be proud that we are survivors – all of us. Please when I am gone, always remember that every time you stand up for your truth, you will keep your voice and the voices of our nations and peoples alive. “.
Translated by the editor