Sacheen Littlefeather, the activist who made national news in 1973 when she refused to accept Marlon Brando’s Oscar for The Godfather, has died. The news was announced by the Academy of Motion Pictures and comes after a battle with breast cancer. Littlefeather was 75 years old.
In 1973, Brando boycotted the Academy Awards in order to protest Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans and to raise awareness of the Wounded Knee standoff. Littlefeather took his place and, as expected, with Brando being the frontrunner, it was announced that he won Best Actor for The Godfather. On Brando’s behalf, Littlefeather declined to accept the Oscar for the aforementioned reasons. This was met with boos from those in attendance, and celebrities like Clint Eastwood and Michael Caine would later criticize Littlefeather for disrupting the ceremony in this way.
Decades later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences would officially apologize to Littlefeather. Upon learning of the apology in August, Littlefeather told THR she was “stunned” by the news. She added, “I never thought I would live to see the day I would hear this, experience this. »
On September 17, the Academy also hosted a special event for the activist titled “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather.” During the celebration, Littlefeather got her apology in person while discussing her activism and the Oscars big moment. She was also recorded reading Brando’s full Oscars acceptance speech which should not have been read on the day of the ceremony in 1973 due to time constraints.
Sacheen Littlefeather holds an important place in the history of cinema
Littlefeather also recently opened up about the death in a separate interview with Variety. She explained that she was not afraid to die, confident that she would find those she lost in the years before her.
“When we die, we know our ancestors come to give,” she said. “We know that we are going to this spirit world from which we came. We take this as a warrior with pride and not as a defeat, looking forward to joining our ancestors who will be there with us at our last breath and they will welcome us to this world on the other side and throw a big party for us. »
Sacheen had a few acting roles in the 1970s, appearing in films like Counselor of Crime, The Trial of Billy Jack, Winterhawk, Shoot the Sun Down, and Johnny Firecloud. Due to the Oscars controversy, she was essentially blacklisted, putting an immediate end to her acting career. In 2009, she appeared in the documentary Reel Injun, and in 2018, she was the subject of the documentary Sacheen: Breaking the Silence.
Our thoughts are with the family and friends of Littlefeather at this time. May she rest in peace.