Sacheen Littlefeather, Who Declined Brando's Oscar, Dies at 75
(AP) — Sacheen Littlefeather, the actor and activist who declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award for “The Godfather” on his behalf in an indelible protest of Hollywood's portrayal of Native Americans, has died. She was 75.
Littlefeather's niece, Calina Lawrence, confirmed that she died peacefully Sunday, surrounded by loved ones at her California, home. The cause was breast cancer, the family said.
Littlefeather’s appearance at the 1973 Oscars would become one of the award show's most famous moments.
Clad in buckskin dress and moccasins, Littlefeather took the stage when presenter Roger Moore read Brando's name as the winner for best actor.
Speaking to the audience, Littlefeather cited Native American stereotypes in film and the then-ongoing weekslong protest at Wounded Knee in South Dakota as the reason for Brando’s absence. She said Brando had written “a very long speech” but she was restricted by time to brief remarks.
Producer Howard Koch had allegedly warned Littlefeather, then 26, that he would have her arrested if she spoke for more than a minute.
Although brief, straightforward and courteous, Littlefeather’s appearance was contentious, receiving a mix of applause and boos from the audience. In the years after, Littlefeather endured considerable scorn and abuse for her speech, she said.
Only recently did the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences officially address the treatment Littlefeather received following her appearance. In August, the film academy apologized to Littlefeather. Two weeks ago, it held an evening of “conversation, healing and celebration” in her honor.
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