Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American activist and actress, dead at 75

Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American activist and actress, dead at 75

Sacheen Littlefeather


Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American actress and activist who made records whilst she declined the Best Actor Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, has died on the age of 75.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences introduced her demise on Monday in a submit shared on Twitter.

The tweet, observed via way of means of an picture of the Apache and Yaqui actress, examine: “Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75.”

While no purpose of demise turned into without delay given, Littlefeather disclosed in a Facebook submit in January remaining yr that she had metastasized breast cancer.

Littlefeather made records whilst she stepped on degree on the 1973 Oscars on behalf of “The Godfather” big name Brando, who determined to boycott the award rite in protest on the portrayal of Native Americans at the massive screen.

Brando turned into additionally reacting to the reaction of federal regulation enforcement to the career of the South Dakota city of Wounded Knee via way of means of participants of the American Indian Movement.

Her brief speech, for which she wore a buckskin get dressed and moccasins, turned into met with a combination of boos and applause. 

It fee the budding actress, whose movie credit included “Winterhawk,” “Shoot the Sun Down” and “The Trial of Billy Jack,” her profession as she turned into quickly blacklisted from the movie enterprise and refrained from via way of means of the enjoyment world.

In August, the Academy officially apologized to Littlefeather for the mistreatment she skilled at some stage in her speech and withinside the years that followed.

A letter from former Academy President David Rubin to Littlefeather stated the abuse she persevered turned into “unwarranted and unjustified.”

He brought: “The emotional burden you've got got lived via and the fee for your very own profession in our enterprise are irreparable. For too lengthy the braveness you confirmed has been unacknowledged. For this, we provide each our private apologies and our honest admiration.”

Describing the apology as a “dream come true,” Littlefeather stated: “We Indians are very affected person human beings – it’s simplest been 50 years!

“We want to maintain our humorousness approximately this in any respect times. It’s our approach of survival,” she brought.

Last month, the Academy hosted an occasion at its movie museum in Los Angeles that featured Littlefeather as a keynote speaker along different Indigenous performers.



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 turned into 75.

READ MORE: Supreme Court guidelines that Native Americans prosecuted in tribal courts also can be prosecuted in federal court

Littlefeather’s niece, Calina Lawrence, showed that she died peacefully Sunday, surrounded via way of means of cherished ones at her Marin County, California, home. The purpose turned into breast cancer, the own circle of relatives stated.

Littlefeather’s look on the 1973 Oscars might emerge as one of the award display’s maximum well-known moments. Clad in buckskin get dressed and moccasins, Littlefeather took the degree whilst presenter Roger Moore examine Brando’s call because the winner for first-rate actor.

Speaking to the target target market, Littlefeather referred to Native American stereotypes in movie and the then-ongoing weekslong protest at Wounded Knee in South Dakota because the purpose for Brando’s absence. 

She stated Brando had written “a totally lengthy speech” however she turned into constrained via way of means of time to short remarks. Producer Howard Koch had allegedly warned Littlefeather, then 26, that he might have her arrested if she spoke for extra than a minute.

“I beg right now that I even have now no longer intruded upon this night and that we can withinside the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity,” Littlefeather stated, turning into the primary Native American girl to seem onstage on the Oscars.

Although short, truthful and courteous, Littlefeather’s look turned into contentious, receiving a combination of applause and boos from the target target market. In the years after, Littlefeather persevered widespread scorn and abuse for her speech, she stated.

“I spoke from my heart,” she advised The Associated Press days after the Oscars. “Those phrases have been written in blood, possibly my very own blood. I felt approximately like Christ wearing the load of the pass on his shoulders.”

Only these days did the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences formally cope with the remedy Littlefeather acquired following her look. In August, the movie academy apologized to Littlefeather. Two weeks ago, it held an night of “conversation, recovery and celebration” in her honor.

“The abuse you persevered due to this assertion turned into unwarranted and unjustified,” the academy’s president, David Rubin, wrote in a letter to Littlefeather. 

“The emotional burden you've got got lived via and the fee for your very own profession in our enterprise are irreparable. For too lengthy the braveness you confirmed has been unacknowledged. For this, we provide each our private apologies and our honest admiration.”

Littlefeather answered in a assertion: “We Indians are very affected person human beings — it’s simplest been 50 years!”

“We want to maintain our humorousness approximately this in any respect times,” she brought. “It’s our approach of survival.”

Littlefeather turned into born Marie Cruz on Nov. 14, 1946, in Salinas, California. Her father turned into from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes and her mom turned into white. Both have been saddle makers. 

They separated whilst Littlefeather turned into four, and then she turned into raised in large part via way of means of her grandparents. She took the call Sacheen Littlefeather after excessive school. Sacheen, she stated, turned into what her father had known as her; the surname got here from a feather she frequently wore in her hair.

Littlefeather’s access into performing corresponded together along with her activism. She turned into a part of the Native American career of Alcatraz Island in 1969, she stated, and started out performing with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater withinside the early ’70s.

Littlefeather met Brando via her neighbor, “Godfather” director Francis Ford Coppola. She had regarded Brando for approximately a yr earlier than he known as her the night time earlier than the 1973 rite, invited her to his residence and requested her to wait in his place.

Political speeches on the Oscars have been then nevertheless a rarity, and a few in attendance noticed the short cope with as a destroy in decorum — and one which raised a topic now no longer every body turned into keen to consider.

“I don’t understand if I ought to gift this award on behalf of all of the cowboys shot in all of the John Ford Westerns over the years,” Clint Eastwood stated later withinside the night, at the same time as providing the award for first-rate picture. Presenting first-rate actress, presenter Raquel Welch cracked: “I wish they haven’t were given a purpose.”

“I went up there wondering I may want to make a difference,” Littlefeather advised People mag in 1990. “I turned into very naive. I advised human beings approximately oppression. They stated, ‘You’re ruining our night.'”

Littlefeather defined the overwhelmingly white crowd as “a sea of Clorox.” She stated a few target target market participants did the so-known as “tomahawk chop” and that Brando’s residence turned into later shot at.

Over the years, Littlefeather brought to the lore, describing John Wayne, who turned into withinside the theater wings as she spoke, as “equipped to have me taken off degree.” 

In 2016, Littlefeather advised The Los Angeles Times that Wayne “needed to be constrained via way of means of six safety guards.” The movie student Farran Smith Nehme has for the reason that researched the intended incident and discovered no proof it occurred.

But it turned into indeniable that Littlefeather’s lifestyles turned into altered via way of means of the ones 60 seconds. Following the Oscars, her credentials as an actor and activist — Littlefeather had posed in 1972 for Playboy, which she defended as evidence that “crimson turned into beautiful” — have been wondered in tabloid reviews and elsewhere. 

Her possibilities as an actor dried up. Littlefeather stated she turned into “crimson-listed” from the enterprise. She fell out of display commercial enterprise and, withinside the a long time after, labored frequently as an activist for Native Americans.

At the academy occasion remaining month, Littlefeather, then in a wheelchair, stated regardless of all of the trouble she confronted after the Oscars, she might do all of it again.

“I turned into representing all Indigenous voices out there, due to the fact we had by no means been heard in that manner earlier than,” Littlefeather stated. 

“And if I needed to pay the rate of admission, then that turned into OK, due to the fact the ones doorways needed to be opened — like Yosemite Sam. Somebody needed to do it.”

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