Sacheen Littlefeather: Actress who famously declined Marlon Brando's Oscar dies aged 75
Bang Showbiz

Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American activist who declined Marlon Brando's Oscar at the 1973 Academy Awards and was subsequently heckled, has died aged 75 after a fight against breast cancer.

In August the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences apologised to the actor and activist 50 years after the incident.

The then-26-year-old took to the stage to decline Marlon Brando's Oscar for Best Actor for his role in The Godfather on his behalf.

Littlefeather led with an improvised but meaningful speech on the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood films, saying: "I'm representing Marlon Brando this evening,

"He would very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award, and the reasons for this being are the treatments of American Indians today by the film industry."

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The 1973 Oscars were during a time when approximately 200 Oglala Lakota (sometimes referred to as Oglala Sioux) and followers of the American Indian Movement (AIM) seized and occupied the town of Wounded Knee, South Dakota.

Littlefeather, now 75, was instantly subject to abuse and heckling – and some cheers.

John Wayne had to be restrained from storming the stage to physically attack her, she told The Hollywood Reporter. The events had impacted her career in Hollywood too. She said the federal government threatened to shut down any talk shows or productions that put her on the air.

"I was stunned. I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this," Littlefeather told the outlet. "When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone."

Littlefeather said the Academy’s statement was first presented to her in June.

Marlon Brando's Oscar® win for "The Godfather"

The apology, from then-Academy president David Rubin, read: "The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,”

“The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration."

The apology will be read in full at the Academy Museum event in Los Angeles on September 17.

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