Nearly 50 years after being insulted onstage for defending Indigenous rights at an Oscars ceremony, Native American activist Sashen Littlefeather has died at the age of 75.
Less than two months after the Academy apologized for its treatment of her at the 1973 Academy Awards, Sashen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaki/Ariz) passed away at the age of 75, according to the Academy of Motion Pictures. rice field.
Littlefeather was diagnosed with breast cancer.
The Academy announced her death in a tweet Saturday night.
Apology for being 49 years late
When Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaqui/Ariz) represented Marlon Brando at the 1973 Oscars, she spoke out against the abuse of Native Americans and refused to accept Brando’s award on his behalf. Littlefeather’s film career came to an end as a result of the harassment and abuse she received after 60 seconds of remarks, during which she was ridiculed and booed.
According to The Hollywood Reporter (THR), the Academy issued an official apology to Littlefeather 50 years later on June 18, and invited her to the Academy Museum on September 17 as a guest for a night of reflection.
On stage, in a historic moment at both the 1973 Academy Awards and live broadcast, Littlefeather was heckled backstage and threatened with both arrest and assault. At Marlon Brando’s request, the then-26-year-old native American actress came on stage and declined the Best Actor Award for his role in the film classic The Godfather.
She vowed to follow Brand’s instructions, not to touch the statuettes, and to limit her remarks to a maximum of 60 seconds (instructions from show producer Howard Koch, which will continue for the allotted time).
After Koch’s intimidation, which became an obstacle in reading Brando’s pre-written speech, Little Feather was pushed to improvise her speech.
“[Brando] It is with great regret that I cannot accept this very generous award,” said Littlefeather, adding, “The reason this award was given is the film industry’s treatment of American Indians today.” [the audience begins to boo] — excuse me — about movie reruns on TV, and even the recent happenings at Wounded Knee.
At the time, Wounded Knee was under a blackout imposed by the US Department of Justice. Native Americans were occupying villages in South Dakota in protest of continued abuses against their people.
She visited the Academy again after more than 50 years, as an honored guest at an evening of contemplation at the Academy Museum, including a formal apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (AMPAS).
“I was stunned. I never thought the day would come when I would hear this and experience this,” he added, adding, “When I was on the podium in 1973, I was standing there alone.” said Littlefeather, now 75, of the apology she received.
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Everything changed for Littlefeather after her infamous speech. THR revealed that even talk shows and productions had been threatened with shutdown by the US federal government.
An apology signed by then-Academy President David Rubin, dated June 18, reads:
“You took the Oscar stage in 1973 and did not accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando. It continues to remind us of the respect and importance of human dignity.
The abuse you received because of this statement was unjustified and unjustified. The emotional toll you have been through and the cost to your own career in our industry is irreparable. The courage you showed went unrecognized for too long. We deeply apologize for this and express our sincere respect.
Achieving the Academy’s mission to ‘ignite the imagination and connect the world through cinema’ would not be possible without its commitment to fostering the broadest range of expression and inclusion that reflects the diverse global population.
Today, nearly 50 years later, under the leadership of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance, ensuring that Indigenous voices (original storytellers) are visible and respected contributors to the global film community To that end, we are making a firm commitment. We are dedicated to fostering a more inclusive and respectful industry that leverages the balance between art and activism to drive progress.
We hope that you will receive this letter in the spirit of reconciliation and recognition of your important role in our journey as an organization. You are forever imprinted in our history. ”
At the Academy Museum’s Little Feather celebration on September 17, THR wrote: Littlefeather participates in a discussion with producer Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache/NM), co-chair of the Academy’s Native American League. Running Water was the first to contact Littlefeather on behalf of the Academy as part of the museum’s ongoing initiative to explore the group’s past and determine its future through a more holistic and holistic lens. was a person.
Littlefeather makes her first trip to the museum, where her photo is placed in a gallery chronicling the history of the Academy Awards. , Littlefeather studied traditional medicine and nutrition, and worked at Mother Teresa’s AIDS hospice. However, she did not anticipate a settlement with the most powerful Hollywood institution.
According to THR, Littlefeather, who has metastatic breast cancer, said: Native He said as his friends in the community said, it’s been put off for a long time,” adding, “I could have been dead by now. All of my friends- [activists] Dennis Banks, Russell Means, John Trudell, [comedian] Charlie Hill – he’s gone.”
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When asked what she thought of Koch and the other Oscar night attendees who stood while she was harassed, she laughed heartily and said, I must have talked to them. I’m pretty sure his first target was John Wayne. ”
according to THR, Littlefeather claims to maintain a daily practice of “Love, Gratitude, Forgiveness” for herself. She is also encouraged by the latest advances in Native American representation in Hollywood storytelling, stating: And I am very happy that this is happening. ”
As Littlefeather concluded her speech in 1973, “I beg of you at the present time … In the future our hearts and understanding will meet with love and generosity,” she said the world would finally get. I didn’t know it would take 49 years to get there.