After nearly half a century, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather for the booing that accompanied her rejection of the Oscar statuette on behalf of Marlon Brando.
Littlefeather represented Marlon Brando at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973, where she—on Brando’s behalf—declined the Best Actor award that he won for his performance in The Godfather. Brando, noted activist on Native American issues, boycotted the ceremony as a protest against Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans and to draw attention to the standoff at Wounded Knee. During her speech, the audience’s response to Brando’s boycotting was divided between booing and applause.
As she read from Brando’s statement: “And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” the Apache and Yaqui-born Littlefeather, then 26, explained.
Marie Louise Cruz (born November 14, 1946), more commonly known as Sacheen Littlefeather, is an American actress, model, and Native American civil rights activist. Littlefeather was born to a Native American (Apache and Yaqui) father and a European American mother. During the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz, she became involved in the Native American activist community.
In an announcement Monday, the Academy announced they’d be welcoming Littlefeather, now 75, for a conversation at the newly opened Academy Museum that will focus on “reflection, healing and celebration.” The Academy has also offered Littlefeather a written apology for the events of the 1973 Oscars.
“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” wrote outgoing Academy president David Rubin. “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.”
“We Indians are very patient people — it’s only been 50 years! We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival,” Littlefeather said in a statement released by the Academy.