Oscars academy to apologise to Sacheen Littlefeather after 1973 speech declining Marlon Brando’s award

The Native American actor appeared at 1973 Oscars to decline Brando’s best actor award at his request

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures says it will host an evening of “conversation, healing and performances” hosted by Native American activist and actor Sacheen Littlfeather.

The event will feature a formal apology to the actor who suffered decades of abuse within the industry following her appearance at the 1973 Oscars. The museum which is hosting the event belongs to the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, the organisation that awards the Oscars.

Wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, Littlefeather famously took to the stage to decline Marlon Brando’s best actor award for The Godfather, at his request.

Littlefeather, who was the first Native American woman to appear on the academy stage, gave a 60-second speech about the stereotypes and mistreatment of Native Americans in the entertainment industry, and the 1973 Wounded Knee protest in South Dakota.


Littlefeather also spoke about the American Indian Movement’s two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota.

The actor, who was booed by the audience, explained that Brando could not accept the award due to “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry”.

According to reports, Western film star John Wayne, who was backstage at the time, was furious over Littlefeather’s appearance and had to be restrained by six security guards.

“I spoke from my heart,” said Littlefeather after her speech in 1973.

“Those words were written in blood, perhaps my own blood. I felt about like Christ carrying the weight of the cross on his shoulder.”

On Monday, the academy acknowledged that the actor, now 75 years old, had been “professionally boycotted, personally harassed and attacked, and discriminated against for the last 50 years” following her speech.

“On September 17th, join Sacheen Littlefeather at the Academy Museum for a night of conversation, healing, and performances as we reflect on the impact of her speech at the 45th Academy Awards (currently on view in our Academy Awards History gallery),” the organisation tweeted.

“Sacheen invites you to a special celebration of live Native American Indian performances featuring a long-awaited statement of apology from the Academy.”

The film body also shared a letter sent to Littlefeather by David Rubin, the academy president, in June.

Rubin called the actor’s speech “a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity”.

“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” Rubin said.

“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.”

“Regarding the academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” Littlefeather commented.

“We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.

“It is profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago. I am so proud of each and every person who will appear on stage [at the event].”

The actor described the upcoming academy museum event as “a dream come true”.

– PA, agencies