Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who famously declined the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, passed away at age 75

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Sacheen Littlefeather
Sacheen Littlefeather

The on-screen portrayal of Native Americans that led to the actor and activist declining Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award for “The Godfather” on his behalf has passed away.In a memorable gesture of protest against how Native Americans are portrayed in Hollywood, Sacheen Littlefeather, an actor and activist, turned down Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award for “The Godfather” on his behalf. Sacheen Littlefeather passed away recently.She was 75.

Littlefeather passed away quietly on Sunday at her Marin County, California, home, according to her niece Calina Lawrence. The family claimed that breast cancer was to blame.

One of the most well-known moments from the 1973 Oscars was when Littlefeather made an appearance.Sacheen Littlefeather entered the stage when presenter Roger Moore announced Brando as the best actor winner while wearing a buckskin outfit and moccasins.

Littlefeather explained Brando’s absence to the audience, citing Native American stereotypes in movies as well as the current, weeks-long protest at Wounded Knee, South Dakota. She claimed Brando had written “a very long speech,” but she could only make brief comments due to time constraints. Littlefeather, who was 26 at the time, allegedly received a warning from producer Howard Koch that if she spoke for longer than a minute, he would have her imprisoned.

As the first Native American woman to take the Oscars stage, Littlefeather said, “I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening and that we will in the future, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and kindness.”

Sacheen Littlefeather’s appearance was polarising, drawing both acclaim and booing from the audience while being brief, direct, and polite. Littlefeather claimed that she received a lot of ridicule and harassment for her speech in the years that followed.

Days after the Oscars, she told The Associated Press, “I spoke from my heart.” Possibly my own blood was used to write those words. I compared the feeling to Christ bearing the cross on his shoulders.

The treatment Littlefeather endured after her performance was only just officially addressed by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. The film academy apologised to Littlefeather in August. It hosted a night of “dialogue, healing, and celebration” in her honour two weeks ago.

The academy’s president, David Rubin, wrote in a letter to Sacheen Littlefeather, “The harassment you underwent because of this speech was inappropriate and wrong.” “The psychological toll you’ve undergone and the damage to your own career in our sector are irreparable. The courage you shown has gone unnoticed for far too long. We sincerely apologise for this and express our admiration for you at the same time.

Sacheen Littlefeather

It’s only been 50 years, said Littlefeather in response: “We Indians are very patient people!”

We must always maintain a sense of humour about this, she continued. It serves as our means of survival.

Marie Cruz was given the name Littlefeather on November 14, 1946 in Salinas, California. Her mother was Caucasian, and her father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes. After high school, she adopted the name Sacheen Littlefeather.

Acting for the first time coincided with Littlefeather’s activism. According to her website, she participated in the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969 and soon after started performing with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater.

Sacheen Littlefeather had known Brando for approximately a year when they decided the night before the 1973 ceremony that she should attend in his place. Littlefeather shared a street with “Godfather” filmmaker Francis Ford Coppola.

Since political speeches at the Oscars were still uncommon at the time, some viewers viewed it as a breach of decorum that brought up a topic that not everyone wanted to talk about. Clint Eastwood commented, “I don’t know if I should accept this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot in all the John Ford Westerns throughout the years,” when he gave the best-picture award later in the evening.

Presenter Raquel Welch joked as she handed out the award for outstanding actress, “I hope they haven’t got a cause.”
In an interview with People magazine in 1990, she said, “I went up there hoping I could make a difference. I was quite naive. I discussed oppression with others. You’re destroying our evening, they yelled.

Littlefeather called the densely populated white area “a sea of Clorox.” She alleged that some spectators engaged in the infamous “tomahawk chop” and that Brando’s home was later shot at.

Sacheen Littlefeather added to the legend over time, saying that John Wayne was “ready to have me taken off stage” as she spoke while he was in the theater’s wing. Littlefeather stated to The Los Angeles Times in 2016 that six security personnel were required to hold Wayne. Since then, the alleged incident has been investigated by film researcher Farran Smith Nehme, who has found no proof that it ever happened.

But it was undeniable that those 60 seconds had a significant impact on Littlefeather’s life. Following the Oscars, her credentials as an activist and an actor were questioned in tabloid articles and elsewhere since she had posed for Playboy in 1972, which she justified as evidence that “red was beautiful.” She lost her acting possibilities after being “red-listed” by the business, according to Littlefeather. She left the entertainment industry.

Sacheen Littlefeather, who was then in a wheelchair, declared at the academy ceremony last month that she would go through it all again despite the difficulties she had after the Oscars.

Sacheen Littlefeather stated, “I was speaking for all Indigenous voices out there because we had never been heard in that way before. Because those doors had to be opened, much like Yosemite Sam, it was okay if I had to pay the admittance fee. Someone has to complete it.

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