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Native American actress and activist reflects on the 1973 Academy Awards protest



By Rich McKay

Half a century ago, actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather took to the stage in a traditional deerskin dress at the Oscars to decline the Oscars on behalf of Marlon Brando, speaking about the opposite. Native American treatment of the film industry.

She was booed on stage at the 1973 ceremony after 60 seconds for the remark, which drew attention to an indigenous protest in Wound Knee, South Dakota. She was then professionally ostracized by the film world for decades.

On Saturday night, Littlefeather, now 75, was received with thundering applause as she took to the stage to reflect on her protest at an event in her honor at the Film Museum Academy in Los Angeles.

“Well, I did. It took 50 years,” she said.

The event, “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather,” features live Native American performances and is streamed on the museum’s YouTube page.

Her friend Brando boycotted the 45th Academy Awards because of Native American prejudice in film and television. The winner of the Best Actor award for his role as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather” asked Littlefeather to take his place.

In addition to the boos, Littlefeather recalls on Saturday, people performed tomahawk chops and mocked “Indian” trumpets. “Big John Wayne was ready to attack me. He had to be held back by six security officers,” she said.

Saturday’s program included the reading of a letter of apology to Littlefeather for her treatment by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

“When you stood on the Oscars stage in 1973 to not accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in recognition of the film industry’s misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native Americans by the film industry, you made a powerful statement. continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity,” the letter reads.

She replied, “I accept this apology not only for myself, but as an acknowledgment not only for me, but for all of our (Native American) nation. We need to hear this apology.”

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