Sacheen Littlefeather, the actor and activist who declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award for The Godfather on his behalf in an indelible protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native People, has died. She was 75.
Littlefeather’s niece, Calina Lawrence, confirmed that she died peacefully Sunday, surrounded by family members at her Marin County, California, house. The trigger was breast most cancers, the household stated.
Littlefeather’s look on the 1973 Oscars would develop into one of many award present’s most well-known moments. Clad in buckskin gown and moccasins, Littlefeather took the stage when presenter Roger Moore learn Brando’s identify because the winner for greatest actor.
Chatting with the viewers, Littlefeather cited Native American stereotypes in movie and the then-ongoing weekslong protest at Wounded Knee in South Dakota as the explanation for Brando’s absence. She stated Brando had written “a really lengthy speech” however she was restricted by time to transient remarks. Producer Howard Koch had allegedly warned Littlefeather, then 26, that he would have her arrested if she spoke for greater than a minute.
“I urge right now that I’ve not intruded upon this night and that we’ll sooner or later, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity,” Littlefeather stated, changing into the primary Native American lady to look onstage on the Oscars.
Though transient, simple and courteous, Littlefeather’s look was contentious, receiving a mixture of applause and boos from the viewers. Within the years after, Littlefeather endured appreciable scorn and abuse for her speech, she stated.
“I spoke from my coronary heart,” she advised The Related Press days after the Oscars. “These phrases have been written in blood, maybe my very own blood. I felt about like Christ carrying the burden of the cross on his shoulders.”
Solely just lately did the Academy of Movement Photos Arts and Sciences formally handle the remedy Littlefeather obtained following her look. In August, the movie academy apologized to Littlefeather. Two weeks in the past, it held a night of “dialog, therapeutic and celebration” in her honor.
“The abuse you endured due to this assertion was unwarranted and unjustified,” the academy’s president, David Rubin, wrote in a letter to Littlefeather. “The emotional burden you have got lived by and the price to your individual profession in our business are irreparable. For too lengthy the braveness you confirmed has been unacknowledged. For this, we provide each our deepest apologies and our honest admiration.”
Littlefeather responded in a press release: “We Indians are very affected person folks — it’s solely been 50 years!”
“We have to maintain our humorousness about this always,” she added. “It’s our methodology of survival.”
Littlefeather was born Marie Cruz on Nov. 14, 1946, in Salinas, California. Her father was from the White Mountain Apache and Yaqui tribes and her mom was white. Each have been saddle makers. They separated when Littlefeather was 4, after which she was raised largely by her grandparents. She took the identify Sacheen Littlefeather after highschool. Sacheen, she stated, was what her father had known as her; the surname got here from a feather she usually wore in her hair.
Littlefeather’s entry into performing corresponded along with her activism. She was a part of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, she stated, and commenced performing with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater within the early ’70s.
Littlefeather met Brando by her neighbor, Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola. She had recognized Brando for a couple of yr earlier than he known as her the night time earlier than the 1973 ceremony, invited her to his home and requested her to attend in his place.
Political speeches on the Oscars have been then nonetheless a rarity, and a few in attendance noticed the transient handle as a break in decorum — and one which raised a topic not everybody was keen to think about.
“I don’t know if I ought to current this award on behalf of all of the cowboys shot in all of the John Ford Westerns through the years,” Clint Eastwood stated later within the night, whereas presenting the award for greatest image. Presenting greatest actress, presenter Raquel Welch cracked: “I hope they haven’t obtained a trigger.”
“I went up there considering I might make a distinction,” Littlefeather advised Individuals journal in 1990. “I used to be very naive. I advised folks about oppression. They stated, ‘You’re ruining our night.’”
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