Sacheen Littlefeather, actor who turned down Brando Oscar, dies aged 75

Sacheen Littlefeather, the actor and activist who turned down Marlon Brando’s 1973 Oscar for The Godfather on his behalf in an indelible protest at the portrayal of Native Americans on screen, has died at the age of 75.

Ittlefeather’s niece, Calina Lawrence, confirmed that she passed away peacefully on Sunday surrounded by loved ones at her home in Marin County, California.

The cause was breast cancer, the family said.

Littlefeather’s performance at the 1973 Oscars became one of the most iconic moments of the awards show.

Dressed in a suede dress and moccasins, Littlefeather took the stage as presenter Roger Moore read Brando’s name as the winner for Best Actor.

In front of the audience, Littlefeather cited Native American clichés in the film and the week-long protests at Wounded Knee in South Dakota as the reason for Brando’s absence.

She said Brando wrote “a very long speech,” but that she was limited in time to short remarks.

“I ask at this time that I did not disturb this evening and that in the future we will meet our hearts and understandings with love and generosity,” said Littlefeather, becoming the first Native American woman to perform at the Oscars .


Littlefeather had suffered from breast cancer (AP)

Though brief, direct, and polite, Littlefeather’s performance was controversial, receiving a mixture of applause and boos from the audience. In the years following her performance at the Oscars, Littlefeather endured considerable scorn and insults for her speech, she said.

“I spoke from my heart,” she told The Associated Press days after the ceremony.

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

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It was only recently that the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences officially addressed the treatment Littlefeather received after her performance.

In August, the film academy apologized to Littlefeather. Two weeks ago, it hosted an evening of “Talk, Healing, and Celebration” in her honor.

“The abuse you suffered because of that statement was unjustified and unjustified,” Academy President David Rubin wrote in a letter to Littlefeather.

“The emotional drain you have endured and the cost of your own career in our industry is beyond repair. For too long the courage you have shown has not been recognised. For this we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

Littlefeather responded in a statement, “We Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!”

“We must maintain our sense of humor at all times,” she added. “It’s our method of survival.” Sacheen Littlefeather, actor who turned down Brando Oscar, dies aged 75

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