Film Academy apologizes to Littlefeather for 1973 Oscars

Sacheen Littlefeather has responded after the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences apologized for the abuse she suffered during her 1973 Oscars speech.

Almost 50 years ago, at the request of Marlon Brando, the actress and activist became the first Native American woman to take the stage at the Academy Awards to speak about the portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood films.

In the legendary 60-second speech, Littlefeather explained that Brando couldn’t accept the Oscar for best actor The Godfather due to “the treatment of American Indians by the film industry today”.

In a reconciliation statement to Littlefeather posted on the Academy website on Monday (Aug. 15), President David Rubin acknowledged the “abuse you have suffered as a result of that statement” – and called Hollywood’s treatment of Littlefeather “unjust and unjust “.

In the June 18 letter, he continued, “The emotional distress you have endured and the price of your own career in our industry is irreparable. For too long the courage you have shown has not been recognised.

“For that, we sincerely apologize and sincerely respect him.”

During her speech, Littlefeather, then 26, was booed by some of the audience.

In 2020, she told the BBC she was escorted off stage by two security guards after her speech, adding: “It was a good thing” because John Wayne was “mad at Marlon and mad at me” and Littlefeather himself wanted to pull off the stage.

Statement of reconciliation offered to Sacheen Littlefeather by former Academy President David Rubin for language abuse in 1973

(Academy for Film Arts and Sciences)

In his letter, Rubin called Littlefeather’s speech “a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity.”

The academy also said Monday it will host Littlefeather, now 75, on September 17 for an evening of “talks, healing and celebration.”

In response to the Oscars apology, Littlefeather said it was “deeply heartening to see how much has changed since I didn’t accept the Oscar 50 years ago.”

“Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” Littlefeather said, adding: “We must maintain our sense of humor at all times. It is our method of survival.”

In a podcast earlier this year with Jacqueline Stewart, a film scholar and director of the Academy Museum, Littlefeather reflected on what compelled her to speak out in 1973.

“I felt like there should be Native Americans, Blacks, Asians, Chicanos — I felt like everyone should be included,” Littlefeather said.

“A rainbow of people who should be involved in creating their own image.”

Additional coverage from the Associated Press. Film Academy apologizes to Littlefeather for 1973 Oscars


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