The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, together with her family, confirmed late Sunday that Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American civil rights activist best remembered for turning down Marlon Brando’s best actor Oscar for “The Godfather” in 1973, has passed away at the age of 75.
Her relatives said that she had breast cancer.
The academy reported her as stating, “When I am gone, please remember that anytime you stand for truth, you will be keeping my voice and the voices of our countries and our people alive,” in its tweet announcing her passing. I continue to be Sacheen Littlefeather. I’m grateful.
Littlefeather was the first Native American woman to accept an Oscar during the event in October 1973 while wearing a buckskin outfit and moccasins.
She said Brando couldn’t receive the honor in a 60-second speech.
Some people in the crowd booed her. Backstage, John Wayne was allegedly incensed.
The American Indian Movement occupied Wounded Knee in South Dakota for two months at the time of the 1973 Academy Awards.
In an attempt to “stop the stereotyping of Native people in the film, television, and sports industries,” Littlefeather turned down the Oscar on Brando’s behalf, according to a statement sent by her family on Sunday.
The statement said, “As a consequence, Sacheen was professionally boycotted, personally tormented and abused, and discriminated against for over 50 years.”
In a letter from the Academy’s former president, David Rubin, in June, the organization officially apologized for how Hollywood had treated her.
The abuse you received as a result of this comment was unjustified and inappropriate, according to Rubin. “The psychological toll you’ve undergone and the damage to your own career in our sector are irreversible. The bravery you shown has gone unnoticed for far too long. We sincerely apologize for this and express our respect for you at the same time.
It was “profoundly uplifting to realize how much has changed since I did not receive the Academy Award 50 years ago,” Littlefeather said in a statement.
The Academy Museum’s David Geffen Theater in Los Angeles hosted a “heartfelt tribute” in September, according to the family, “with a sold-out crowd in attendance.”
According to the family, “despite the fact that many people judged Sacheen and treated her badly, she forgave them all, did not harbor resentments, and carried on with her life in a good manner, offering everyone love and forgiveness.”
The Littlefeather family claims that Littlefeather was a model and actress best known for her parts in the films “Billy Jack” (1974), “Winterhawk” (1975), “Reel Injun” (2010), and “Sacheen: Breaking The Silence” (2018).
Later this month, Littlefeather’s Requiem Mass will be held at St. Rita Church in Fairfax, California.