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 Individuals, 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, dwelling. The trigger was breast most cancers, the household mentioned.
Littlefeather’s look on the 1973 Oscars would turn out to be one of many award present’s most well-known moments. Clad in buckskin costume and moccasins, Littlefeather took the stage when presenter Roger Moore learn Brando’s identify because the winner for greatest actor.
Talking to the viewers, Littlefeather cited Native American stereotypes in movie and the then-ongoing weekslong protest at Wounded Knee in South Dakota as the rationale for Brando’s absence. She mentioned Brando had written “a really lengthy speech” however she was restricted by time to temporary 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 encourage right now that I’ve not intruded upon this night and that we are going to sooner or later, our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity,” Littlefeather mentioned, changing into the primary Native American girl to seem onstage on the Oscars.
Though temporary, easy 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 mentioned.
“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 load of the cross on his shoulders.”
Solely just lately did the Academy of Movement Photos Arts and Sciences formally deal with the therapy 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 via and the associated fee 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 individuals — 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 mentioned, 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 appearing corresponded together with her activism. She was a part of the Native American occupation of Alcatraz Island in 1969, she mentioned, and started appearing with San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theater within the early ’70s.
Littlefeather met Brando via her neighbor, Godfather director Francis Ford Coppola. She had recognized Brando for a couple of yr earlier than he known as her the evening 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 temporary deal with as a break in decorum — and one which raised a topic not everybody was keen to contemplate.
“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 mentioned later within the night, whereas presenting the award for greatest image. Presenting greatest actress, presenter Raquel Welch cracked: “I hope they haven’t received a trigger.”
“I went up there considering I may make a distinction,” Littlefeather advised Folks journal in 1990. “I used to be very naive. I advised individuals about oppression. They mentioned, ‘You’re ruining our night.’”
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