Academy apologizes to Sachin Littlefeather for snubbing Oscar for Marlon Brando

Nearly 50 years later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is formally apologizing for the mistreatment of Littlefeather during her speech and in the years since.

“The abuse you have suffered because of this statement is unnecessary and unjustified,” former academy president David Rubin wrote to Littlefeather. “The emotional burden you have put on our industry and the cost to your own career is irreparable. The courage you have shown for so long has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer our deepest apologies and our sincere appreciation.”

In a statement, Littlefeather called the upcoming event, at which he will personally receive the apology, “a dream come true.”

“As for the academy’s apology to me, we Indians are a very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” she said. “We always have to keep our sense of humor about it. It’s our way of survival.”

Several indigenous artists will perform at the event for Littlefeather, including Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy’s Native Coalition and Virginia Carmelo, a descendant of the Tongwa people, who will lead the land acquisition.

“It’s heartening to see how much has changed since I didn’t receive an Academy Award 50 years ago,” Littlefeather said.

Her speech was applauded and applauded

When Brando won best actor for his lead role in “The Godfather,” he was absent. Instead, he asked Littlefeather, then an actress and activist, to attend the ceremony and refuse the award on his behalf.

Taking the stage quietly and calmly in a buckskin outfit, Littlefeather introduced herself as an Apache woman and chair of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee.
“(Brando) can’t accept this generous award with great regret, and it’s because of the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry,” he said to a mix of boos and applause, pausing and visibly upset. “I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening, and that in the future we may meet our hearts and our understandings with love and generosity.”
Brando refused to accept the award because of the federal response to Wounded Knee, when members of the American Indian Movement occupied a South Dakota town and faced resistance from federal law enforcement. Littlefeather said he made Brando promise not to touch the Oscar statuette.
“I focused on the open mouths and jaws in the audience, and there were quite a few,” he told the Academy’s official blog, A.Frame. “But it was like watching a sea of ​​Clorox. You know, there were very few people in the audience.”
She said conservative Western star John Wayne, who had once said that “Indians are selfishly trying to keep (the US) to themselves,” charged him to “get her off the stage” despite being stopped by security guards. .

After the ceremony, Littlefeather said he was “silenced” and struggled to find work in the film industry. He spent most of his post-Oscar career in activism and founding performing arts organizations for local actors.

Although she received condemnation from some in Hollywood who disagreed with her defense of Native Americans, Littlefeather said she received praise and support from leaders such as Coretta Scott King and Cesar Chavez.

“I knew I did the right thing,” she told A.Frame.

Correction: This article has been updated to note that David Rubin is a former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.

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