Sacheen Littlefeather was a Native American actress and activist who died at 75.
In a Twitter post, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that she had died on Monday.
The tweet was accompanied by an image showing the Yaqui and Apache actress. It read: “Sacheen Lessefeather, Native American civil right activist who famously declined Marlon brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award Award for Actors, Dies at 75.”
Although no cause of death was given immediately, Littlefeather revealed in a January 2017 Facebook post that she had breast cancer metastasis.
Littlefeather was a pioneer when she took the stage at the 1973 Oscars in support of Brando, “The Godfather” star. Brando had decided to boycott the ceremony because of the depiction of Native Americans on the big-screen. Brando also reacted to federal law enforcement’s response to the occupation of Wounded Knee, South Dakota by members of American Indian Movement.
The short speech she gave, in which she wore a buckskin gown and moccasins, received mixed applause and boos. The budding actress, who had film credits including “Winterhawk”, “Shoot the Sun Down” as well as “The Trial of Billy Jack,” lost her career. She was quickly blacklisted from the film business and expelled by the entertainment industry.
The Academy officially apologized to Littlefeather in August for any mistreatment she suffered during her speech, and throughout the years.
The 45th Academy Awards featured Native American Sacheen Smallfeather. Marlon Brando’s Best Actor award for Godfather was declined by her. Brando declined the award due to the American Indian treatment.
Littlefeather received a letter from David Rubin, former President of the Academy. He stated that she suffered abuses that were “unwarranted” and “unjustified.”
He said, “The emotional pain you have endured and the damage to your career in this industry are irreparable.” Too often, the courage that you displayed has gone unrecognized. We are sorry and we are grateful for your courage.
Littlefeather described the apology as “a dream come true” and said that it was a “dream come to life.”
“We must keep our senses of humor about all this.” She said that it was our survival method.
The Academy hosted a Los Angeles event last month that featured Littlefeather as the keynote speaker, along with other Indigenous performers.