Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American actress who refused Oscar for Marlon Brando, dies at 75

The Academy held a ceremony two weeks ago honouring Sacheen Littlefeather and publicly apologised for her treatment. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON - Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American activist and actress who was booed in 1973 as she refused an Oscar on behalf of American actor Marlon Brando, has died aged 75, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said on Sunday.

The Academy announced her death in a tweet that quoted Littlefeather as saying: “When I am gone, always be reminded that whenever you stand for your truth, you will be keeping my voice and the voices of our nations and our people alive.”

Two weeks ago, the Academy held a ceremony at its new Los Angeles museum honouring Littlefeather and publicly apologising for her treatment at the Oscars ceremony nearly 50 years ago.

Littlefeather, who is of Apache and Yaqui heritage, was booed at the 1973 Academy Awards – the first to be broadcast live around the world – while explaining on Brando’s behalf why he would not accept his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather (1972).

Brando had asked Littlefeather to decline the award for him in an act of protest against the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans.

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“I went up there like a proud Indian woman with dignity, with courage, with grace, and with humility,” Littlefeather said at the museum event.

“I knew that I had to speak the truth. Some people may accept it. And some people may not.”

She said Western star John Wayne had to be restrained from physically assaulting her as she left the stage.

Littlefeather, a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, subsequently found it difficult to get work in Hollywood, with casting directors warned not to employ her.

Asked by reporters ahead of the ceremony how she felt about having to wait so long to hear the word “sorry”, Littlefeather was philosophical.

“It’s never too late for an apology,” she said. “It’s never too late for forgiveness.” AFP

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