Oscars apologize to Sacheen Littlefeather for 1973 treatment: ‘Never thought I’d live to see the day’

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Sacheen Littlefeather has finally received a long-overdue apology from the Academy Awards.

Nearly 50 years ago, the actress and activist accepted the best actor Oscar on behalf of “The Godfather” star Marlon Brando, who boycotted the 1973 ceremony in protest of Hollywood’s negative portrayals of Native Americans. Littlefeather delivered a speech on his behalf, which was roundly mocked and booed by some members of the audience.

Now, Littlefeather will be honoured at “An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather,” which the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences describes as “a very special program of conversation, reflection, healing and celebration.” The event, announced Monday, will be held Sept. 17 at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles.

Littlefeather received a private apology letter in June from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences. “The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged,” the letter read, signed by the Academy’s then-president David Rubin. “For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

Littlefeather, 75, told The Hollywood Reporter in a story published Monday that she was “stunned” to receive a formal apology.

“I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this,” Littlefeather said. “When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”

Littlefeather became the first Native American woman to speak onstage at the Oscars. Wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, she delivered a 60-second speech explaining that Brando could not accept the award because of “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”

Her message was met with loud boos, as well as applause. In an interview with The Guardian last year, Littlefeather recalled that actor John Wayne was in the wings during her speech and tried to “forcibly” take her offstage: “He had to be restrained by six security men to prevent him from doing so.”

The 1973 Oscars were held during the American Indian Movement’s two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota, which Brando referenced in the speech she delivered. In the years since, Littlefeather has said she’s been discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief appearance.

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