The actress who gave Brando the Oscar 75 speech – The Hollywood Reporter

Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaqui/Ariz.), Native American actress and activist took to the stage at the 1973 Academy Awards to reveal that Marlon Brando would not accept her Oscar because Godfather, has died. She is 75 years old.

Littlefeather died Sunday noon at her home in Novato City, Northern California, surrounded by her loved ones, according to a statement sent by her carer. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which reconciled with Littlefeather in June and held a celebration in her honor just two weeks ago, revealed the news on social media on Sunday night.

Littlefeather revealed in March 2018 that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer and that it had metastasized in recent years.

Brando decided to boycott the Oscars in March 1973 to protest the way Native Americans were portrayed on screen as well as to pay tribute to the ongoing occupation of Wound Knee, in which 200 members members of the American Indian Movement (AIM) confront thousands of Americans. sheriffs and other federal agents in a South Dakota town.

After presenters Liv Ullmann and Roger Moore listed the nominations for best actor and Ullmann named Brando the winner, the TV show was cut for Littlefeather, then 26 and wearing a traditional Apache dress, stepped onto the stage from her seat at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion as the announcer explained, “Accepting awards to Marlon Brando and GodfatherMiss Sacheen Littlefeather. “

However, Littlefeather raised his right hand to reject the statue donated by Moore as he took to the podium and told the Chandler audience and the 85 million viewers watching at home that Brando “regrets not being able to accept this generous award.”

Speak in a tone but not clear – Brando, who told her not to touch the trophy, gave her a typed eight-page speech, but TV show producer Howard Koch announced that she doesn’t have more than 60 seconds – she continued, “And the reason for this is because of the film industry’s treatment of American Indians today… and on television in reruns, and even with the recent developments at Wound Knee.”

Littlefeather’s remarks were met with boos and applause in the building, but public sentiment immediately following her appearance was largely negative. Some media questioned her indigenous heritage (her father is Apache and Yaqui and her mother is white) and claimed that she rented her costume for the ceremony, while conservative celebrities including John Wayne, Clint Eastwood and Charlton Heston – three actors who have played multiple Westerns – are said to have criticized Brando and Littlefeather’s actions.

As she became an indelible part of Oscar lore, Wayne “was in the wings, ready to let me take off,” she told LA time in 2016. “He had to be restrained by six security guards.” An investigation suggests that may not be the case.

Despite that, nearly 50 years later, the Academy issued her apology.

“The abuse you have suffered because of this claim is baseless and unreasonable,” then-AMPAS president David Rubin wrote to her in a letter dated June 18. “The burden. The morale you’ve gone through and the price paid for your own career in our industry is irreparable. It’s been too long since the bravery you showed has gone unrecognized. For this, we extend our deepest apologies and sincere admiration. ”

“I was very stunned. I never thought I would live to see the day I would hear this, experience this,” Littlefeather said. The Hollywood Reporter. “When I stood on the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”

Born Marie Louise Cruz on November 14, 1946, in the Northern California coastal city of Salinas, Littlefeather was primarily raised by her parents. She began discovering her Indigenous identity at California State University at Hayward and participated in the Indigenous occupation to try to regain Alcatraz Island in 1969, and it was her fellow activists who change her name.

Soon after, Littlefeather received a full scholarship to study acting at the American Conservatory Theater in San Francisco. “Dancing and acting are an escape from reality,” she said The Native American Times in 2010.

She got a number of jobs in radio and television commercials (including Miss Vampire USA for a Dark commercials for soap operas) but struggled to get real Hollywood pieces of content: “Americans like the look of blonde Sandra Dee… I get the talking parts in Italian movies because they like the weird.” .

In 1972, she participated in a plan Playboy a film called “Ten Little Indians” was dropped before publication when the occupation of Wound Knee began in February 1973. But after Littlefeather appeared at the Oscars, Playboy printed her photo as a standalone feature, further discrediting her in the eyes of some.

She had first met Brando a few years earlier when she was in Washington giving a presentation to the FCC on race and minorities.

“In the 70s, you had AIM and the Indian Civil Rights Movement and that was the part where I was in,” she said. “I can say that I am a spokesperson for Native American prejudice in film and television. All I’m saying is “We don’t want Chuck Connors to play Geronimo.”

When she mentioned to Brando that she didn’t have a prom dress for the Oscars, “Marlon told me to wear her deerskin,” she said in the 2018 documentary. Sacheen: Break the silence.

Three months after the Oscars, Brando appeared on The Dick Cavett Show and said that he “feels ashamed of Sacheen. She couldn’t say what she was going to say, and it upsets me when people booed and whistled and stomped their feet even though it was probably directed at me. They must at least have the courtesy to listen to her. “

Although Brando’s stunt was intended to bring back Wound Knee’s attention, Littlefeather said it put her life at risk and killed her acting career, while also claiming she had lost her confidence. members of the guild and are prohibited from joining the industry. (Additionally, the Academy subsequently banned winners from submitting proxies to accept – or decline – the prize on their behalf.)

“I was blacklisted – or you could say, ‘redlisted,’” Littlefeather said in his documentary. “Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and the others didn’t want me on their show. … The doors were closed, never to be reopened. “

Littlefeather has managed to appear in a handful of films (Billy Jack Trial, Johnny Firecloud and Winterhawk among them) before she gave up acting for good and earned a degree in holistic health from Antioch University with a minor in Native American medicine. Her health care work includes writing a health column for the Kiowa tribal newspaper in Oklahoma, teaching in the traditional Indian medicine program at St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, Arizona, and works with Mother Teresa on behalf of AIDS patients in the Bay Area. She will continue to be a founding board member of the American AIDS Institute for Indians in San Francisco.

Littlefeather also continued to be involved in the arts, co-founding the nonprofit National Indian Performing Arts Registry in the early ’80s, mentoring numerous PBS programs, and continuing to be an advocate Advocating for the introduction of Native Americans into Hollywood (she appeared in the 2009 documentary film Reel Injun).

“I am the first woman of color to make a political statement in Academy Awards history,” Littlefeather said in Sacheenand at the time, Coretta Scott King and Cesar Chavez were among the few who publicly praised her Oscar speech.

But over the decades, her on-stage backing has proven to be the premise for a conversation about diversity in Hollywood that continues to this day, and Jada Pinkett Smith credits her with being an inspiration. boycott of the 2016 Oscars (#OscarsSoWhite awards ceremony).

The two exchanged emails at the time, with Smith writing: “Thank you for being one of the brave and courageous people who helped pave the way for those of us who need a reminder of the importance of of simply being the truth.”

Littlefeather will be buried next to her husband, Charles Koshiway (Otoe/Sac & Fox), in Red Rock, Oklahoma. Koshiway died of blood cancer in November 2021. The two met 32 ​​years ago at a lavish party at the University of California at Davis.

“The night before we met, I dreamed that I was introduced to this handsome Indian man, and he was wearing his white Stetson cowboy hat and speaking in a very soft Oklahoma accent. this: “How’s the yew?” she told CHEAP in August. “The next day, my roommate and I drove to UC Davis pow wow and underneath this white Stetson cowboy hat was a very handsome Indian man, and the first thing he did was recline. hat, look me in the eye and say,”How is the yew? ‘ That’s all it takes. The man of my dreams.”

Upon receiving the Academy’s apology, Littlefeather said of her late husband, “His spirit is still with me, and I know that what he wanted for me was always justice and reconcile.” And two weeks before her death, when she stepped onto the Academy stage for the second time in her life, at the museum’s celebration in her honor, she knew her own departure was imminent: “I will soon pass through the spirit world. And you know, I’m not afraid of death. Because we come from a us/us/our society. We do not come from an I/I/myself society. And we learn to give from a very young age. When we are honored, we give.”

A Catholic Mass for her will be held this month at St. Rita in Fairfax, California, with a reception to watch. Littlefeather is requesting donations for American Indian Children Resource Center of Oakland.

In her final public appearance, she said again on behalf of all indigenous peoples: “I hereby accept this apology, not only for myself but as an acknowledgment, know that it’s not just for me but for all of our countries. need to hear and deserve this apology tonight. Let’s look at our people. Let’s look at each other and be proud that we are survivors, all of us. Please, when I am gone, always remember that whenever you stand for your truth, you will keep my voice, the voice of our nation and our people, alive. “


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