Tuesday, February 27

Sacheen Littlefeather, the indigenous rights activist who rejected the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, dies

Indigenous rights defender Sacheen Littlefeather passed away this Sunday at the age of 75. Littlefeather was the activist who symbolically came on behalf of Marlon Brando to reject the award that the actor won for his performance in The Godfather by Francis Ford Coppola. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, which annually awards the Oscars, apologized to her in August for its treatment at the time.

The Oscars apologize to the activist who rejected the statuette on behalf of Marlon Brando for the treatment of Indians in the cinema

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The activist took the stage dressed in a traditional costume and, after rejecting the statuette, denounced the treatment that the world of cinema was giving to the American Indians. “I am here representing Marlon Brando and he has asked me to tell you, in a very long speech […], who unfortunately cannot collect this very generous award for the treatment of American Indians by the film industry and on television,” said Littlefeather. His speech was met with boos and criticism from the public.

The Academy apologized to Littlefeather for the treatment in August, thanking her for her speech and recalling the need for respect and the importance of human dignity. “When you took the Oscars stage in 1973 to decline to accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in protest of the misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native Americans by the film industry, you made a powerful statement,” said David Rubin, the current president of the Academy.

“The abuse you endured for that statement was unwarranted. The emotional toll you’ve been through and the damage to your own career in our industry is irreparable (…) For too long the courage you’ve shown has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincerest admiration.”

Littlefeather responded to the letter by joking about the “patience” of indigenous communities. “About the apology from the Academy, we are very patient people. It’s only been 50 years! We have to keep our sense of humor at all times, it is our method of survival.”