Academy Apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather Nearly 50 Years After Infamous Oscars Incident


The Academy has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather after an incident at the 1973 Oscars that took place nearly 50 years ago. According to The Hollywood Reporter, the 75-year-old Native American actress has been invited to a night of reflection at the Academy Museum… and has been offered an official apology.

“I was stunned,” she said. “I never thought I would live to see the day I would hear this, experience this. When I was on stage in 1973, I was there alone.”

At the 1973 Oscars, Littlefeather, then 26 years old, took the stage to reject the Best Actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando.

What she experienced that night included booing, mock cheers and abusive gestures offstage. She was threatened with arrest and even physical assault.

Now the Academy has decided to set things straight.

“[Brando] unfortunately cannot accept this most generous award,” Littlefeather said in an impromptu speech that evening. “And the reasons for this are the film industry’s treatment of American Indians today.” [the audience begins to boo] – excuse me – and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent events at Wounded Knee.”

She received two instructions: the first, from Brando, not to touch the figurine.

The second, from Oscar producer Howard Koch, to run no more than 60 seconds into her speech or else she’d be arrested by security he made sure they were there.

And after her 60-second plea for justice, she was booed, booed and even threatened by John Wayne, who she said had to be stopped to prevent him from storming the stage to attack her.

“The abuse you have endured because of this statement was unjustified and unjustified,” then-academy president David Rubin said in a letter to Littlefoot in June. “The emotional burden you have endured and the cost to your own career in our industry is irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has not been acknowledged. For this, we offer our deepest apologies as well as our sincere admiration.”

After the incident, Littlefeather became known as a Native American civil rights activist and co-founder of the American Indian Registry for Performing Arts.

“You know, I never took the stage for any kind of praise in 1973,” she said. “I stood there alone because my ancestors were with me and I was telling the truth.”

The History of Comic Books at the Oscars

“Yes, there must be an apology,” she added. “As my friends in the indigenous community said, it should have happened a long time ago. I could have been dead long ago. All my friends – [activists] Dennis Banks, Russell Means, John Trudell, [comedian] Charlie Hill – his way.’

Still, the activist is excited about the influx of representations we’ve seen lately, especially those of Reservation Dogs and War Pony.

“Finally someone breaks into the doors,” she said. “And I’m so glad this is happening — even though I don’t swear like they do at Reservation Dogs.”

An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather will be open to the public for free via online booking on September 17, 2022.

Thumbnail image credit: Bettmann/Getty Images

Ryan Leston is an entertainment journalist and film critic for IGN. You can follow him on Twitter.

The Valley Voice
The Valley Voice
Christopher Brito is a social media producer and trending writer for The Valley Voice, with a focus on sports and stories related to race and culture.


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