The Academy apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather after an incident at the 1973 Oscars, which occurred nearly 50 years ago. According to the hollywood reporterThe 75-year-old Native American actress has been invited to an evening of reflection at the Academy Museum…and has been offered an official apology.
“I was stunned,” she said. “I never thought that she would live to see the day that she would hear this, experience this. When I was on the podium in 1973, I was left alone.”
The 1973 Oscars saw Littlefeather, then 26, take the stage to decline the Best Actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando.
What he experienced that night included catcalls, derisive howls and offensive gestures offstage. She was threatened with arrest and even physical assault.
Now, the Academy has decided to fix things.
“[Brando] I am sadly unable to accept this very generous award,” Littlefeather said in an impromptu speech that evening. “And the reasons for this are the treatment that the film industry gives to American Indians today. [the audience begins to boo] — excuse me — and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent events at Wounded Knee.”
He received two instructions: the first, from Brando, not to touch the statuette.
The second, from Oscars producer Howard Koch, not to exceed 60 seconds in his speech, or he would be arrested by security who made sure he was available.
And after her 60-second plea for justice, she was booed, jeered, and even threatened by John Wayne, who she says had to be restrained to keep him from coming onstage to assault her.
“The abuse he endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unwarranted,” then-Academy President David Rubin said in a letter to Littlefoot in June. “The emotional toll you have experienced and the cost of your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer our deepest apologies and sincere admiration.”
After the incident, Littlefeather became famous as a Native American civil rights activist and co-founded the American Indian Registry for the Performing Arts.
“You know, I never went on stage in 1973 to receive any kind of praise,” he said. “I only stayed there because my ancestors were with me and I told the truth.”
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“Yes, there is an apology that is due,” he added. “As my friends in the native community said, it is long overdue. I could have been dead by now. All my friends – [activists] Dennis Banks, Russell Means, John Trudell, [comedian] Charlie Hill, they’re gone.”
Still, the activist is excited by the influx of representation we’ve seen of late, in particular, the likes of Reservation Dogs and War Pony.
“Finally, someone is breaking down the gates,” he said. “And I’m very happy that this is happening, although I don’t swear like they do at Reservation Dogs.”
An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather will be free to the public 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.