Sacheen Littlefeather, who famously declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar onstage, has passed away at 75
Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist who denied Marlon Brando’s Oscar for “The Godfather” in 1973, died Sunday at 75. She suffered from breast cancer.
Littlefeather was mistreated during the Oscars, and the Academy apologized in June. Littlefeather attended the Sept. 17 Academy Museum apology presentation.
At the Oscars, she had 60 seconds to read her address on Native American rights before being booed off.
Littlefeather told the Academy Awards audience he could not accept the medal. The film industry’s portrayal of American Indians, TV movie reruns, and Wounded Knee are to blame.
At a later press conference, she read her whole address, which was published in the NYT. On-camera critics included Raquel Welch, Clint Eastwood, and Oscar co-host Michael Caine.
Marie Louise Cruz, born in Salinas, Calif., got interested in Native American concerns in college and participated in the 1970 Alcatraz occupation.
After college, she joined SAG and met Brando through Francis Ford Coppola, who lived in San Francisco like Littlefeather.
Littlefeather once saide in interview
“It was my first time at the Academy Awards. I made it through my first hurdle, promising Marlon Brando that I would not touch that Oscar. But, as I walked off that stage, I did in the ways of courage, honor grace, dignity and truthfulness. I did so in the ways of my ancestors and the ways of Indigenous women.
“I was met with the stereotypical tomahawk chop, individuals who called at me, and I ignored all of them. I continued to walk straight ahead with a couple of armed guards beside me, and I held my head high and was proud to be the first Indigenous woman in the history of the Academy Awards to make that political statement.
“At that time in 1973, there was a media blackout on Wounded Knee and against the American Indian Movement that was occupying it. Marlon had called them in advance and asked them to watch the Academy Awards, which they did. As they saw me, up on stage, refusing that Academy Award for the stereotypes within the film industry, and mentioning Wounded Knee in South Dakota, it would break the media boycott.”
Littlefeather explained, “When we die, we know that our ancestors are coming to give. We know that we’re going to that spirit world from where we came. We take this as a warrior with pride and not defeat, looking forward to joining our ancestors who are going to be there with us at our last breath and they’re going to welcome us into that world on the other side and have a big celebration for us.”
“Sacheen Breaking the Silence” was released in 2021.
Littlefeather stated she was blacklisted in Hollywood after the Oscars and moved to San Francisco to work in theater and health care.