Sacheen Littlefeather dies at 75
Sacheen Littlefeather, who delivered Marlon Brando’s controversial rejection of the Best Actor Oscar, has died at the age of 75.
Littlefeather, who appeared in a handful of films in the 1970s, was noted for her seemingly endless activism. Littlefeather (real name: Marie Louise Cruz) worked with Greenpeace, contributed to the American Indian Center, helped promote Native Americans in the entertainment industry, and brought attention to the Wounded Knee Occupation. Some of these would tie directly into her most notorious moment, when, at the 1973 Academy Awards, Sacheen Littlefeather spoke on behalf of Marlon Brando, who won the Best Actor award for The Godfather.
In the speech, Sacheen Littlefeather stated, in part: “He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry…and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee.” The speech was mostly met with jeers, with stories of John Wayne having to be restrained.
Sacheen Littlefeather recently received a public apology from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences earlier this year. “The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified…The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”
Just last month, Sacheen Littlefeather was honored by AMPAS at the Academy Museum, where she accepted their apology in front of an audience of nearly half Indigenous people. It seemed a rather fitting conclusion to her public life.
In 2018, Sacheen Littlefeather was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer, announcing in 2021 that she was terminally ill.
Pay your respects to the late Sacheen Littlefeather below.