By Peter McLaren-Kennedy • 03 October 2022 • 8:41
Sacheen Littlefeather - Image @samtheparasite
The news of her death was broken by the Academy of Motion Pictures, who wrote on Twitter on Sunday, October 2: “Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75.”
Littlefeather had been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer in 2021.
In September, at a ceremony titled “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather”, she told the crowd: “I’m crossing over soon to the spirit world. And you know, I’m not afraid to die. Because we come from a we/us/our society. We don’t come from a me/I/myself society. And we learn to give away from a very young age. When we are honoured, we give.”
The actress was blacklisted after she famously declined the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brandon, which he won for his role in the Godfather.
Delivering a powerful speech she rejected the trophy as part of the actor’s protest of Hollywood’s depictions of Native American people. The gesture was also intended to highlight ongoing protests at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the scene of an 1890 massacre of Native Americans.
At the time she was booed by many of those in the audience who thought it was the wrong venue for a political speech, which the Academy has since apologised for.
Responding to the apology Littlefeather expressed happiness that her mistreatment had finally been acknowledged: “This is a dream come true. It is profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago.
“I am so proud of each and every person who will appear on stage.”
Littlefeather had a successful acting career appearing in films such as The Laughing Policeman, The Trial of Billy Jack and Johnny Firecloud. But the speech at the Oscars put paid to her career as an actress, appearing in her last role in 1978.
Sadly Littlefeather will always be remembered as the actress who declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar, rather than for her acting career or her efforts to improve the situation for American Indians.
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Originally from South Africa, Peter is based on the Costa Blanca and is a web reporter for the Euro Weekly News covering international and Spanish national news.
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