Legendary appearance at Oscars: activist and actress Littlefeather is dead

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Legendary appearance at Oscars
Activist and actress Littlefeather passed away

Her performance at the 1973 Oscars will not be forgotten: Sacheen Littlefeather turned down the award on behalf of Marlon Brando, linking it to criticism of Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans – a brave move that had consequences for her. Now the actress is dead.

Actress and Native American rights activist Sacheen Littlefeather has died aged 75. The Oscar Academy announced this on Twitter. In 1973, Littlefeather rejected the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, who won the star actor for his role in the mafia epic “The Godfather” — citing Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans as the reason.


Sacheen Littlefeather campaigned for Native American rights all his life.

(Photo: Photo Alliance / ZUMAPRESS.com)

In its Twitter post, the Oscars Academy quoted Littlefeather as saying, “Even when I’m dead, always remember that when you stand up for your truth, you keep my voice and the voices of our nations and our people alive.”

Just two weeks ago, the Academy paid tribute to Littlefeather at the new Oscar Museum in Los Angeles and apologized to her for the hostility that accompanied her speech some 50 years ago. Littlefeather said at the September ceremony that she took the stage “as a proud Indian” with “dignity, courage, grace and humility”. “I knew I had to tell the truth. Some people may accept it, others may not.”

John Wayne wanted to attack her

The actress and member of the Apache tribe said on stage at the 1973 Academy Awards that Brando was “unfortunately unable to accept this most generous award.” The audience reacted partly with applause, but partly with booing.

Littlefeather later said that Western star John Wayne wanted to physically attack her and that six guards had to stop him. Memories of the incident last came to life in March, when actor Will Smith punched comedian Chris Rock at the Oscars after making a joke about Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett Smith.

Littlefeather, who herself worked as an actress, struggled to gain a foothold in Hollywood after her speech. Casting directors warned directors not to hire her.

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