The American film institution issued a public apology to Native American comedian Sacheen Littlefeather on September 17, almost 50 years after she was booed for refusing an award on behalf of Marlon Brando.
Almost 50 years after being booed on the Oscars stage for refusing an award, on behalf of Marlon Brandoin protest of Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans, Sacheen Littlefeather was honored Saturday by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
During a moving ceremony in Los Angeles, punctuated by dances and Native American songs, the Academy issued a public apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, once celebrated by activists for her approach but ostracized by film professionals.
Sacheen Littlefeather, who is Apache and Yaqui, was shouted down at the 1973 ceremony as she explained why Marlon Brando, whom she portrayed in her absence, couldn’t accept his Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather because of the “treatment of American Indians today by the motion picture industry“.
To a large audience at the Oscars museum, the actress told, this Saturday, September 17, to be then “on stage, like a proud Indian woman, with dignity, with courage, with grace and with humility. I knew I had to tell the truth. Some people could accept it. And others not“.
Sacheen Littlefeather said Western star John Wayne had to be stopped from physically attacking her as she left the stage. Then a member of the Screen Actors’ Guild, the union of film professionals, the actress was then prevented from getting contracts in Hollywood, the casting directors having been dissuaded from hiring her.
Former Academy President David Rubin, who had already apologized to him in June, took the stage, referring to the “emotional burden» worn by the Native American activist and «the cost to his own career. For too long, the courage you have shown has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer you both our deepest apologies but also our sincere admiration.“.
The apology comes as the movie industry grapples with what many see as a culture of sexism, racism and impunity. “The academy and our industry are at an inflection point“said David Rubin. The Oscars museum, opening in September 2021, is committed to addressing “the problematic storyof the institution, and in particular racism. An exhibition deals with the harassment suffered by the actress.