Sacheen Littlefeather, activist who turned down Marlon Brando’s Oscar, dies at 75 : NPR

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Sacheen Littlefeather, activist who turned down Marlon Brando's Oscar, dies at 75 : NPR
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Sacheen Littlefeather onstage at AMPAS Presents An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 17, 2022 in Los Angeles.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images


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Sacheen Littlefeather, Activist Who Turned Down Marlon Brando's Oscar, Dies At 75 : Npr

Sacheen Littlefeather onstage at AMPAS Presents An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on September 17, 2022 in Los Angeles.

Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American actress and activist who turned down Marlon Brando’s Best Actor Oscar in 1973, has died, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced Sunday night. She was 75 years old.

The Academy announcement Littlefeather’s death on his Twitter account. No cause of death was immediately given, but several news outlets reported that Littlefeather suffered from breast cancer.

Born Marie Louise Cruz on November 14, 1946, in Salinas, California, Littlefeather then changed her name in her twenties as she explored her Native American heritage and became an activist.

On March 27, 1973, she delivered one of the most dramatic moments in Oscar history. As Brando’s name read for winning Best Actor for his role in The GodfatherLittlefeather took the stage wearing loafers and a buckskin dress to politely offer Brando’s regret for turning down the award due to Hollywood’s treatment and portrayal of Native Americans.

His speech to refuse the Oscar on behalf of Brando was met with a mixture of boos and cheers. She said she saw actor John Wayne being restrained from rushing onto the stage while she was on it, The Los Angeles Times reported.

Last August, NPR’s Mandalit Del Barco reported on an interview Littlefeather gave to member station KQED in 2020 about the speech and its fallout.

“People were making money off this Hollywood Indian racism. Of course they’re going to boo. They don’t want their party to be interrupted.”

Littlefeather said she was escorted off stage at the Oscars by a team of security guards. She said that for years Hollywood boycotted her, calling her redlisted.

Earlier this year and almost 50 years later, the academy officially apologized to Littlefeather for the abuse she subsequently suffered as a result of her Oscar appearance. In a June letter from former academy president David Rubin, the academy described the “unwarranted and unwarranted” abuse she endured.

Brando later admitted his regret for the position he put Littlefeather in, according to The Los Angeles Time. “I was distressed that people booed and hissed and stomped on, even though it may have been directed at myself,” he told then-talk show host Dick Cavett. “They should have at least had the courtesy to listen to him.”

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