Sacheen Littlefeather Gets Apology From Academy Awards

When Marlon Brando was named Best Actor for his role as Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s Best Picture winner “The Godfather” (1972), a 26-year-old Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaqui/AZ) took the stage to claim the award. on behalf of the actor. She was besieged with an avalanche of booing from the audience, racist gestures such as “tomahawk chops” and threats of violence offstage.

Fifty years later, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures apologizes for the treatment she received that night, in addition to holding a special program and talk titled “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather” on September 17.

Now 75, Littlefeather, who programs with Amy Homma, VP of education and public engagement at the Academy Museum, will offer a reflection focused on healing.

Littlefeather became the first Native woman to take the stage at an Academy Awards ceremony in 1973. The famous 60-second speech can be seen in the Academy Awards History gallery of the Academy museum, and echoes in the room with other historic moments like Halle Berry becomes the first black winner of the best actress and “Parasite” who won the best picture. Her words drew attention to the 1973 Wounded Knee protest in South Dakota and led to her being professionally boycotted, assaulted, harassed and discriminated against for the past 50 years.

“We are delighted and humbled that Sacheen has so generously chosen to partner with the Museum and the Academy to reflect on her difficult experience at the 1973 Academy Awards,” said Jacqueline Stewart, Academy Museum director and president. “Thanks to Bird Runningwater and Heather Rae for helping us continue our cherished relationship with Sacheen.”

During the event, the Academy will read the apology letter sent by former President David Rubin in June. Below is a copy of the letter:


June 18, 2022

Dear Sacheen Littlefeather,

I am writing you today a longstanding letter on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with humble acknowledgment of your experience at the 45th Academy Awards.

When you took the stage at the Oscars in 1973 not to accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando in recognition of the film industry’s misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native American people, you made a strong statement that continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity.

The abuse you have suffered because of this statement was unjustified and unjustified. The emotional burden you have endured and the cost to your own career in our industry is irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has not been acknowledged. For this we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.

We cannot realize the Academy’s mission to “inspire imagination and connect the world through cinema” without committing ourselves to facilitating the broadest representation and inclusion that is reflective of our diverse global population.

Now, nearly 50 years later, and under the guidance of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance, we are committed to ensuring that Indigenous voices—the original storytellers—are visible, respected contributors to the global film community. We are committed to fostering a more inclusive, respectful industry that uses a balance of art and activism to be a driver of progress.

We hope you receive this letter in the spirit of reconciliation and in recognition of your vital role in our journey as an organization. You are forever enshrined in our history with respect.


David Rubin
President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences

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