Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who turned down Marlon Brando's 1973 Oscar, dies at 75

Sacheen Littlefeather
Sacheen Littlefeather Frazer Harrison/Getty Images

Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American activist who famously turned down Marlon Brando's Academy Award on his behalf in 1973, has died. She was 75.

Littlefeather's death was confirmed in a tweet by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences. She had been battling breast cancer, according to Variety.

The activist is best known for her role in the 1973 Academy Awards, where Marlon Brando won the Best Actor Oscar for The Godfather. Littlefeather, president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee, took the stage to explain the actor sent her to decline his Oscar.

"He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award, and the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry … and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee," she said.

Littlefeather received significant backlash at the time and was booed during her speech. She later said that John Wayne "had to be restrained by six men from coming to get me and pull me off the stage."

In August, though, the Academy released an official apology to Littlefeather over the way she was treated.

"The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified," the Academy said. "The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable."

The Academy also invited her to speak at an event, "An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather."

"Regarding the Academy's apology to me, we Indians are very patient people — it's only been 50 years!" Littlefeather said in August. Speaking with Variety, she also reflected, "I did this for all Native people everywhere who suffered from racial prejudice and discrimination."

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