After 50 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologised to Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist and actor, for the treatment she received when she protested on behalf of US actor Marlon Brando, during the Oscars in 1973. Brando was named best actor for his performance as Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s 'The Godfather' (1972), Sacheen Littlefeather, took the stage on live TV to refuse the Oscar.
The academy gave Littlefeather 60 seconds to speak on behalf of Brando, which was 'a very long' speech written by Brando, in which she explained the reason he could not accept the award due to, "the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry."
She was heckled and booed by some members of the audience.
Since the speech, Littlefeather has said she's been mocked, discriminated against, and personally attacked for her brief Academy Awards appearance.
The statement signed by then-AMPAS president David Rubin was sent in June but revealed today. The Academy will hold a special programme titled 'An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather,' set to take place on September 17.
"Regarding the Academy's apology to me, we Indians are very patient people — it's only been 50 years!" Littlefeather said in a statement. "We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It's our method of survival."
She added, "I never thought I'd live to see the day for this program to take place, featuring such wonderful Native performers and Bird Runningwater, a television and film producer who also guided the Sundance lnstitute's commitment to Indigenous filmmakers for twenty years through the lnstitute's Labs and Sundance Film Festival. This is a dream come true. It is profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago. I am so proud of each and every person who will appear on stage."
Read the Academy's full apology to Littlefeather below.
June 18, 2022
Dear Sacheen Littlefeather,
I write to you today a letter that has been a long time coming on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with humble acknowledgment of your experience at the 45th Academy Awards.
As you stood on the Oscars stage in 1973 to not accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in recognition of the misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native American people by the film industry, you made a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity.
The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. 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 a commitment to facilitating the broadest representation and inclusion reflective of our diverse global population.
Today, nearly 50 years later, and with the guidance of the Academy's Indigenous Alliance, we are firm in our commitment to ensuring indigenous voices-the original storytellers-are visible, respected contributors to the global film community. We are dedicated to fostering a more inclusive, respectful industry that leverages a balance of art and activism to be a driving force for progress.
We hope you receive this letter in the spirit of reconciliation and as recognition of your essential role in our journey as an organization. You are forever respectfully engrained in our history.
With warmest regards,
President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences