Oscars: Academy apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for 1973 protest

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“Well, I did it. It took 50 years,” Native American actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather said Saturday at a ceremony in her honor hosted by the Academy Awards.

Nearly five decades ago, Littlefeather was booed off the stage at the 1973 Academy Awards, where she declined an Oscar on behalf of actor Marlon Brando in protest of the film industry’s mistreatment of Native Americans.

However, at the end of Saturday, 75-year-old Kleinveer was honored by the same institution at an event titled “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather”. At the event at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures in Los Angeles, she took the stage to thunderous applause and reminisced about her protest.

The event was streamed on the museum’s YouTube page and featured live Native American performances.

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What happened in 1973?

Littlefeather, who is part of Apache and Yaqui, took the stage at the 1973 ceremony to explain why an absent Brando couldn’t accept his Best Actor Oscar for “The Godfather.”

“He has asked me to tell you in a very long speech that I cannot share with you at the moment because of the time … that unfortunately he cannot accept this very generous award,” she said at the televised event.

Before the ceremony, Brando had reportedly decided he would boycott — as the favorite to win — in protest of an ongoing siege by Native rights protesters in the town of Wounded Knee, a site of the 1890 massacre of Native Americans. Brando’s also opposed the stereotypical way Native Americans were represented in American movies.

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He had called Kleinveer and asked her to appear on his behalf and act as spokesperson.

John Wayne, who was backstage at the time, was reportedly furious, with several witnesses describing how he had to be held.

On Saturday, Littlefeather said the western star was “ready to attack me”.

“He had to be stopped by six guards,” she said.

Thinking about the incident

In the decades following the incident, Littlefeather was mocked, discriminated against, and personally attacked for her brief Academy Awards appearance.

In a letter of apology read at the Saturday event, the Academy said: “When you stood on the Oscar podium in 1973 for not accepting the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in recognition of the misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native American people through the film industry, you have made a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity.”

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She replied, “I accept this apology not just for me, but an acknowledgment, not just for me, but for our entire (Native American) people. Our nation needs to hear this apology.”

see/dj (TBEN, Reuters)

The post Oscars: Academy apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather over protest in 1973 first appeared on Deutsche Welle.

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