When Marlon Brando was nominated for Best Actor for his portrayal of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s ‘The Godfather’ (1972), Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache/Yaqui/AZ) took the stage to decline the award. on behalf of the actor. She was lambasted with an avalanche of boos from the audience, racist gestures such as “tomahawk chops” and threats of backstage violence.
Fifty years later, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures is apologizing for the treatment it received that evening, in addition to hosting a special program and conversation titled “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather” on September 17. .
Now 75, Littlefeather, who programs with Amy Homma, vice president of education and audience engagement at the Academy Museum, will offer a healing reflection.
Littlefeather became the first Indigenous woman to take the stage at an Academy Awards in 1973. The famous 60-second speech is featured in the Academy Museum’s Oscars History Gallery, echoing around the room with other historic moments such as Halle Berry becoming the first Best Black Actress winner and Best Picture winner from “Parasite.” Her words brought attention to the 1973 Wounded Knee protest in South Dakota and caused her to be professionally boycotted, attacked, harassed and discriminated against for the past 50 years.
“We are thrilled and honored that Sacheen has so generously chosen to engage with the museum and the Academy to reflect on her harrowing experience at the 1973 Oscars,” said Jacqueline Stewart, Director and President of the Academy Museum. “Our thanks go out to Bird Runningwater and Heather Rae for helping us maintain our cherished relationship with Sacheen.”
At the event, the Academy will read the apology letter that former President David Rubin sent in June. Here is a copy of the letter:
June 18, 2022
Dear Sacheen Littlefeather,
I write to you today a letter that took a long time to arrive 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 not to accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in recognition of the film industry’s misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native Americans, you made a powerful statement. which continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity.
The abuse you suffered because of this statement was unwarranted and unwarranted. The emotional burden you have experienced and the cost of your own career in our industry is irreparable. For too long, the courage you have shown has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer you both our most sincere apologies and our sincere admiration.
We cannot achieve the Academy’s mission to “inspire the imagination and connect the world through film” without a commitment to facilitating the broadest representation and inclusion that reflects our diverse global population.
Today, nearly 50 years later, and under the leadership of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance, we stand firm in our commitment to ensuring Indigenous voices – the original storytellers – are visible and respected contributors. of the global film community. We are committed to fostering a more inclusive and respectful industry that relies on a balance between art and activism to drive progress.
We hope you receive this letter in a spirit of reconciliation and as recognition of your essential role in our journey as an organization. You are forever respectfully anchored in our history.
With my best regards,
President, Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences