The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather, an Apache and Yaqui actress and activist who was booed onstage at the 1973 Oscars after refusing the best actor award on behalf of Marlon Brando.
The Academy said in a statement on Monday that it apologized to Ms Littlefeather, 75, in June, nearly 50 years after Ms Littlefeather pierced the facade of the Oscars with shiny statues and bright lights in 1973 and injected the ceremony with criticism of Native American stereotypes in the media.
Her appearance at the ceremony, the first time a Native American woman has stood on stage at the Oscars, is perhaps one of the most well-known disruptive moments in the history of the awards ceremony.
When Ms Littlefeather, then 26, spoke, some of the audience cheered and others scoffed. One actor, John Wayne, was so flustered that a show producer, Marty Pasetta, said security guards had to restrain him from storming the stage.
Ms Littlefeather said she was “stunned” by the apology in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “I never thought I would live to see the day I would hear this, experience this,” she said.
“When I was on the podium in 1973, I was standing there alone,” she added.
Ms Littlefeather also drew attention to the federal government’s clash at Wounded Knee with Native Americans in the 1973 speech, which she gave shortly before being called to the stage on behalf of Mr Brando, who was to receive the Best Actor award for his performance. as Vito Corleone in “The Godfather”.
Ms Littlefeather said in an interview with the Academy, which was published on Monday, that she had planned to watch the 45th Academy Awards on television like everyone else when she received a call the day before the ceremony. Mr Brando. The two had become friends thanks to his neighbor, director Francis Ford Coppola. Mr. Brando asked him to decline the award on his behalf if he won.
Ms Littlefeather arrived at the ceremony with just around 15 minutes left of the official programme, wearing a shimmering buckskin dress, loafers and hair ties. Ms Littlefeather said she had little information on how the night worked, but Mr Brando had given her a speech to read if he won.
That plan evaporated when an Oscars producer saw the pages in her hand and told her she would be arrested if her comments were longer than 60 seconds, she said.
She introduced herself, then explained that Mr. Brando would not accept the award because of his concerns about the image of Native Americans in film and television and by the government. She stopped when a mixture of boos and cheers erupted from the audience.
“And I focused on the mouths and jaws opening in the audience, and there were quite a few of them,” she told the Academy. “But it was like looking into a sea of Clorox, you know, there were very few people of color in the audience.”
The crowd quieted down and Ms Littlefeather mentioned the Wounded Knee clash, then left the stage without touching the golden Oscars statue. She said some audience members did the so-called ‘tomahawk stunt’ to her and that when she went to Mr. Brando’s house later, people shot at the door where she was standing.
“When I went back to Marlon’s there was an incident with people shooting at me,” she said. “And there were two bullet holes that went through the doorway from where I was standing, and I was on the other side.”
Ms Littlefeather, who was unavailable for an interview on Tuesday, told the Academy that talking about these events in 2022 “felt like a big clean-up”.
“I feel like the sacred circle ends before I come into this life,” said Ms Littlefeather, who told The Guardian in June 2021 that she had terminal breast cancer.
Former Academy President David Rubin wrote in his apology to Ms Littlefeather that the abuse she faced because of the speech was ‘unwarranted and unwarranted’.
“For too long, the courage you have shown has gone unrecognized,” Mr. Rubin wrote. “For that, we offer both our deepest apologies and our heartfelt admiration.”
Mr. Rubin’s letter will be read next month during a program at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather.”
The Academy described it as an event of “conversation, reflection, healing and celebration”. Ms Littlefeather said in a statement that she looked forward to Native American performers and speakers at the event, including Calina Lawrence, a singer from Suquamish, and Bird Runningwater, the co-chair of the Academy’s Native Alliance, who is Cheyenne and Mescalero. Apache.
“It’s deeply encouraging to see how much everything has changed since I didn’t accept the Oscar 50 years ago,” she said. “I’m so proud of every single person that will appear on stage.”