Actor and Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who revealed at the 1973 Academy Awards that Marlon Brando would not accept his Oscar for The Godfather, has died. She was 75. The news of her death was announced by the Academy of Motion Pictures, who wrote on their social media pages, "Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75." The actor and activist announced back in a 2021 Facebook post that she had been diagnosed with metastasized breast cancer. In a ceremony titled 'An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather' back in September, she addressed the crowd saying, "I’m crossing over soon to the spirit world/ And you know, I’m not afraid to die. Because we come from a we/us/our society. We don’t come from a me/I/myself society. And we learn to give away from a very young age. When we are honoured, we give."
Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75. pic.twitter.com/OlpsoItlCw— The Academy (@TheAcademy) October 3, 2022
Littlefeather became a controversial name after taking to the stage at the Oscars on behalf of Marlon Brando and refused to accept his Best Actor award for The Godfather in 1973. Addressing the elite at the globally-televised ceremony, she rejected the award as Brando's mark of protest of Hollywood's depictions of Native American people. The move was also in relation to the events at Wounded Knee, South Dakota, where several Native Americans were massacred in 1890, with protests going on at the time of the 1973 Oscars. Littlefeather's words received a strong show of support at the time, while many also opposed her, including John Wayne, who didn't accept her political stand at the ceremony.
Earlier this year, the Academy issued an apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, 49 years after the event. The actor in her response conveyed her happiness stating, "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." She added, "I am so proud of each and every person who will appear on stage." Littlefeather is known for starring in films like The Laughing Policeman, The Trial of Billy Jack and Johnny Firecloud and made her last appearance in 1978’s Shoot the Sun Down.