The Academy apologises to Sacheen Littlefeather for 1973 Oscars

Emily Brown

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The Academy apologises to Sacheen Littlefeather for 1973 Oscars

Featured Image Credit: Album/Alamy Stock Photo/Everett Collection Inc/Alamy Stock Photo

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures has formally apologised to actor Sacheen Littlefeather after she was booed on stage at the 1973 Oscars ceremony.

Littlefeather, who is known for films such as The Trial of Billy Jack and Johnny Firecloud, took to the stage nearly 50 years ago after Marlon Brando was awarded best actor for his role in The Godfather.

Wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, Littlefeather became the first Native American woman to ever appear on the Oscars' stage as she spoke on behalf of Brando and said he could not accept the award due to 'the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry'.

The ceremony took place in the midst of the American Indian Movement’s two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota and Littlefeather's speech was not met favourably, resulting in boos from some members of the crowd and causing Littlefeather to be discriminated against and personally attacked in the years after her appearance.

Yesterday (15 August), the Academy shared a press release explaining Littlefeather had been presented with a statement of apology in June, acknowledging she had given a 'powerful statement' at the 1973 event and that the abuse she endured in the aftermath 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," the Academy wrote.

Almost 50 years on from her appearance, the Academy has now announced an event titled 'An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather', which is set to be 'a very special program of conversation, reflection, healing, and celebration' with the actor taking place on 17 September.

Littlefeather commented on the apology in a statement of her own, saying: "Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people—it’s only been 50 years! We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.

"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 Institute’s commitment to Indigenous filmmakers for twenty years through the Institute’s Labs and Sundance Film Festival."

Littlefeather was booed when she appeared on stage. Credit: Album/Alamy Stock Photo
Littlefeather was booed when she appeared on stage. Credit: Album/Alamy Stock Photo

The actor went on to describe the turn of events as a 'dream come true', saying it is 'profoundly heartening to see how much has changed' since she took to the stage.

Tickets to the evening with Littlefeather are free to the public, with Jacqueline Stewart, Director and President of the Academy Museum, expressing hopes the event will offer 'Sacheen and our audiences a moment of collective healing and a new path forward'.

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Topics: Film & TV, US News, Film and TV, Entertainment, Oscars

Emily Brown
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