Film Academy Apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for Backlash to 1973 Marlon Brando Acceptance Speech

Academy President David Rubin called the abuse the indigenous activist received “unwarranted and unjustified”

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The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has sent a letter of apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, the indigenous activist who spoke on Marlon Brando’s behalf at the 1973 Oscars, calling the treatment she received for her speech “unwarranted and unjustified.”

Nearly 50 years ago, Littlefeather attended the Oscars in Brando’s place after the actor decided to boycott the ceremony out of protest for the portrayal of Native Americans in the entertainment industry. When Brando was named the winner of the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in “The Godfather,” Littlefeather gave a speech on Brando’s behalf declining the honor with a mix of applause and jeers, with presenters Raquel Welch and Clint Eastwood making dismissive jokes about Brando and Littlefeather’s actions later that evening.

“You made a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity,” former Academy President David Rubin wrote.

“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable,” Rubin continued. “For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

On Sept. 17, Littlefeather will speak at the Academy Museum about that night at the Oscars as part of a special event as part of a panel with film/TV producer and former Sundance programmer Bird Runningwater.

“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,” said Littlefeather in a statement.

“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 continued. “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. I am so proud of each and every person who will appear on stage.”