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Sacheen Littlefeather Speaking at Academy Awards

Source: Bettmann / Getty

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has formally apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native woman who took to the Oscars stage in 1973 to decline an award that was given to actor Marlon Brando.

According to reports, the Academy announced that they had reached out to Littlefeather, also known as Marie Louise Cruz, in June with a letter of apology for the abuse she received while appearing on behalf of Brando, who had won the Oscar for Best Male Actor for his role in The Godfather in 1973. Brando chose to boycott the ceremony, citing Hollywood’s and the federal government’s ill-treatment of Native Americans. Then 26 years old, Littlefeather declined the award and was subjected to booing from the audience, with John Wayne having to be restrained by six security members from attacking her physically at the time.

The letter from former Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences President David Rubin, which was published with the announcement, said in part: “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. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

The Academy has also planned an event, entitled “An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather”, to be held on September 17th in Los Angeles, California at the Academy Museum. The event will feature Littlefeather in conversation with Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance along with a land acknowledgment and the reading of the letter along with musical and dance performances. Jacqueline Stewart, the Director and President of the Academy Museum, will be the emcee for the evening. “We are delighted and humbled that Sacheen has so generously chosen to engage with the museum and Academy to reflect upon her trying experience at the 1973 Academy Awards,” she wrote in the announcement.

Littlefeather, who has had a lengthy career as an advocate for Native Americans in the health sector, was appreciative of the apology. “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,” she said in the statement. The event is free to the public, with ticket reservations available at the Academy’s website.