Sacheen Littlefeather, Activist Who Declined Marlon Brando’s Oscar, Dead at 75 – NBC 6 South Florida

Family and friends are mourning the loss of Sacheen Littlefeather.

The Native American activist and actress, who famously declined an Oscar win on behalf of actor Marlon Brando at the 1973 Academy Awards, has died at the age of 75.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shared the news to their official Twitter account on Oct. 2.

Nearly 50 years ago to date, Littlefeather, born Marie Cruz, took to the stage to deliver a speech at the 1973 Academy Awards, rejecting an Oscar win on behalf of Brando.

The actor, who won Best Actor for his role in “The Godfather,” boycotted the ceremony in protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans onscreen. Although her speech (an eight-page speech typed by the actor) was met a mix of boos and applause from the in-person audience, Littlefeather faced backlash and career decline in the show’s aftermath. Earlier this year, the Academy issued a public apology to the actress.

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“The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified,” a letter issued in June, signed by then-president David Rubin, read. “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.”

Just days before the Academy held an event at the organization’s museum in Los Angeles in her honor in September, billed as “An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather,” she told Variety that the apology stunned her.

“I’m here to see a letter, 50 years later, this apology — it was something I never expected,” she said. “And came as a total surprise to me.”

When asked if she would reject the Oscar all over again, she affirmed that the decision would still be made “in a heartbeat.”

“I did not do this totally for Marlon,” she noted. “I did not do this on my behalf. I did this for all Native people everywhere who suffered from racial prejudice and discrimination.”

Although the cause of death has not been shared publicly, according to the Hollywood Reporter, Littlefeather shared that she had been diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2018, and it had “metastasized in recent years.”

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