Actor Sacheen Littlefeather Has Died at 75. Her Activism Lives On.

On October 2, Sacheen Littlefeather died at age 75. News of her passing was announced by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Sunday evening.

Sacheen Littlefeather was a Native American actress, model, and activist who is famously known for representing actor Marlon Brando at the 1973 Academy Awards. At that year’s ceremony, he was awarded the Best Actor prize for his work in The Godfather. Sacheen, who was 26 at the time, made a speech on his behalf declining the award while dressed in traditional Apache regalia.

The speech Sacheen read was intended to bring awareness to the harmful treatment of Native Americans in the film industry and the standoff happening at the time between the federal government and Native American activists protesting and occupying Wounded Knee, South Dakota, the site of a 1890 massacre of around 300 Lakota people by the U.S. Army. Sacheen was met with mixed reactions from the crowd, prompting cheers, boos, and shocked faces.

“I beg at this time that I have not intruded upon this evening, and that we will, in the future, our hearts and our understandings, will meet with love and generosity,” Sacheen said at the time. She never finished the full speech. According to one of the ceremony’s producers, actor John Wayne had to be restrained by security guards as to not storm the stage.

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Sacheen’s act at the 1973 Oscars helped bring media attention to the cause, but she was harshly criticized afterwards and effectively blacklisted in Hollywood.

Just last month, Sacheen received a long-overdue formal apology from the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences — they held a reflective event honoring her, called “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather.”

“I was stunned. I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this,” Sacheen told The Hollywood Reporter of receiving the apology. “When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone.”

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