Sacheen Littlefeather, Actor & Activist, Dies At 75
Sacheen Littlefeather, the Indigenous actor and activist most famous for declining Marlon Brando’s Academy Award in 1973, has died at age 75.
Littlefeather was an Apache/Yaqui model and actor who mostly appeared in films in the 1970s, such as The Trial of Billy Jack, Winterhawk, and Johnny Firecloud.
She was also an Indigenous rights activist who would go on to appear in the 2009 documentary Real Injun, which explores the role of Indigenous people in film.
Littlefeather is most wildly known for her appearance at the 1973 Academy Awards, where she stood in for actor Marlon Brando. Brando was nominated for his role as Vito Corelone in The Godfather, and was considered the favorite to win.
However, Brando chose not to attend the Oscars at the last minute, boycotting the ceremony to draw attention to the standoff at Wounded Knee, South Dakota.
Brando asked Littlefeather to take the stage in his place should he win, giving her a pre-written speech to read on his behalf.
Brando won for Best Actor, and Littlefeather took the stage, but due to awareness of time constraints, she condensed Brando’s 739-word speech to a shorter message bringing attention to the representation of Native Americans in film and television, and to the siege at Wounded Knee.
Though Littlefeather’s speech was brief and courteous, she was met with a mix of boos and cheers from a divided audience. In June of this year, Littlefeather received an official apology from the Academy.
Littlefeather died on October 2, 2022, surrounded by her loved ones in her home in Novato, California, as reported by THR. She was 75, and passed from metastatic lung cancer.