Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American Activist and Actress, Dead at 75

Sacheen Littlefeather—the Native American activist who declined Marlon Brando's Best Actor Oscar in 1973 for his work in The Godfatherhas died. She was 75.

On Sunday evening, The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced the news on social media.

Her family confirmed the news to Los Angeles Times, noting she died peacefully at her Marin County home, surrounded by loved ones.

A cause of death was not immediately revealed, however, Littlefeather previously disclosed in a Facebook post in January 2021 that she had metastasized breast cancer.

Her passing comes a few weeks after she accepted the Academy’s apology following the history-making night.

<p><a href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/515575596" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bettmann/Getty Images" class="link ">Bettmann/Getty Images</a></p>

On March 27, 1973, Littlefeather walked on stage at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in a fringed buckskin dress and moccasins and bravely took a stand when she delivered Brando's rejection of the award due to Hollywood’s mistreatment of Native Americans and the standoff at Wounded Knee. Her appearance was met with a mixed reaction of confusion, shock, and boos, along with racist remarks that continued long after and forced her out of the limelight.

Apache activist Sacheen Littlefeather speaks after rejecting the Academy Award in place of Best Actor winner Marlon Brando.<p><a href="https://www.gettyimages.com/detail/515350722" rel="nofollow noopener" target="_blank" data-ylk="slk:Bettmann/Getty Images" class="link ">Bettmann/Getty Images</a></p>
Apache activist Sacheen Littlefeather speaks after rejecting the Academy Award in place of Best Actor winner Marlon Brando.

Bettmann/Getty Images

Brando later told Dick Cavett that he believed the public’s reactions should have been “directed at myself,” adding, “They should have at least had the courtesy to listen to her.”

Five decades later, the academy extended an official apology to Littlefeather, with former academy President David Rubin signing off on it in June.

“For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration,” the organization wrote.

On September 18, Littlefeather was honored with an event hosted by academy member Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the organization’s Indigenous Alliance, where she reflected on that night and formally accepted the apology.

“I am here accepting this apology not only for me alone, but as an acknowledgment, knowing that it was not only for me but for all of our Nations, who all so need to hear and deserve this apology,” Littlefeather said. “Please, when I am gone, always be reminded that whenever you stand for your truth, you will be keeping my voice and the voices of our Nations and our people alive.”

Littlefeather requested that in lieu of flowers, donations be made to the American Indian Child Resource Center in Oakland.

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