The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Monday apologised to actor Sacheen Littlefeather for the abuse she endured nearly 50 years ago when she spoke about the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood films on behalf of Marlon Brando. 

The Academy said that it will host Littlefeather, now 75, for an evening of “conversation, healing and celebration” on September 17.

When Brando won best actor for “The Godfather,” Littlefeather, took the stage, becoming the first Native American woman ever to do so at the Academy Awards.

In a 60-second speech, she explained that Brando could not accept the award due to “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”

Some in the audience booed her. In the years since, Littlefeather has said she’s been mocked, discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief Academy Awards appearance.

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David Rubin, academy president, called Littlefeather’s speech “a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity.”

Littlefeather, in a statement, said it is “profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago.”

Who is Sacheen Littlefeather?

Born in Salinas, California in 1946, Sacheen Littlefeather is an American actor and activist for Native American rights. Her mother was a leather stamper. Her father, who later died of terminal cancer, was an alcoholic and beat up the children.  

Littlefeather graduated from California State College at Hayward. She then joined Indians of All Tribes and later participated in the 1969 occupation of Alcatraz. 

She worked in radio and television commercials and eventually landed films. Littlefeather is best known for The Trial of Billy Jack (1974), Johnny Firecloud (1975) and Counselor at Crime (1973).

In 2018, she was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer.