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Film academy apologizes to Littlefeather for 1973 Oscars

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The actress/civil rights activist represented Marlon Brando at the 45th Academy Awards, where she declined the Best Actor award on behalf of The Godfather actor. She also gave a passionate speech drawing attention to stereotypes of Native Americans in Hollywood and the Wounded Knee protest in South Dakota. The moment led to Littlefeather being boycotted and discriminated against by the entertainment industry, and now Academy president David Rubin has formally apologised to the 75-year-old for her experiences."As you stood on the Oscars stage in 1973 to not accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando,..."

NEW YORK (AP) — Nearly 50 years after Sacheen Littlefeather stood on the Academy Awards stage on behalf of Marlon Brando to speak about the depiction of Native Americans in Hollywood films, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences apologized to her for the abuse she endured.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures on Monday said that it will host Littlefeather, now 75, for an evening of "conversation, healing and celebration" on Sept. 17.

Oscars-Politics

FILE - In this March 27, 1973 file photo, Sacheen Littlefeather, tells the audience at the Academy Awards ceremony that Marlon Brando was declining to accept his Oscar as best actor for his role in "The Godfather."

When Brando won best actor for "The Godfather," Littlefeather, wearing buckskin dress and moccasins, 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. John Wayne, who was backstage at the time, was reportedly furious. The 1973 Oscars were held during t he American Indian Movement's two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. In the years since, Littlefeather has said she's been mocked, discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief Academy Awards appearance.

In making the announcement, the Academy Museum shared a letter sent June 18 to Littlefeather by David Rubin, academy president, about the iconic Oscar moment. Rubin called Littlefeather's speech "a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity."

Sacheen Littlefeather, Neil Diamond, Chris Eyre

Activist and actress Sacheen Littlefeather, a subject of the PBS special "Reel Injun," participates in a panel discussion about the show with directors Neil Diamond, left, and Chris Eyre at the PBS Television Critics Association summer press tour in Beverly Hills, Calif., Thursday, Aug. 5, 2010. (AP Photo/Chris Pizzello)

"The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified," wrote Rubin. "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."

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."

"Regarding the Academy's apology to me, we Indians are very patient people — it's only been 50 years!" said Littlefeather. "We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It's our method of survival."

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At the Academy Museum event in Los Angeles, Littlefeather will sit for a conversation with producer Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the academy's Indigenous Alliance.

In a podcast earlier this year with Jacqueline Stewart, a film scholar and director of the Academy Museum, Littlefeather reflected on what compelled her to speak out in 1973.

"I felt that there should be Native people, Black people, Asian people, Chicano people — I felt there should be an inclusion of everyone," said Littlefeather. "A rainbow of people that should be involved in creating their own image."

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