When Brando won best actor for “The Godfather,” Little Feather, wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, took the stage in his place.
NEW YORK — Nearly 50 years after Sachin Little Feather stood on stage at the Academy Awards to discuss Marlon Brando’s portrayal of Native Americans in Hollywood films, The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences apologized to him for the abuse..
The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures said Monday it will host Little Feather, now 75, on Sept. 17 for an evening of “conversation, healing and celebration.”
When Brando won best actor for “The Godfather,” Littlefeather took the stage, wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, becoming the first Native American woman to do so at the Academy Awards. In a 60-second speech, she explained that Brando could not accept the award because of “the film industry’s treatment of American Indians today.”
Some in the audience cheered him on. John Wayne, who was backstage at the time, was reportedly furious. The 1973 Oscars were held during The American Indian Movement’s two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota. In the years since, Little Feather has said she was mocked, discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief appearance at the Academy Awards.
In making the announcement, the Academy Museum shared a June 18 letter from Academy President David Rubin to Little Feather about the iconic Oscar moment. Rubin called Little Feather’s speech “a powerful statement that reminds us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity.”
“The abuse you suffered because of this statement was unwarranted and unwarranted,” Rubin wrote. “The emotional toll you are going through and the cost to your own career in our industry is irreparable. For a long time the courage you showed went unrecognized. For this we offer both our deepest apologies and sincere appreciation.
“It’s great to see how much has changed since not accepting an Academy Award 50 years ago,” Little Feather said in a statement.
“As for the Academy apologizing to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” said Little Feather. “We need to keep our sense of humor about it all the time. It’s our way of survival.”
At the Academy Museum event in Los Angeles, Little Feather producer Bird Runningwater will sit down for a conversation with Co-Chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance.
I A podcast with Jacqueline Stewart earlier this yeara film scholar and director of the Academy Museum, Littlefeather reflected on what prompted her to speak out in 1973.
“I felt there should be indigenous people, black people, Asian people, Chicano people — I felt everyone should be included,” Littlefeather said.