The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather for the Oscars speech abuse.

 The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather for the Oscars speech abuse.

Nearly 50 years after her address on behalf of Marlon Brando regarding the portrayal of Native Americans, the Academy apologizes for the 'unwarranted and unjustified' reaction.


The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (Ampas), the organization in charge of the Oscars, has issued a formal apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American activist who attended the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony as part of Marlon Brando's refusal to accept his trophy.

Brando was nominated for best actor for his performance as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, but he did not attend as a protest in favor of Native American rights, motivated in part by the American Indian Movement's continuing two-month occupation of the site of the 1890 Wounded Knee massacre (AIM). Instead of accepting the statuette from presenters Roger Moore and Liv Ullmann, Littlefeather delivered a brief speech in which she cited Brando's stance as a result of "the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry... and on television, in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

The speech was met with jeers from the crowd, and Littlefeather, then 26, subsequently stated that security officers backstage had to keep actor John Wayne from hitting her, while other people backstage made inappropriate gestures.

Ampas' president, David Rubin, released a message of reconciliation in which he praised her appearance as "a strong statement that continues to remind us of the requirement of respect and the significance of human dignity."

"The abuse you received as a result of your statement was unfair and unnecessary." The emotional toll you've endured, as well as the cost to your own career in our field, are irreversible. For far too long, your bravery has gone unnoticed. We sincerely apologize and express our admiration for this." The Academy has also scheduled an evening of "discussion, contemplation, healing, and celebration," with Littlefeather appearing with Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy's Indigenous Alliance.

"Regarding the Academy's apologies to me, we Indians are extremely patient people - it's only been 50 years!" Littlefeather, now 75, remarked. We must maintain our sense of humour at all times. It's our only means of survival."


"I never expected to live to see the day," she added. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It's encouraging to see how much has changed in the 50 years since I didn't accept the Academy Award."

The Wounded Knee occupation began in February 1973, with a 200-strong group of Oglala Lakota and members of AIM protesting on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, on the same place where 290 Lakota were massacred by the US army in 1890. The Oscars were held in March, and the occupation ended in May when a deal to disarm was reached with federal authorities.

Littlefeather told the Guardian in 2021 that she arrived at the ceremony just a few minutes before Brando's medal was revealed, and that Brando had prepared her an eight-page speech to recite if he won. However, when the show's director, Howard Koch, warned her she only had 60 seconds, she improvised a speech instead. She also stated that she made a commitment to Brando not to touch the statuette. "I went up there like a warrior lady." I went up there with the elegance, beauty, courage, and humility of my people. "I spoke from the bottom of my heart."

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