Apache and Yaqui actress Sacheen Littlefeather dies at age 75

Sacheen Littlefeather at the 1973 Academy Awards (Photo/Facebook)

On Monday, Native News Online reported that actress and activist Sacheen Littlefeather (Apache and Yaqui), who is known for her speech of defiance at the 1973 Academy Awards when she rejected the Oscar on behalf of actor Marlon Brando, died on Sunday in Novato, Calif. She was 75 at the time of her passing. Indian Country Today reported that she died of metastasized breast cancer.

Both outlets said her passing comes two weeks after she was honored almost a half century later by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science in a ceremony and received apology for her mistreatment at the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony.

The awards ceremony occurred during the 1973 occupation of Wounded Knee by the American Indian Movement (AIM). Brando, who received the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in The Godfather, decided not to accept it and asked Littlefeather to represent him at the ceremony so she could make a statement about Wounded Knee.

Her speech was met with some applause and many boos. While it is thought the boos were meant for Brando, who was not present, Littlefeather faced the boos and walked off the stage.

According to the Academy, Littlefeather, who was 26 at the time, was the first Native American woman to appear onstage at the Oscars. She had known Marlon Brando for about a year before she stepped onto the stage of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion on his behalf.

“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,” she said in a 2018 documentary about her life, “Sacheen: Breaking the Silence.”

You can read the full Native News Online article here, and the Indian Country Today article here.