Actress and Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather died of breast cancer at the age of 75 in her Marin County, California, home Sunday, according to reports.
Littlefeather died peacefully while surrounded by her loved ones, and her niece, Calina Lawrence, confirmed her death, according to CTV News. Littlefeather famously declined Marlon Brando’s Academy Award for “The Godfather” on his behalf, in protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans, the outlet noted. Her 1973 Oscar appearance was one of the most well known moments in the award show’s history, and marked the first time a Native American woman appeared onstage at the Oscars, according to CTV News.
RIP #SacheenLittlefeather. Sacheen Littlefeather was an Indigenous activist who famously rejected the Oscar for Best Actor in 1973on behalf of Marlon Brando in protest against the mistreatment of Indigenous Peoples in Hollywood & to bring attention to the Wounded Knee Occupation. pic.twitter.com/lPpUh2CyPS
— Hansraj Meena (@HansrajMeena) October 3, 2022
Littlefeather was the first Native American woman to go onstage at the Oscars, CTV News reported. She walked across the stage in a buckskin dress and moccasins moments after Roger Moore declared Brando as the winner for Best Actor, according to the outlet.
Littlefeather addressed the audience and informed them the protests at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, paired with the alleged Native American stereotypes in the film, were the reasons behind Brando’s absence, CTV News noted. Littlefeather was not allowed to read the extensive speech Brando had written due to time restraints, the outlet continued. (RELATED: ‘Evil Committed By So Many Christians’: Pope Francis Says Sorry To Indigenous Canadians)
Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75. pic.twitter.com/OlpsoItlCw
— The Academy (@TheAcademy) October 3, 2022
At the time, producer Howard Koch threatened to arrest Littlefeather if she spoke for more than a minute, according to CTV News.
In June 2022, nearly 50 years after she spoke onstage at the Oscars, Littlefeather received an official apology from the Academy, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The Academy honored Littlefeather with a tribute posted Sunday to Twitter.