Oscars apologize to Sacheen Littlefeather for mocked speech: 'Never thought I'd live to see the day'

·2 min read

Sacheen Littlefeather has received a long-overdue apology from the Academy Awards.

Nearly 50 years ago, the actress and activist accepted the best actor Oscar on behalf of "The Godfather" star Marlon Brando, who boycotted the 1973 ceremony over Hollywood's negative portrayals of Native Americans. Littlefeather delivered a speech on his behalf, which was roundly mocked and booed by some members of the audience.

Now, Littlefeather will be honored at "An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather," which the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences describes as "a very special program of conversation, reflection, healing and celebration." The event, announced Monday, will be held Sept. 17 at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles.

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Littlefeather received a private apology letter from the academy in June. "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," the letter read, signed by the academy's president at the time, David Rubin. "For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration."

Littlefeather, 75, told The Hollywood Reporter in a story published Monday that she was "stunned" to receive a formal apology.

"I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this," Littlefeather said. "When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone."

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Littlefeather became the first Native American woman to speak on stage at the Oscars. Wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, she delivered a 60-second speech explaining that Brando could not accept the award because of "the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry."

Her message was met with loud boos, as well as applause. In an interview with The Guardian last year, Littlefeather recalled that actor John Wayne was in the wings during her speech and tried to "forcibly" take her off stage: "He had to be restrained by six security men to prevent him from doing so."

The 1973 Oscars were held during the American Indian Movement’s two-month occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota, which Brando referenced in the speech she delivered. In the years since, Littlefeather has said she has been discriminated against and personally attacked for her brief appearance.

Contributing: Jake Coyle, The Associated Press

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Oscars apologize to Sacheen Littlefeather for 'irreparable' harm