Sacheen Littlefeather, The Native American Woman Who Declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Oscar (& Pissed Off John Wayne), Has Passed Away At 75

Sacheen Littlefeather

Rest in peace…

Many of you may remember the story of Sacheen Littlefeather, the Native American woman who famously declined The Godfather star Marlon Brando’s Oscar back in 1973, and spoke to the crowd about the negative portrayal of Native Americans in the industry.

She received a ton of boos from the crowd, and John Wayne was allegedly backstage having to be restrained from running on stage in an attempt to get her off. Many folks also claim the John Wayne story about being restrained is untrue, however, he was pissed and famously said:

“If [Brando] had something to say, he should have appeared that night and stated his views instead of taking some little unknown girl and dressing her up in an Indian outfit.”

Clint Eastwood was hosting the ceremony that night, and he said following Littlefeather’s comments:

“I don’t know if I should present this award on behalf of all the cowboys shot on all the John Ford westerns in the theaters.”

Needless to say, it was an incredibly brave move, considering Native Americans were always depicted in a negative light in westerns at the time, although it came with a heavy price, as she was blacklisted from the entertainment industry after the move, when she already had film credits in movies like Winterhawk, Shoot the Sun Down, and The Trial of Billy Jack. 

With that being said, it’s with a heavy heart to announce that Littlefeather has passed away at the age of 75.

According to CNN, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced her death in a Twitter post today, saying:

“Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75.”

Although her cause of death was not shared, Littlefeather shared in a Facebook post last year that she had been diagnosed with metastatisized breast cancer.

Last month, the Academy hosted an event at its film museum in Los Angeles, and featured Littlefeather as a speaker, alongside a number of other Native American performers.

Back in August, the Academy released an apology to Littlefeather for how she was treated back in 1973, as former Academy President David Rubin called the abuse she received “unwarranted and unjustified.”

He added:

“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. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

Littlefeather accepted the apology, calling it a “dream come true:”

“We Indians are very patient people– it’s only been 50 years!

We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival”

RIP Sacheen Littlefeather.

A beer bottle on a dock



A beer bottle on a dock