Actress and Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather passed away at the age of 75 on Sunday (October 2, 2022) in the Northern California city of Novato. She was suffering from stage 4 breast cancer.
In March 2018, Littlefeather had disclosed about her breast cancer diagnosis, which had metastasized in recent years. For the unversed, she was famously known for delivering Marlon Brando's Oscar rejection speech for his acclaimed film Godfather.
According to an article in Hollywood Reporter, in the 1973 Oscars, Littlefeather had taken to the stage on the late actor's behalf where she was given 60 seconds to read her speech on Native American rights.
On reaching the stage, she had told the audience, "He (Brando) very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award. And the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry... and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee." Following this, she was escorted off the stage with a mixed reaction from the audience.
Back then, actors like Raquel Welch, Clint Eastwood and Oscar co-host Michael Caine had criticised Littlefeather for disrupting the prestigious ceremony. Littlefeather was later allowed to read her full speech at a press conference.
Two weeks ago, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences had issued an apology to Littlefeather for the 1973 Oscars incident after nearly 50 years and had even hosted an apology in her honour.
Born Marie Louise Cruz in Salinas, California to a Native American father (Apache and Yaqui) and European American mother in 1946, Littlefeather began exploring her native identity at California State University in Hayward. She even participated in the Native occupation to attempt to reclaim Alcatraz Island in 1969.
Later, Littlefeather received a full scholarship to study acting at San Francisco's American Conservatory Theater. She also worked in radio and TV ads.