Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American actor and activist who turned down Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy Award for Best Actor on his behalf, died Sunday at 75, the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences tweeted.
Littlefeather, who declined Brando’s award for his role in “The Godfather,” famously spoke on stage about the film industry’s treatment of Native Americans nearly 50 years ago.
Brando’s boycott of the awards show was also a recognition of the Wounded Knee Occupation, where roughly 200 Oglala Lakota people, along with American Indian Movement members, took over a community in South Dakota.
Littlefeather, who declined to grab Brando’s Oscar, was subject to boos and criticism following her speech.
Littlefeather was born to a Native American father, of Apache and Yaqui descent, and a mother of European descent.
Her activism work included her involvement with the United Bay Indian Council, a role as spokesperson of the National American Indian Council and her participation in the Occupation of Alcatraz.
She aspired to be an actor and played a number of roles in television and radio.
Littlefeather described the impact of her Academy Awards speech in the 2018 documentary “Sacheen: Breaking the Silence.”
“I was blacklisted or, you could say, ‘redlisted.’ Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and others didn’t want me on their shows,” she said. “The doors were closed tight, never to reopen.”
Littlefeather received an apology from the Academy in August. She said she was “stunned” by the gesture.
“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.”
Littlefeather was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer in 2018. She will be buried alongside her husband, Charles Koshiway, who died last year of blood cancer, according to The Hollywood Reporter.