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 October 6, 2022

Sacheen Littlefeather, actress and civil rights activist, passes away at the age of 75 from breast cancer

Hollywood was a different place decades ago. Perhaps that's because of activists like Sacheen Littlefeather.

Sacheen Littlefeather, whose onstage protest at the 1973 Academy Awards ceremony shook up the industry, has died of breast cancer at age 75, the Daily Caller reported. The actress was surrounded by her loved ones as she passed peacefully on Sunday.

During the awards show broadcast nearly 50 years ago, Littlefeather took the stage to accept -- or rather, decline -- Marlon Brando's Oscar for Best Actor for his role in "The Godfather." She was the first Native American to take the stage and did so at the behest of the actor in protest of the treatment and stereotyping of her people.

She donned a buckskin dress and moccasins and spoke of demonstrations at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, but couldn't deliver the full speech Brando wrote for her due to time constraints. Meanwhile, some attendees were furious with her and harassed and heckled the activist.

The audience booed her, and actor John Wayne, who was backstage, allegedly required six security guards to keep him from rushing her onstage, CBS News reported. The incident ultimately killed her career and caused her to be all but blacklisted for decades.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science finally apologized to Littlefeather in June 2022 for the treatment she received at the awards show, according to the Hollywood Reporter. A tweet from the organization publicizing her death included an inspirational quote from the actress.

"When I am gone, always be reminded that whenever you stand for truth, you will be keeping my voice and the voices of our nations and our people alive," the tweet quoted her. "I remain Sacheen Littlefeather. Thank you."

Littlefeather's bold move advanced her cause even as she personally sacrificed her own career. While she righted a wrong in Hollywood, the movie industry has moved on to other forms of discrimination and stereotyping.

Written By:
Christine Favocci

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