Sacheen Littlefeather, activist who turned down Marlon Brando's Oscar, dies at 75

The Native American activist took the stage at the 1973 Oscars

Sacheen Littlefeather, activist who turned down Marlon Brando's Oscar, dies at 75

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Sacheen Littlefeather, the activist who took the stage at the 1973 Oscars to refuse Marlon Brando’s award on his behalf, has died aged 75. Littlefeather was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2018 and announced that the illness was terminal in 2021. She passed away in her home in California on October 2, 2022. 

Brando was nominated for – and won – the Oscar for Best Actor in 1973 for his role as Vito Corleone in The Godfather. He decided to boycott the ceremony in order to take a stand against the FBI’s siege of Wounded Knee and Hollywood’s treatment of Native Americans. Wounded Knee is a town in South Dakota that was occupied by members of the Oglala Lakota tribe and Native American activists for a total of 71 days between February and May 1973, in protest of the government’s treatment of Native American people.

Brando gave Littlefeather a 739-word speech to read out at the ceremony, but she was only permitted to speak for 60 seconds when she took the stage to decline the award. She was later able to read the full speech at a press conference, and the New York Times published it in full. The Academy issued an apology for her treatment at the ceremony in June 2022. 

Born Marie Louise Cruz in 1946, Littlefeather’s father was Native American and of White Mountain Apache and Yaqui descent. She adopted her chosen name in 1970 after taking part in the occupation of Alcatraz. As well as her activism, she was also an actor, but claimed to have been blacklisted by Hollywood after her Oscars appearance. She spent much of her later life campaigning and working in Native American healthcare. 

Emily Garbutt

Entertainment Writer

I’m an Entertainment Writer here at GamesRadar+, covering everything film and TV-related across the Total Film and SFX sections. I help bring you all the latest news and also the occasional feature too. I’ve previously written for publications like HuffPost and i-D after getting my NCTJ Diploma in Multimedia Journalism. 

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