Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, dead at age 75

Sacheen Littlefeather during her 1973 Oscars denial speech, photo courtesy of Brendan Morrow/

Stephanie Haynesworth, Reporter

   Sacheen Littlefeather was an American actress, model, and Native American Civil Rights activist. Littlefeather was best known for her appearance at the 1973 Oscars, where she declined Marlon Brando’s 1973 Academy award for “The Godfather” on his behalf in an unforgettable protest due to Hollywood’s negative portrayal of Native Americans. Instead of giving the speech Marlon Brando prepared for his award, she spoke to the audience of the disservice and misrepresentation Hollywood has done to Native Americans. Littlefeather cited Native American stereotypes in film as well as the then ongoing prolonged protest at Wounded Knee in South Dakota, the same area where nearly three hundred Native Americans were killed by the United States army in 1890. After the Award Ceremony, Littlefeather reports that she spoke from her heart in saying, “Those words were written in blood, perhaps my own blood. I felt like Christ carrying the weight of the cross on his shoulders.”

   Littlefeather died around noon on Oct. 2, surrounded by loved ones in her home in Novato California according to her caretaker. She had been battling metastasized breast cancer for the past four years and the disease had gradually gotten worse in the most recent years. Later that evening, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences shared a tweet on Twitter sending their condolences with a quote attributed to the activist, “When I am gone, always be reminded that whenever you stand for your truth, you will be keeping my voice and the voices of our nations and our people alive.” Sacheen Littlefeather will be remembered for her standing up for Native Americans and her impactful activism in favor of Native American representation in America.