Sacheen Littlefeather made Oscars historical past in 1973 when she turned the primary Native girl to face on stage on the awards ceremony. When Marlon Brando was named greatest actor for “The Godfather,” Littlefeather declined the prize on behalf of him, as he had boycotted the Oscars in protest of Hollywood’s portrayal of Native People. Met with each boos and cheers, she was escorted off the stage.
However her 60-second Oscar speech was life-changing for her, in addition to others. “He very regretfully can’t settle for this very beneficiant award,” Littlefeather stated to an viewers of tens of millions in her 1973 speech. “And the explanations for this being are the therapy of American Indians as we speak by the movie trade… and on tv in film re-runs, and in addition with latest happenings at Wounded Knee.”
Now, 50 years later, Littlefeather has obtained a letter of apology from the Academy of Movement Image Arts and Sciences. And this weekend, the Academy will host “An Night With Sacheen Littlefeather,” billed as a “very particular program of dialog, reflection, therapeutic and celebration.”
In an interview with Selection, Littlefeather displays on that Oscar evening, and says she would do all of it once more “in a heartbeat.” She made the speech, she says, not only for Brando — who was a recognized Native American ally — however for her individuals and the racial injustices that they had suffered. She additionally discusses how John Wayne tried to hurry the stage earlier than being intercepted by safety, and her friendship with Brando.
Considering again to that evening, while you have been on stage making this highly effective and historic speech, how did you’re feeling instantly afterward?
I had watched [the Oscars] like all people else, on TV, however that was the primary time on the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion. It was my first time on the Academy Awards. I made it via my first hurdle, promising Marlon Brando that I’d not contact that Oscar. However, as I walked off that stage, I did within the methods of braveness, honor grace, dignity and truthfulness. I did so within the methods of my ancestors and the methods of Indigenous ladies.
I used to be met with the stereotypical Tomahawk chop, people who referred to as at me, and I ignored all of them. I continued to stroll straight forward with a few armed guards beside me, and I held my head excessive and was proud to be the primary Indigenous girl within the historical past of the Academy Awards to make that political assertion.
At the moment in 1973, there was a media blackout on Wounded Knee and in opposition to the American Indian Motion that was occupying it. Marlon had referred to as them upfront and requested them to observe the Academy Awards, which they did. As they noticed me, up on stage, refusing that Academy Award for the stereotypes inside the movie trade, and mentioning Wounded Knee in South Dakota, it might break the media boycott.
Everybody needs to know the true story of what was occurring there, but it surely foiled the plans of the FBI. Typically, while you don’t just like the message, as they are saying in Rome, you attempt to kill the messenger. The FBI had plans to take all these AIM-sters [American Indian Movement members] like Dennis Banks and my brothers Russell Means and Oren Lyons to a spot like Guantanamo Bay. They might by no means be heard from once more, however that didn’t occur due to my speech.
There have been additional talks, Oren advised me, that the US authorities was planning on constructing some form of navy base there on the reservation and that the speech additionally foiled the plans. There was numerous interruption of plans that didn’t happen because of that speech.
Within the documentary “Sacheen Breaking the Silence,” you speak about individuals making an attempt to get on stage and also you point out John Wayne, this large American hero, being restrained. What do you keep in mind about that second?
I heard a disturbance from behind me as I used to be talking up on the podium. I discovered that he had been restrained by six safety males from assaulting me whereas I used to be on that stage. That was essentially the most violent second that had ever taken place on the Academy Awards.
So, you heard about it from a safety guard?
Sure, but it surely was by no means publicized. He was by no means admonished by the Academy. It was by no means printed within the press. However essentially the most violent moments came about then and there on the Academy Awards by John Wayne.
Method again then, once I did that, I used to be boycotted by the FBI. They went round Hollywood and advised individuals to not rent me. In the event that they did, they’d shut their movie manufacturing down. As well as, different individuals have been let on speak reveals like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin, and different common speak reveals. They might go on there and speak about me, however I used to be by no means allowed to go on them and symbolize myself.
Moreover, that 60-second piece of movie was saved underneath wraps for 36 years and by no means was allowed to be proven to most people, hoping that it might all be admonished and go away. Two generations later, it turned public area. Individuals began asking questions. What was that each one about? Who’s that girl? And other people requested, “Why is she doing that?” That’s the way it got here to the floor as soon as once more.
And when the [Academy] Museum included Native American Indian individuals on its board of administrators, issues began transferring ahead. I’m right here to see a letter, 50 years later, this apology — it was one thing I by no means anticipated and got here as a complete shock to me.
Marlon Brando was a recognized ally to the Native American and Indigenous group. What does allyship appear to be to you?
My friendship with Marlon Brando was primarily based on mutual curiosity. I didn’t know Marlon Brando as an actor. It was centered on Native American Indigenous points. I used to be not one in all his love pursuits, removed from it. I loved speaking with him. We loved laughing collectively. Typically we used to sit down collectively, speak and simply giggle our asses off. He’s additionally a fantastic prankster. In addition to that, he had a kinship with Native American Indian those who goes manner again. I appreciated his friendship and his skill to see via the baloney and the unfairness. He understood racial prejudice in a manner that most individuals don’t, and that was refreshing to me.
Realizing the whole lot you understand now, should you needed to do it once more, would you continue to take to the stage and settle for Marlon Brando’s Oscar?
In a heartbeat. I didn’t do that completely for Marlon. I didn’t do that on my behalf. I did this for all Native individuals all over the place who suffered from racial prejudice and discrimination. I did it for all of those that have been born underneath the umbrella of genocide, in the US, and Canada, and for all of us who’ve suffered via excessive stereotypes which weren’t of our selecting.
Ought to Hollywood use platforms such because the Academy Awards to make extra political statements?
I can’t converse for different individuals, however individuals must look into their hearts. They must see what’s applicable for them, what they are saying and what they do. It’s not for me to evaluate, so I can’t make an announcement on their behalf. All I do know is that… I don’t maintain anger, hate or have any animosity towards anybody, together with the Academy and the John Waynes of the world. I’m not a rich individual. I’m a poor individual. I don’t have a lot, however I do what I can. I attempt to not decide others. So, what different individuals need to do and what they really feel of their hearts, they must do.