The Hollywood Academy published this Monday a letter of apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, the indigenous woman who took the stage at the Oscars, on behalf of Marlon Brando, to reject the prize awarded as best actor for his portentous portrayal of mobster Vito Corleone in The Godfather (1972), by Francis Ford Coppola.
"When you took the Oscars stage in 1973 to decline to accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in protest of the film industry's misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native Americans, you made a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the need for respect and the importance of human dignity," writes David Rubin, current president of the Academy, in the letter.
The letter is dated June 18, but was made public this Monday. In addition, the institution confirmed that on September 17 Littlefeather will be the protagonist of an event organized at the Academy Museum in Los Angeles to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the moment.
The gala in question was held on the night of March 27, 1973. Brando had already notified the organization that he would not attend the event and that the Indian rights activist and aspiring actress Sacheen Littlefeather (Little Feather) would come on his behalf. , but did not say anything about the decision to reject the Oscar in case of winning.
The surprise came when Roger Moore and Liv Ullman appeared on stage to present the award. Among the nominees, in addition to Brando, were Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier for The Footprint, Peter O'Toole for The Ruling Class and Paul Winfield for Sounder. Ullman read Brando's name written on the envelope and at that moment the cameras picked up as Littlefeather, dressed in traditional North American costume, walked with a serious face towards the stage.
Moore kindly offered her the Oscar but the actress refused to hold it with a gesture that left everyone bewildered. He had eighty-five million viewers in front of him watching the gala on television. She then gave the following speech: “Greetings. My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I am an Apache and president of the National Committee for the Affirmative Image of Native Americans. Tonight I come on behalf of Marlon Brando and he has asked me to tell you, in a very long speech, that I cannot share with you now due to lack of time, but that later I will share with the press, who unfortunately rejects this generous award . And that's because of the mistreatment of American Indians today by the film industry. Excuse me (applause and boos are heard from the audience) . And on TV and rerun movies...and also because of what happened recently at Wounded Knee. I pray that I have not been a nuisance tonight and that we wish that in the future our hearts and understandings meet with love and generosity. I thank you on behalf of Marlon Brando." Although her brief speech was applauded by the audience, it was also greeted with boos, racist gestures and subsequent jokes by the presenters of the gala, Raquel Welch and Clint Eastwood.
"The abuse you endured for that statement was unwarranted. The emotional toll you've experienced and the damage to your own career in our industry is irreparable," the president added.
"For too long, the courage you showed has gone unrecognized. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincerest admiration," he added.
For his part, Littlefeather, 75, responded with a statement in which he joked about the "patience" of indigenous communities. "Regarding the apology from the Academy, we are very patient people. It's only been 50 years! We have to keep our sense of humor at all times, it's our method of survival," she said.