Nearly 50 years later, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences officially apologizes to Little Feather for the mistreatment she suffered while speaking and in the years following.
“The offense to which I was subjected by this statement was inexcusable and unjustifiable,” former Academy President David Rubin wrote in a letter to Littlefeather. “The emotional burden you have experienced and the cost of your career in our industry is irreplaceable. For too long, the courage you have shown has not been recognized. For this, we offer our deepest apologies and sincere admiration.”
In a statement, Littlefeather described the upcoming event, during which she will receive the apology in person, “a dream come true.”
“Regarding the academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient – it’s only been 50 years!” She said. “We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our way of surviving.”
Several Aboriginal artists will perform during the event for Littlefeather, including Bird Runningwater, co-chair of the Academy’s Aboriginal Alliance, and Virginia Carmelo, a descendant of the Tongva people who will lead the Declaration of Recognition of the Land.
“It’s very encouraging to see how much has changed since I didn’t accept an Academy Award 50 years ago,” Little Feather said.
Her speech was booed and applauded
When Brando won Best Actor for his starring role in The Godfather, he was absent. In his stead, he asked Littlefeather, then an actress and activist, to attend the ceremony – and declined the award on his behalf.
After the ceremony, Littlefeather said she was “silent” and was struggling to find work in the film industry. She devoted much of her post-Oscars career to activism and founding performing arts organizations for Aboriginal actors.
Despite the condemnation she has received from some in Hollywood who disagreed with her defenses of Native Americans, Littlefeather said she has received praise and support from leaders such as Coretta Scott King and Cesar Chavez.
“I knew I did the right thing,” she told A.Frame.
Correction: This article has been updated to note that David Rubin is the former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
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