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Academy apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather nearly 50 years after 1973 Oscars

LOS ANGELES — The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has officially apologized to Sacheen Littlefeather nearly five decades after she famously declined an Oscar on Marlon Brando’s behalf at the 1973 Academy Awards.

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According to The Associated Press, Academy President David Rubin acknowledged in a June 18 letter that the Native American activist, now 75, was mistreated and harassed following her 60-second speech for Brando, who refused his best actor Oscar for “The Godfather” because of “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry.”

“I write to you today a letter that has been a long time coming on behalf of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, with humble acknowledgment of your experience at the 45th Academy Awards,” the letter began. “As you stood on the Oscars stage in 1973 to not accept the Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando, in recognition of the misrepresentation and mistreatment of Native American people by the film industry, you made a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity.”

The letter continued: “The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified. The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable. For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration.”

Littlefeather, who was booed by some audience members at the ceremony and drew the ire of John Wayne, said she has faced personal attacks and discrimination in the years since her appearance, the AP reported.

“Regarding the Academy’s apology to me, we Indians are very patient people – it’s only been 50 years!” Littlefeather quipped in a statement shared in an Academy news release Monday. “We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.”

The Academy added that it is hosting a Sept. 17 event, dubbed “An Evening With Sacheen Littlefeather,” which will feature the activist and focus on “conversation, reflection, healing and celebration.”

“I never thought I’d live to see the day for this program to take place,” Littlefeather said in a statement, calling the event “a dream come true.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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