By The Big Magazine Staff
On Saturday, the Academy Museum in Los Angeles hosted a sold out event “An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather,” to offer an official apology to her 50 years after she famously refused the Oscar in 1973 on behalf of Marlon Brando.
The event commenced with a Tongva land acknowledgement facilitated by Virginia Carmelo (Tongva/S. CA) before emcees Earl Neconie (Kiowa/OK) and Academy Museum Director and President Jacqueline Stewart took the stage.
Their words were followed by an Honoring Song performed by Steve Bohay and the Sooner Nation Singers and Michael Bellanger and the All Nation Singers. The audience was then treated to a lively intertribal powwow dance featuring women’s northern traditional buckskin dancer Teresa Littlebird (Northern Cheyenne/CA), grass dancer Wesley Bellanger (Ojibiway/MN and Kickapoo/OK), grass dancer Randy Pico Jr. (Navajo & Luiseño, CA), southern straight men’s traditional dancer James Gregory (Osage/OK), southern women’s cloth dancer Michele Gregory (Pit River/No. CA), fancy shoal dancer Olivia Gone (Southern Cheyenne/OK), jingledress dancer Sophia Seaboy (Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Sisseton/SD), and chicken dancer Ahshkii Keediniihii (Diné Navajo/AZ), plus a moving rendition of Song in Lushootseed and Don’t Count Me Out by vocalist Calina Lawrence (Suquamish/WA).
Photo Left: Earl Neconie at the podium, and members of Steve Bohay and the Sooner Nation Singers and Michael Bellanger and the All Nation Singers perform at An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather at The Academy Museum on September 17, 2022 in Los Angeles, CA. Courtesy of: The Academy Museum
Academy member, producer, and co-chair of the Academy’s Indigenous Alliance Bird Runningwater (Cheyenne/Mescalero Apache/NM) then took the stage with 75-year-old, Sacheen Littlefeather (Apachi/Yaqui/AZ) for a 20-minute conversation that reflected on Littlefeather’s experiences the last fifty years.
Sacheen spoke on behind-the-scenes details of the night, including Brando’s wishes that she not touch the Oscar when refusing it and assisting her in choosing her wardrobe for the event. Littlefeather explained that Brando gave her a 7 page letter to deliver as a speech that night. When she arrived at the ceremony, the Academy told her she had less than 60 seconds to speak or face being arrested by on-site police if she went over time.
Watch Sacheen Littlefeather's 1973 Oscar Speech:
Sacheen further explained, “But the most violent moments took place then and there at the Academy Awards by John Wayne.” She learned about a backstage outburst by Wayne where he was held back by security guards to prevent him from to getting to Littlefeather.
"I heard a disturbance from behind me as I was speaking up at the podium. I found out that he [Wayne] had been restrained by six security men from assaulting me while I was on that stage," Littlefeather told the outlet. "That was the most violent moment that had ever taken place at the Academy Awards."
She added his actions were "never publicized" and that Wayne "was never admonished by the Academy."
President of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, David Rubin, read the Academy's “statement of reconciliation” out loud, originally presented to Littlefeather on June 18, 2022—after which Littlefeather offered a moving response. Rubin was joined by current Academy President Janet Yang, who delivered a warming speech on the Academy's future inclusivity goals.
The museum livestreamed An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather on its YouTube channel. The video will be available online until Friday, September 23; a trimmed version of the event will then be shared to the museum’s channel.
Watch An Evening with Sacheen Littlefeather here:
Sacheen accepted the Academy's apology: “I am here accepting this apology. Not only for me alone, but as acknowledgement, knowing that it was not only for me but for all of our nations that also need to hear and deserve this apology tonight.
She went on to say, “Now, I would like all the Indian people in this audience to stand. Look at our people, look at each other, and be proud that we stand as survivors, all of us.” The audience roared with applause and offered several standing ovations for Littlefeather throughout the event.
Sacheen closed out her statement saying, “Please, when I’m 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."
We highly suggest you watch the livestream. This ceremony was extremely moving 🥲
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