After 50 years, the Academy regrets their maltreatment of Native American actress Sacheen Littlefeather in 1973

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Littlefeather, an actress and activist, receives an apology for her treatment before and after her speech about how Native Americans are portrayed in movies.

After nearly 50 years, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences issued an apology to Sacheen Littlefeather, a Native American actress and activist, for how she was treated when she spoke out in favor of Indigenous rights at the 45th Academy Awards in 1973.

Academy President David Rubin replied to Littlefeather in a letter dated June 18 but made public on Monday, saying that the harassment she received as a result of this comment was unjustified and unwanted.

“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,” Rubin said.

In a statement, Littlefeather responded by saying that it was “profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago.”

“We Indians are very patient people — it’s only been 50 years!” said the Native American actress and activist, now 75 years old.

“We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times. It’s our method of survival,” she added.

he Academy Museum of Motion Pictures said it would host Littlefeather for “a very special program of conversation, reflection, healing, and celebration” on Sept. 17.

“In 1973, Sacheen Littlefeather, a member of the Screen Actors Guild, became the first Native woman to stand onstage at the Academy Awards ceremony, on behalf of Marlon Brando,” the film Academy said in a statement.

Recounting the events at the 1973 Academy Awards, the statement said that at Brando’s request, Littlefeather did not accept his award for Best Actor after his performance in The Godfather, delivering a minute-long speech about the stereotypical portrayals of Native Americans in the entertainment industry.

“She also brought attention to the 1973 Wounded Knee protest in South Dakota. This moment resulted in her being professionally boycotted, personally attacked and harassed, and discriminated against for the last 50 years,” it added.

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