Sacheen Littlefeather's words at 1973 Oscars are still relevant today – Scotsman comment

When Sacheen Littlefeather told the 1973 Oscars ceremony that Marlon Brando was refusing his best actor award for The Godfather because of “the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry”, she was interrupted by booing.

Sacheen Littlefeather refused the Oscar for best actor on behalf of Marlon Brando at the 1973 Academy Awards (Picture: UCLA Library Special Collections via Wikimedia Commons)
Sacheen Littlefeather refused the Oscar for best actor on behalf of Marlon Brando at the 1973 Academy Awards (Picture: UCLA Library Special Collections via Wikimedia Commons)

Organisers had told her to speak for no more than 60 seconds, threatening her with arrest if she overran, and she later faced mockery, discrimination and personal attacks.

But now Littlefeather, a Native American civil rights activist, has received a formal apology from the president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, David Rubin, and an offer to take part in an evening “conversation, healing and performances”.

Saying she was “stunned”, Littlefeather said that she “never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this” and that it was “profoundly heartening to see how much has changed” since 1973.

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Joking about how long the apology had taken, she stressed: “We need to keep our sense of humour about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.”

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It was a remark in keeping with the extremely polite words Littlefeather used to address the 1973 Oscars, when she said Brando “very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award”.

But despite this and the appalling stereotyping of Native Americans in many Hollywood films, there were boos, although others applauded in response.

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The young Littlefeather expressed the hope that one day “our hearts and our understandings will meet with love and generosity”.

As Nicola Sturgeon expressed concern over rising homophobia in Scotland and amid growing concern about racism and other forms of prejudice, it is a beautiful sentiment that we would all do well to embrace.

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