Oscars boss apologises to Native American actor 50 years on from booing row

The Oscars has apologised to Native American actor Sacheen Littlefeather, 50 years on from the evening when she was booed off stage

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Ms Littlefeather appeared on live TV to refuse an Oscar awarded to Marlon Brando in 1973.

Brando rejected the best actor award he won for his role in The Godfather because of what he saw as the misrepresentation of Native Americans in the US film industry.

Instead, he sent Ms Littlefeather to pick up the prize in his place.

Then 26, she was heckled and shunned by most in attendance while she issued one of the first political statements ever seen at the annual ceremony.

Sacheen Littlefeather making her speech at the 1973 Oscars
Sacheen Littlefeather making her speech at the 1973 Oscars
Marlon Brando 'could not accept' the award
Marlon Brando 'could not accept' the award

Introducing herself as Brando, she told the audience that he "very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award".

She added: "And the reasons for this being the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie re-runs, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

This last point was in reference to a violent stand-off with federal agents at a site of significant importance to the Sioux people.

Now, the Academy has said Ms Littlefeather had to endure "unwarranted and unjustified" abuse for the speech.

In a letter made public on Monday, former president of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences David Rubin formally apologised to Ms Littlefeather.

He said the speech at the 45th Academy Awards "continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity".

In response, Ms Littlefeather told the Hollywood Reporter: "I never thought I'd live to see the day I would be hearing this."

She added: "We Indians are very patient people – it's only been 50 years!"

In September, the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures will host an event in which Ms Littlefeather will talk about her 1973 appearance and the future of indigenous representation on screen.