When Sacheen Littlefeather spoke out against Hollywood’s portrayal of Native Americans at the 1973 Oscars, she was booed onstage and blacklisted by the film industry.
Nearly 50 years later, the Apache and Yaqui actress and activist said she’d be doing it again “in the blink of an eye.”
In an interview with Variety ahead of an appearance this weekend at the Academy Museum of Motion Pictures, Littlefeather opened up about the now-famous 60-Second speech she gave when turning down an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando.
“I didn’t do this totally for Marlon. I didn’t do this on my behalf,” she told the publication. “I did this for all Indigenous people around the world who suffered from racial prejudice and discrimination. I did this for everyone born under the umbrella of genocide, in the United States and Canada, and for all of us who suffered from extreme stereotyping that was not of our choosing.
Littlefeather also opened up about how she was shunned by the entertainment world after her speech, which referenced the standoff at Wounded Knee. That same year, members of the American Indian Movement occupied the South Dakota town, but faced resistance from federal law enforcement.
“(The FBI) went around Hollywood and told people not to hire me. If they did, they would shut down their film production,” she said. other people have been on talk shows like Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and other popular talk shows. They could go out there and talk about me, but I was never allowed to go on them and represent myself.
Brando, unlike many in the industry, remained an ally. The two met through Brando’s interest in Indigenous issues and Littlefeather said she appreciated the actor’s “ability to see through silliness and prejudice”.
“He understood racial bias in a way that most people don’t, and that gave me comfort,” she added.
Littlefeather’s remarks come about a month after the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences said she had apologized for the abuse she suffered during and after her speech. On Saturday, the Academy is hosting a conversation with Littlefeather in an event that will also feature other Indigenous artists and speakers.