Native American actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather has died aged 75, following a battle with breast cancer.
Sacheen died surrounded by her loved ones at her home in Novato, California, with the New York Post revealing she had been battling breast cancer since at least 2018.
It comes just weeks after she was honoured in a celebration by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.
Speaking of her death, Sacheen said, "I’m crossing over soon to the spirit world and you know, I’m not afraid to die."
"Because we come from a we/us/our society. We don’t come from a me/I/myself society. And we learn to give away from a very young age. When we are honored, we give."
Sacheen was famously asked by Marlon Brando to decline his Oscar at the 1973 Academy Awards, as he was boycotting the awards in protest of Hollywood's portrayal and treatment of Native American people and the American Indian Movement occupation of Wounded Knee in South Dakota.
The actress, who was 26 at the time, took to the stage and rejected Brando's Oscar, telling the audience and viewers at home why the actor wouldn't accept the award, "He very regretfully cannot accept this very generous award and the reasons for this being are the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."
Brando had given Sacheen a speech that was eight pages long, however, she was unable to read it all before she was cut off due to time restraints. It was later published in full in the New York Times.
Sacheen received both applause and boos from the audience and received backlash in the media. She later revealed that the stunt had killed her acting career, and her guild membership was revoked.
"I was blacklisted — or, you could say, 'redlisted'," she later said in a 2018 documentary about her life. "Johnny Carson, Dick Cavett and others didn’t want me on their shows. … The doors were closed tight, never to reopen."
In June, she finally received an apology from the Academy, with the then-AMPAS president David Rubin writing in a letter, "The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified."
"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," he continued. "For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration."
Sacheen shared that she was shocked to have received an apology, telling The Hollywood Reporter, "I was stunned. I never thought I’d live to see the day I would be hearing this, experiencing this."
"When I was at the podium in 1973, I stood there alone."
The Academy held an evening at the Academy Museum in honour of Sacheen, who said, "I am here accepting this apology, not only for me alone but as acknowledgment, knowing that it was not only for me, but for all of our nations that also need to hear and deserve this apology tonight."
"Look at our people. Look at each other and be proud that we stand as survivors, all of us."
She also called on others to continue her work when she's gone, "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."
Sacheen was born Marie Louise Cruz, but later changed her name when she began connecting to her Native roots while attending California State University, where other activists renamed her.
After leaving Hollywood, she began a career in holistic health, focusing on Native medicines.
She also co-founded the nonprofit National American Indian Performing Arts Registry, advocating for Native American representation in Hollywood throughout her life.
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