Sacheen Littlefeather, actress who declined to accept Marlon Brando's Oscar, dies aged 75

Sacheen Littlefeather has remained an advocate for indigenous rights in the US. Credit: AP

Sacheen Littlefeather, the actress who refused to accept an Oscar on behalf of Marlon Brando in protest at the film industries treatment of Native American people, has died at the age of 75.

Littlefeather had been suffering from breast cancer.

She appeared in multiple feature films as well as a documentary about her life, which came out in 2018.

But she was perhaps best known for refusing to accept an Academy Award on behalf of Marlon Brando in 1973.

He decided not to attend the awards ceremony that year, where he was nominated for best actor for his performance as Vito Corleone in The Godfather, due to injustices committed against Native American people in the film industry and more broadly in society.

Taking to the stage on his behalf, Littlefeather gave a speech highlighting the concerns both of them shared.

"My name is Sacheen Littlefeather. I'm Apache and I am president of the National Native American Affirmative Image Committee," she began.

Littlefeather was refused permission to make the entire speech, which had been written by Brando Credit: AP

"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," she said.

The speech was met with boos, and some cheers, from the audience. She later claimed that bullets were fired at Marlon Brando's door when the two met after the speech.

It wasn't until August that the Academy finally issued an apology to Littlefeather. In a statement they said her speech had been “a powerful statement that continues to remind us of the necessity of respect and the importance of human dignity”.

She responded by saying: "We Indians are very patient people!"

"It’s only been 50 years! We need to keep our sense of humour about this at all times. It’s our method of survival.”