Academy Awards apologizes to Sacheen Littlefeather for racist abuse at 1973 ceremony

At the 1973 Academy Awards, winner Marlon Brando sent a young native American woman, Sacheen Littlefeather, to decline and deliver a brief speech on his behalf about the mistreatment of American natives in the film industry. She was subjected to jeers and racist abuse by the audience. Producer Howard W. Koch threatened to have her arrested. Roger Moore, who presented the award, had to escort her off-stage to prevent her being physically attacked by avowed white supremacist John Wayne. Decades later, a corporate apology finally comes.

"The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified," Academy President David Rubin wrote in a "statement of reconciliation" sent to Littefeather in June, and posted on the Academy's website Monday. "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. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration."

The Academy also acknowledged the toll the experience has taken on Littlefeather in her personal and professional life. "As a result, Sacheen was professionally boycotted, personally harassed and attacked, and discriminated against for the last fifty years," Rubin wrote.

Cynics might be forgiven for wondering at the sincerity of an apology coming so late—and so close to inevitable "50th anniversary" coverage of the incident.

"We need to keep our sense of humor about this at all times," Littlefeather added. "It's our method of survival."