Entertainment: Activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who declined Marlon Brando's 1973 The Godfather Best Actor Oscar, dies

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Actor and activist Sacheen Littlefeather, who refused Marlon Brando's 1973 Oscar on his behalf, has died.

She was 75.

The Academy of Motion Pictures announced her death on Sunday, with reports saying she had been suffering from breast cancer.

"Sacheen Littlefeather, Native American civil rights activist who famously declined Marlon Brando's 1973 Best Actor Academy Award, dies at 75," the Academy tweeted.

According to IMDB, she was born in 1946 in California and had roles in seven movies in the 1970s.

Littlefeather, who is Apache and Yaqui, was heckled at the 1973 Oscars while explaining at his behest why an absent Brando could not accept his best actor award for the Godfather.

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She was the first Native American woman to step onto the Academy Awards stage when she declined Brando's Oscar.

Wearing a buckskin dress and moccasins, she said Brando could not accept the award because of "the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry".

Some in the audience booed her.

Littlefeather later said veteran Western star John Wayne had to be restrained from physically assaulting her.

In August — nearly 50 years later — she received an apology from the Academy.

"The abuse you endured because of this statement was unwarranted and unjustified," said the apology letter from then-Academy president David Rubin.

"The emotional burden you have lived through and the cost to your own career in our industry are irreparable.

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"For too long the courage you showed has been unacknowledged. For this, we offer both our deepest apologies and our sincere admiration."

In response to the apology, Littlefeather issued a statement 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," said Littlefeather.

"It is profoundly heartening to see how much has changed since I did not accept the Academy Award 50 years ago."

Earlier this month, Littlefeather spoke at the Academy's film museum in Los Angeles, where there is a display that looks at the harassment she faced.

ABC/AFP

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