Padma Lakshmi's Heartfelt Tribute To Sacheen Littlefeather

On Sunday, October 2, 2022, it was announced by the Academy's Twitter account that Sacheen Littlefeather had passed away at 75. Though an official cause of death wasn't given at the time of the announcement, Littlefeather took to Facebook early last year revealing her diagnosis of stage four, terminal metastasized breast cancer. Littlefeather was a Native American civil rights activist best known for declining Marlon Brando's Oscar on his behalf in 1973, per Variety. She was given one minute to deliver a speech on Native American rights while members of the audience booed.

Throughout her life, Littlefeather had become acquainted with food from many cultures by studying nutrition (via Native Times). "When I started studying nutrition, I wanted to see where all the 'white' food came from. Everyone is enamored with white flour, white sugar, white lard. So I went over to the land of the white food," she said of her travels to Sweden. She was also quite fond of a dish she discovered while visiting Madrid, Spain. "They have, guess what? Flour and water and they cook it in oil. They call it a Buñuelo. It's Indian fry bread. We got it from the Spanish."

"Top Chef" host Padma Lakshmi was saddened to learn about Littlefeather's loss, and she posted an important tribute to her on Twitter.

Padma Lakshmi believes there's still a lot to learn

On Monday, October 3, 2022, "Taste of Nation" host Padma Lakshmi posted a sweet tribute to Native American activist Sacheen Littlefeather following her death. "RIP Sacheen Littlefeather," it began. "There's so much we don't learn from history books and many only heard about her and her activism within the last year. This illustrates the persistent and pervasive erasure of Indigenous people, their stories and voices throughout American history." Twitter users in the comments section seemed to agree with her sentiment. "Agreed. As a film studies scholar I am ashamed I never heard of her. Will do research right now. Thank you for amplifying this," one comment read.

As for the incident that propelled Littlefeather and the issue of Native American rights to the forefront? The Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences held an in-person apology regarding her treatment at the 1973 award show just last month, as Variety notes. And, even though she was booed at the original event, she doesn't have any regrets. "As I walked off that stage, I did in the ways of courage, honor grace, dignity and truthfulness. I did so in the ways of my ancestors and the ways of Indigenous women," she said.