Saturday, March 5, 2016



   Do you know very much about the indigenous people of the Americas?  Did you grow up knowing any of the names of the various peoples all over the U.S.?  Did you ever take the role of "Indian" when you were playing 'cowboys and indians' as a kid?   I grew up in Hollywood for the most part, on a street entirely of boys.  So I played such games. My mother, who was part Cherokee, always made us proud of our heritage.  So I was of course the "Indian".  I knew some history. I knew how horrible we were to indigenous people (though not the extent of it).  But I didn't really understand until I heard BUFFY ST. MARIE sing - "MY COUNTRY TIS OF THY PEOPLE YOU'RE DYING".
   Buffy St. Marie is a singer, songwriter, visual artist, teacher, scientist, civil rights activist, general political activist, vegetarian, Academy Award winner, children's book writer, supporter for the freedom of Leonard Peltier, and so much more.    

   So far there is not much factual information written about Buffy St. Marie except on her own website.  Perhaps that is because she is still alive and still contributing to the political and music scenes of the day!   She was a very popular singer in the early 1960s - coming out with a first album in 1964.  But as her music became more and more critical of the Vietnam War, she was more and more marginalized by the chicken-sXXt mainstream media.  [See below ROLE OF FBI]
   Here's a bit of factual info:  "A member of the Cree Indian tribe, Sainte-Marie was born on a reservation in Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada. The year of her birth has been variously given as 1941 and 1942. Orphaned as a baby, she was adopted by a Massachusetts family named Sainte-Marie that was partially of Mi'kmaq Native American descent. As a child, though, Sainte-Marie knew little of her own Native background, and her rediscovery of that background later on became an important stimulus for her creative activity. Given the name Beverly Sainte-Marie and nicknamed Buffy, she was later ceremonially adopted by a Cree family related to one of her birth parents. Sainte-Marie lived for much of her life in the United States, becoming a dual U.S. and Canadian citizen, but she told an Ottawa Citizen interviewer in 1993 that she would always identify herself as Canadian."

   "Sainte-Marie had some piano lessons as a child and also enjoyed writing poetry. She learned the guitar in her teens, and during family vacations in Maine she began writing songs. The timing was good, for when Sainte-Marie began attending the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, coffeehouses with live folk music entertainment were beginning to flower across New England. Sainte-Marie was a coffeehouse favorite as a college student, but she did not neglect her studies, either; she graduated in 1962 with a degree in Eastern philosophy and was recognized as one of the top ten students in her class. She later received a fine arts Ph.D. from the same institution."

   From the interview in The Guardian -  Why were they so interested in you?

   "I started out in the Kennedy years, but it changed as soon as Lyndon Johnson came in, and Richard Nixon. Neither one wanted a cute young singer with a big mouth all over television talking about the Vietnam war and about Native American issues. So when Until It’s Time for You to Go was a big hit, and I was all over The Tonight Show, and had magazine coverage, that’s when they blew the whistle. And of course, with Nixon [the issue] was with the American Indian movement – and when they were trying to steal the reservation lands that contained uranium."

   [A bit more about this:  "In 1999, ex-CIA agent Charles Schlund III went public with the information about the government’s Vietnam-era radio blacklists “to suppress rock music because of its role in the Vietnam War.” It was also around this time that Sainte-Marie learned that the government had tapped her phone and that the FBI had accrued a 31-page file on her. Stonechild scrupulously pieces together the facts of this injustice, and it's sure to stir up some fresh countercultural rage in every Sainte-Marie fan who comes across a copy of It's My Way. But is it too little too late; is his book preaching to an unfortunately small choir? As she muses in the 2006 documentary "Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life, “They only have to hold you underwater for about four minutes and you’re dead for a long time, when it comes to radio airplay.”]

You were a regular on Sesame Street for five years in the late 1970s. It was quite a radical show, wasn’t it?
"I’ll never forget our first show – I took them to a [Native American] reservation in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. So Big Bird and me and a bunch of little Indian kids – all five, six, seven years old – were riding around in the back of a pickup truck. And Big Bird is all wiggly and antsy and he’s saying: “Buffy! I’m kind of nervous. I’ve heard there were Indians round here.” And all the little kids popped up and said: “I’m an Indian... I’m Navajo... I’m Hopi... I’m from the Pueblo.” They [theSesame Street team] had such a natural way of identifying with the average five-year-old. It was always a pleasure to work with them; they never stereotyped me and I wrote a lot of my own bits."

Didn’t you once breastfeed your son on the show?
"It’s on YouTube. I think I was the first person to nurse a baby on major television. I mean, think of the impact: it was three shows a day in 72 countries. So Big Bird looks out over his nest and he says: “What you doing, Buffy?” And I say: “I’m feeding the baby.” And he says: “That’s a funny way to feed a baby.” [Laughs] Like a kid would, right? And I say: “Yeah, not all mothers feed their babies that way, but he gets everything that he needs and I get to cuddle him.” And then Big Bird says: “Oh, that’s nice” and he goes back to playing, like a real kid would."

   There is so much more to this multi-faceted, talented, beautiful, courageous, and strong woman. I hope you will check out some of the links below to learn more.  One thing is certain - there is not enough attention paid to this incredible woman.  She is still most likely marginalized because of the gross racism and genocide perpetrated on her people.  She is also a woman which doesn't help.  Only one biography has been written about her - "indigenous studies professor and Saskatchewan Book Award winner Blair Stonechild published the first Buffy Sainte-Marie biography, It’s My Way."She is still on tour - go to her website to see the schedule. Perhaps you can catch her powerful singing in person!

[Buffy St. Marie embraced computers and technology, even incorporating it into her art.]


Official website -
Facebook -
NPR Review of latest album -
Buffy St. Marie's Education Project - -
Interview with the Guardian -
Los Angeles Review of Books Bio. Essay - 
On Democracy Now -- 50 years!   - 
Encyclopedia Britannica - 
It's My Way by Blair Stonechild  - the first biography ever!
Winning the Polaris Prize 2015 - 

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