Proudly Canadian: Buffy Sainte-Marie

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Submitted to Cashbox Canada

Buffy Sainte-Marie OC (Beverly Sainte-Marie) is a Canadian-American Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, educator, pacifist, and social activist. Throughout her career in all of these areas, her work has focused on issues of Indigenous peoples of the Americas. Her singing and writing repertoire also includes subjects of love, war, religion, and mysticism.

In 1997 she founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project, an educational curriculum devoted to better understanding Native Americans. She has won recognition and many awards and honors for both her music and her work in education and social activism.

Buffy Sainte-Marie was born in 1941 on the Piapot Cree First Nations Reserve in the Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada. She was later adopted, growing up in Massachusetts, with parents Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, earning degrees in teaching and Oriental philosophy and graduating in the top ten of her class. She went on to earn a Ph.D in Fine Art from the University of Massachusetts in 1983.

In 1964 on a return trip to the Piapot Cree reserve in Canada for a Powwow she was welcomed and (in a Cree Nation context) adopted by the youngest son of Chief Piapot, Emile Piapot and his wife, who added to Sainte-Marie's cultural value of, and place in native culture.

In 1968 she married surfing teacher Dewain Bugbee of Hawaii; they divorced in 1971. She married Sheldon Wolfchild from Minnesota in 1975; they have a son, Dakota "Cody" Starblanket Wolfchild. That union also ended and she married, thirdly, to Jack Nitzsche in the early 1980s. She currently lives in Hawaii.

Although not a Bahá'í herself, she became an active friend of the Bahá'í Faith by the mid-1970s when she is said to have appeared in the 1973 Third National Bahá'í Youth Conference at the Oklahoma State Fairgrounds, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, and has continued to appear at concerts, conferences and conventions of that religion since then. In 1992, she appeared in the musical event prelude to the Bahá'í World Congress, a double concert "Live Unity: The Sound of the World" in 1992 with video broadcast and documentary. In the video documentary of the event Sainte-Marie is seen on the Dini Petty Show explaining the Bahá'í teaching of progressive revelation. She also appears in the 1985 video "Mona With The Children" by Douglas John Cameron. However, while she supports a universal sense of religion, she does not subscribe to any particular religion: "I gave a lot of support to Bahá'í people in the '80s and '90s … Bahá'í people, as people of all religions, is something I'm attracted to … I don't belong to any religion. … I have a huge religious faith or spiritual faith but I feel as though religion … is the first thing that racketeers exploit. … But that doesn't turn me against religion." Sainte-Marie played piano and guitar, self-taught, in her childhood and teen years. In college some of her songs, "Ananias", the Indian lament, "Now That the Buffalo's Gone" and "Mayoo Sto Hoon" (in Hindi) were already in her repertoire.

By 1962, in her early twenties, Sainte-Marie was touring alone, developing her craft and performing in various concert halls, folk music festivals and Native Americans reservations across the United States, Canada and abroad. She spent a considerable amount of time in the coffeehouses of downtown Toronto's old Yorkville district, and New York City's Greenwich Village as part of the early to mid-1960s folk scene, often alongside other emerging Canadian contemporaries, such as Leonard Cohen, Neil Young, and Joni Mitchell (she also introduced Joni to Elliot Roberts, who became Joni's manager).

She quickly earned a reputation as a gifted songwriter, and many of her earliest songs were covered, and often turned into chart-topping hits, by other artists including Chet Atkins, Janis Joplin and Taj Mahal. One of her most popular songs, "Until It's Time for You to Go", has been recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond, Michael Nesmith, Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops Orchestra, Roberta Flack, Françoise Hardy, Cher, Maureen McGovern, and Bobby Darin, while "Piney Wood Hills" was made into a country music hit by Bobby Bare. Her vocal style features a frequently recurring, insistent, unusually sustained vibrato, (common to flamenco and powwow singers, and the chanteuse Edith Piaf) one more prominent than can be found in the music of any other well-known North American pop music performer.

In 1963, recovering from a throat infection, Sainte-Marie became addicted and recovering from the experience became the basis of her song "Cod'ine", later covered by Donovan, Janis Joplin, The Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Man, the Litter, The Leaves, Jimmy Gilmer, Gram Parsons, Charles, Brutus McClay, The Barracudas (spelled "Codeine"),The Golden Horde, and more recently by Courtney Love. Also in 1963 Sainte-Marie witnessed wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam at a time when the U.S. government was denying involvement– this inspired her protest song "Universal Soldier" which was released on her debut album, It's My Way on Vanguard Records in 1964, and later became a hit for Donovan. She was subsequently named Billboard Magazine's Best New Artist. Some of her songs such as "My Country 'tis of Thy People You're Dying" (1964, included on her 1966 album) addressing the mistreatment of Native Americans created a lot of controversy at the time. She has since updated the song to reflect Canada's own genocidal acts against indigenous people in terms of both historical and contemporary issues.

In 1967, Sainte-Marie released the album Fire and Fleet and Candlelight, which contained her interpretation of the traditional Yorkshire dialect song "Lyke Wake Dirge". Sainte-Marie's other well-known songs include "Mister Can't You See", (a Top 40 U.S. hit in 1972); "He's an Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo"; and the theme song of the popular movie Soldier Blue. Perhaps her first appearance on TV was as herself on To Tell the Truth in January 1966. She also appeared on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger in 1965 and several Canadian Television productions from the 1960s through to the 1990s, and other TV shows such as American Bandstand, Soul Train, The Johnny Cash Show and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson; and sang the opening song "The Circle Game" (written by Joni Mitchell) in Stuart Hagmann's film The Strawberry Statement (1970).

In the late sixties, Sainte-Marie used a Buchla synthesizer to record the album Illuminations, which did not receive much notice. It was the first totally quadraphonic electronic vocal album ever. "At the time, people were more in love with thePocahontas-with-a-guitar image," she commented in a 1998 interview. However, 40 years later The Wire magazine named "Illuminations" as one of the "100 Albums That Set the World on Fire."

In late 1975, Sainte Marie received a phone call from Dulcy Singer, then Associate Producer of Sesame Street, to appear on the show. According to Sainte-Marie, Singer wanted her to count and recite the alphabet like everyone else, but instead, Buffy wanted to teach the show's young viewers that "Indians still exist". Sainte-Marie had been invited earlier that year to appear on another children's TV show which she would not name, but turned the invitation down since the program ran commercials for G.I. Joe war toys.

Sainte-Marie regularly appeared on Sesame Street over a five-year period from 1976 to 1981, along with her first son, Dakota Starblanket Wolfchild, whom she breast-fed in one episode. Sesame Street even aired a week of shows from her home in Hawaii in December 1977; where Sainte-Marie and her family were joined by Bob (Bob McGrath), Mr. Hooper (Will Lee), Olivia (Alaina Reed Hall, Maria (Sonia Manzano),who was Sainte-Marie's closest friend from the Sesame Street cast), Big Bird and Oscar (both portrayed by Caroll Spinney).

In 1979 the film Spirit of the Wind, featuring Sainte-Marie's original musical score including the song "Spirit of the Wind", was one of three entries that year at Cannes. The film is a docudrama about George Attla, the 'winningest dog musher of all time,' as the film presents him, with all parts played by Native Americans except one by Slim Pickens. The film was shown on cable TV in the early 1980s and was released in France in 2003. Sainte-Marie's musical score has been described as 'inspiring', 'haunting', and 'perfection'.

Sainte-Marie began using Apple Inc. Apple IIand Macintosh computers as early as 1981 to record her music and later some of her visual art. The song "Up Where We Belong" (which Sainte-Marie co-wrote with Will Jennings and musician Jack Nitzsche) was performed by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes for the film An Officer and a Gentleman. It received the Academy Award for Best Song in 1982. The song was later covered by Cliff Richard and Anne Murray on Cliff's album of duets, Two's Company.

In the early 1980s one of her native songs was used as the theme song for the CBC's native series Spirit Bay. She was cast for the TNT 1993 telefilm The Broken Chain. It was shot entirely in Virginia. In 1989 she wrote and performed the music for Where the Spirit Lives, a film about native children being abducted and forced into residential schools. Sainte-Marie voiced the Cheyenne character, Kate Bighead, in the 1991 made-for-TV movie Son of the Morning Star, telling the Indian side of the Battle of Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Custer was killed.

In 1992, after a sixteen-year recording hiatus, Sainte-Marie released the album Coincidence and Likely Stories. Recorded in 1990 at home in Hawaii on her computer and transmitted via modem through the early Internet to producer Chris Birkett in London, England, the album included the politically charged songs "The Big Ones Get Away" and "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" (which mentions Leonard Peltier), both commenting on the ongoing plight of Native Americans (see also the book Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee.) Also in 1992, Sainte-Marie appeared in the television film The Broken Chain with Pierce Brosnan along with First Nations Bahá'í Phil Lucas. Her next album followed up in 1996 with Up Where We Belong, an album on which she re-recorded a number of her greatest hits in more unplugged and acoustic versions, including a re-release of "Universal Soldier". Sainte-Marie has exhibited her art at the Glenbow Museum in Calgary, the Winnipeg Art Gallery, the Emily Carr Gallery in Vancouver and the American Indian Arts Museum in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1995 Buffy's Music and voice appeared in an episode of HBO's Happily Ever After, which is an animated cartoon series of fairy tales for children. Buffy appeared in the episode about Snow White which was also titled as "White Snow". White Snow is a young Native American Princess who is saved by a young Native American Prince. Buffy wrote the theme song and also sings a song and is the voice of the mirror on the wall. The episode appeared in the first season of Happily Ever After but the episodes continue to be aired as reruns.

In 1969 she started a philanthropic non-profit fund Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education devoted to improving Native American students participation in learning. She founded the Cradleboard Teaching Project in October 1996 using funds from her Nihewan Foundation and with a two-year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation ofBattle Creek, Michigan. With projects across Mohawk, Cree, Ojibwe, Menominee, Coeur D'Alene, Navajo, Quinault,Hawaiian, and Apache communities in eleven states, partnered with a non-native class of the same grade level for Elementary, Middle, and High School grades in the disciplines of Geography, History, Social Studies, Music and Science and produced a multimedia curriculum CD, Science: Through Native American Eyes.

In 2000, Sainte-Marie gave the commencement address at Haskell Indian Nations University. In 2002 she sang at the Kennedy Space Center for Commander John Herrington, USN, a Chickasaw and the first Native American astronaut. In 2003 she became a spokesperson for the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in Canada.

In 2002, a track written and performed by Sainte-Marie, entitled "Lazarus", was sampled by Hip Hop producer Kanye West and performed by Cam'Ronand Jim Jones of The Diplomats. The track is called "Dead or Alive". In June 2007, she made a rare U.S. appearance at the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

In 2008, a two-CD set titled Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America: The Mid-1970s Recordings was released, compiling the three studio albums that she recorded for ABC Records and MCA Records between 1974 and 1976 (after departing her long-time label Vanguard Records). This was the first re-release of this material. In September 2008, Sainte-Marie made a comeback onto the music scene in Canada with the release of her latest studio album Running for the Drum. It was produced by Chris Birkett (producer of her 1992 and 1996 best ofalbums). Sessions for this latest project commenced in 2006 in Sainte-Marie's home studio in Hawaii and in part in France. They continued until spring 2007.

Sainte-Marie claimed in a 2008 interview at the National Museum of the American Indian that she had been blacklisted and that she, along with Native Americans and other native people in the Red Power movements, were put out of business in the 1970s.

"I found out 10 years later, in the 1980s, that President Lyndon B. Johnson had been writing letters on White House stationery praising radio stations for suppressing my music", Sainte-Marie said in a 1999 interview at Diné College given to Brenda Norrel, a staff writer with Indian Country Today "In the 1970s, not only was the protest movement put out of business, but the Native American movement was attacked." According to Norrel, this article was initially censored by Indian Country Today, and finally published only in part in 2006.

A quick overview of honours and awards includes the following: Honorary Doctor – University of British Columbia – 2012 Honorary Doctor – Wilfrid Laurier University – 2010 Honorary Doctor – Ontario College of Art and Design- 2010 Honorary Doctor of Laws – University of Regina – 1996 Honorary Doctor of Humanities – University of Saskatchewan 2003 Honorary Doctor of Letters – Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design – 2007 Honorary Doctor of Letters – Lakehead University – 2000 Honorary Doctor of Laws – Carleton University – 2008 Honorary Doctor of Music – University of Western Ontario – 2009 Honorary Doctor of Letters – Wilfrid Laurier – Letters 2010 Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts – Ontario College of Art and Design 2010 Honorary Doctor of Letters – University of British Columbia 2012. JUNO Award 2009 for Running for the Drum CD Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame 2009 Academy Award Oscar 1983 Golden Globe Award 1983 BAFTA Award (England) British Academy of Film & Television Arts Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement American Indian College Fund Lifetime Achievement Charles de Gaulle Award (France) Best International Artist 1993 (France) Sistina Award (Italy) 1999, she received a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame. She is an Officer in the Order of Canada She has received two medals from Queen Elizabeth II JUNO Award 1997 for Up Where We Belong album JUNO Hall of Fame Gemini Award 1997 for Best Performance in a Television Special Dove Award (Gospel) Member of Hillary Clinton’s Committee to Save America’s Treasures Commissioner on (former astronaut) Senator John Glenn’s Commission on Service Learning. In 1979, the Supersisters trading card set was produced and distributed; one of the cards featured Sainte-Marie's name and picture.

In 1997, Sainte-Marie won a Gemini Award for her 1996 variety special, Up Where We Belong. In 1998, she was inducted into Canada's Walk of Fame. In 1983–4, the song "Up Where We Belong" (music by Jack Nitzsche and Buffy Sainte-Marie; lyrics by Will Jennings) from An Officer and a Gentleman won an Academy Award, a Golden Globe Award, and a BAFTA Film Award for Best Original Song. In 2009 she received the Juno Award for the album Running for the Drum.

In 2010, she received the Governor General's Performing Arts Award. In 1996 she received an honorary Doctor of Laws Honoris Causa degree from the University of Regina in Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada. She then gave the convocation address to the administration, education, and engineering graduates. As part of the address, Sainte-Marie sang a song about the Canadian Indian residential school system.In 2007 she received an honorary Doctor of Letters from Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. On June 13, 2008, she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree from Carleton University, in Ottawa, Canada, an honorary Doctor of Music from The University of Western Ontario on June 10, 2009, in London, Ontario, and an On May 23, 2012 she received an honorary Doctor of Letters from the University of British Columbia in Vancouver, British Columbia.In 2015, Sainte-Marie released the album Power in the Blood on True North Records, again working producer Chris Birkett, this time recording at a Canadian studio. Buffy is pleased to share that Power in the Blood has been shortlisted for the 2015 Polaris Prize. “Thank you to everybody who helped me make Power in the Blood reach so many people! To be considered for a Polaris Music Prize is a huge honor, and I’m all smiles, especially because the Polaris is decided by a very large and diverse panel of voters across Canada. Many thanks to all for supporting the creativity of Canadian musicians. ” – Buffy Sainte-Marie.

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