Buffy Sainte-Marie

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Buffy Sainte-Marie
Buffy Sainte-Marie 1970.JPG
Sainte-Marie in 1970
Background information
Birth name Beverly Sainte-Marie
Born February 20, 1941
Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada
Genres Folk, rock, country, electronic
Occupation(s) Musician, singer-songwriter, composer, record producer, visual artist, educator, social activist, actress, humanitarian
Instruments Vocals, guitar, mouthbow, piano, ukulele, autoharp, harmonica, percussion
Years active 1963 – current
Labels Vanguard, Angel, Capitol, Island, MCA, Appleseed, Ensign/Chrysalis
Associated acts Joni Mitchell, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen
Website buffysainte-marie.com

Buffy Sainte-Marie, OC (born Beverly Sainte-Marie, February 20, 1941) is a Native Canadian singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist,[1] 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 honours for both her music and her work in education and social activism.

Personal life

Buffy Sainte-Marie was born in 1941[2][3] on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve in the Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada.[4] She was later adopted, growing up in Massachusetts, with parents Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie.[5] She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, earning degrees in teaching and Oriental philosophy[6] and graduating in the top ten of her class.[7] She went on to earn a Ph.D in Fine Art from the University of Massachusetts.[8]

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.[9]

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 Jack Nitzsche in the early 1980s. She currently lives in Hawaii.[10]

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,[11] 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.[12] In the video documentary of the event Sainte-Marie is seen on the Dini Petty Show explaining the Bahá'í teaching of progressive revelation.[13] 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 …"[14]:16:15–18:00min


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.[6]


By 1962, in her early twenties, she 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 Mitchell to Elliot Roberts, who became Joni's manager.)[9]

Sainte-Marie performing in the Netherlands in the Grand Gala du Disque Populaire 1968

In 1963, recovering from a throat infection, Sainte-Marie became addicted to codeine and recovering from the experience became the basis of her song "Cod'ine",[7] later covered by Donovan, Janis Joplin, the Charlatans, Quicksilver Messenger Service, Man,[15] the Litter, the Leaves, Jimmy Gilmer, Gram Parsons,[16] Charles Brutus McClay,[17] the Barracudas (spelled "Codeine"),[18] the Golden Horde,[19] and later by Courtney Love. Also in 1963, she witnessed wounded soldiers returning from Vietnam at a time when the U.S. government was denying involvement[20] – which inspired her protest song, "Universal Soldier"[21] which was released on her debut album, It's My Way on Vanguard Records in 1964, and later became a hit for Donovan.[22]

She was subsequently named Billboard Magazine's Best New Artist. Some of her songs such as "Now That The Buffalo's Gone" (1964) and "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.[5] In 1967, she released 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.[23] She appeared on Pete Seeger's Rainbow Quest with Pete Seeger in 1965 and several Canadian Television productions from the 1960s through to the 1990s,[9] 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[9]) in Stuart Hagmann's film The Strawberry Statement (1970).

In the late 1960s, she 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.[citation needed]


In late 1975, Sainte Marie received a phone call from Sesame Street producer Dulcy Singer to appear on the show for a one-shot guest appearance. Sainte-Marie told Singer she had no interest in doing a children's TV show, but reconsidered after asking "Have you done any Native American programming?" According to Sainte-Marie, Singer wanted her to count and recite the alphabet but Buffy wanted to teach the show's young viewers that "Indians still exist".[citation needed] She regularly appeared on Sesame Street over a five-year period from 1976–81, 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 January 1978.

In 1979, 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.[citation needed]


Sainte-Marie began using Apple Inc. Apple II[24] and Macintosh computers as early as 1981 to record her music and later some of her visual art.[6] 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.[citation needed]

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.


Buffy Sainte-Marie playing the Peterborough Summer Festival of Lights on June 24, 2009.

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 the Little Bighorn, where Lt. Col. George Custer was killed.[25]

In 1992, after a sixteen-year recording hiatus, Sainte-Marie released the album Coincidence and Likely Stories.[26] 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,[9] 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.[27] 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 of Battle 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.[28]


Sainte-Marie performing at The Iron Horse in Northampton, Massachusetts, on June 15, 2013

In 2000, Sainte-Marie gave the commencement address at Haskell Indian Nations University.[29] In 2002 she sang at the Kennedy Space Center for Commander John Herrington, USN, a Chickasaw and the first Native American astronaut.[30] In 2003 she became a spokesperson for the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in Canada.[31]

In 2002, a track written and performed by Sainte-Marie, entitled "Lazarus", was sampled by Hip Hop producer Kanye West and performed by Cam'Ron and 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 of albums). 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.[citation needed]


Buffy Ste. Marie at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission Concert, Ottawa, Canada

In 2015, Sainte-Marie released the album Power in the Blood on True North Records. She had a television appearance on May 22, 2015 with Democracy Now! to discuss the record and her musical and activist career.

On September 21, 2015, Power in the Blood was named the winner of the 2015 Polaris Music Prize.[32]

Also in 2015, A Tribe Called Red released an electronic remix of Sainte-Marie's song "Working for the Government".[33]


Sainte-Marie claimed in a 2008 interview at the National Museum of the American Indian[34] that she had been blacklisted by American radio stations and that she, along with Native Americans and other native people in the Red Power movements, were put out of business in the 1970s.[35]

In a 1999 interview at Diné College with a staff writer with the Indian Country Today, Sainte-Marie said "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" and "In the 1970s, not only was the protest movement put out of business, but the Native American movement was attacked."[36] According to the staffer, the article was initially censored by Indian Country Today, and finally published only in part in 2006.[citation needed]

As a result of this blacklisting led by (among others) Presidents Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, and Nashville disc jockey Ralph Emery (following the release of I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again), Sainte-Marie said "I was put out of business in the United States".

Honours and awards

  • Americana Music Honors & Awards - Spirit of Americana/Free Speech in Music Award (2015)
  • Polaris Music Prize (2015)
  • 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)[37]
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters – Lakehead University (2000)
  • Honorary Doctor of Laws – Carleton University (2008)[38]
  • 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)[39]
  • Honorary Doctor of Letters – University of British Columbia (2012)
  • Academy Award for Best Original Song - "Up Where We Belong" (1983)
  • Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song - "Up Where We Belong" (1983)
  • BAFTA Award for Best Original Song Written for a Film - "Up Where We Belong" (1983)
  • Honorary Doctor of Fine Arts – University of Massachusetts (1983)
  • Governor General's Performing Arts Award (2010)[40]
  • Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame (2009)
  • Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement
  • American Indian College Fund Lifetime Achievement
  • Charles de Gaulle Award (France)
  • Best International Artist (France; 1993)
  • Sistina Award (Italy)[when?]
  • Star on Canada's Walk of Fame (1998)
  • Officer of the Order of Canada
  • JUNO Award for Up Where We Belong (1997)
  • JUNO Award for Running for the Drum (2009)
  • JUNO Hall of Fame
  • Gemini Award for Best Performance in a Television Special (1996 variety special, Up Where We Belong)
  • Dove Award (Gospel; 1997)




Year Album Peak chart positions
1964 It's My Way!
1965 Many a Mile
1966 Little Wheel Spin and Spin 97
1967 Fire & Fleet & Candlelight 126
1968 I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again 171
1969 Illuminations
1970 Performance (film soundtrack)
The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie 142
1971 The Best of Buffy Sainte-Marie Vol. 2
She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina 182
1972 Moonshot 134
1973 Quiet Places
1974 Native North American Child: An Odyssey
1975 Changing Woman
1976 Sweet America
1992 Coincidence and Likely Stories 63 39
1996 Up Where We Belong
2003 The Best of the Vanguard Years
2008 Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America
Running for the Drum NA
2015 Power in the Blood NA



Year Single Peak chart positions Album
1970 "Circle Game" 76 109 83 Fire & Fleet & Candlelight
1971 "Soldier Blue" 7 She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina
"I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again" 86 98 34 I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again
1972 "Mister Can't You See" 21 38 70 Moonshot
"He's an Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo" 98
1974 "Waves" 27 Buffy
1992 "The Big Ones Get Away" 24 14 39 Coincidence & Likely Stories
"Fallen Angels" 50 26 57
1996 "Until It's Time for You to Go" 54 Up Where We Belong
2008 "No No Keshagesh" Running For The Drum


See also


  1. More than 26.5 million copies sold world-wide as per Buffy Saint-Marie biography/profile
  2. "Buffy Sainte-Marie Biography". Profile at Film Reference.com. Retrieved 2008-06-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  3. Nygaard King, Betty. "Saint-Marie, Buffy". The Canadian Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2008-06-10.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  4. Bennett, Tony, and Valda Blundell. 1995. Cultural studies. Vol. 9, no. 1, First peoples: cultures, policies, politics. London: Routledge. pg. 111; ISBN 0-203-98575-3
  5. 5.0 5.1 Encyclopedia of the Great Plains entry by Paula Conlon, University of Oklahoma, edited by David J Wishart
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Buffy Sainte-Marie UK Biography". Buffysaintemarie.co.uk. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  7. 7.0 7.1 45 Profiles in Modern Music by E. Churchill and Linda Churchill, pgs. 110–2
  8. Colette P. Simonot. "Sainte-Marie, Buffy (Beverly) (1941–)". The Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan. University of Regina. Retrieved June 25, 2015.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 9.3 9.4 Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life (Director's Cut) DVD, distributed by Filmwest Associates of Canada and the US, [1], 2006
  10. "Buffy fans Tarantino and Morrissey – Reader comments at The New York Sun". Nysun.com. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  11. George Wesley Dannells, Liz Kauai (May 28, 2009). "Question – Who Else Besides Cher Was a Surprise Performer at the 1973 Oklahoma City Baha'i Youth Conference: Answer – Buffy St. Marie". bahaiviews.net. Retrieved March 26, 2015. <templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  12. Bahá'ís and the Arts: Language of the Heart by Ann Boyles, also published in 1994–95 edition of The Bahá'í World, pgs. 243–72
  13. Live Unity:The Sound of the World A Concert Documentary, VCR Video, distributed by Unity Arts Inc., of Canada, © Live Unity Enterprises, Inc., 1992
  14. Buffy Sainte-Marie; interviewed by Jon Faine (March 3, 2015). The Conversation Hour (radio). Melbourne, Australia: Australian Broadcasting Corporation.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  15. On their album Maximum Darkness
  16. On Another Side of This Life: The Lost Recordings of Gram Parsons 1965–1966
  17. Charles Brutus McClay – "Bottled in France", released 1970 by CBS France, cat.nr.64478
  18. The Barracudas – "Drop Out with The Barracudas", released 1981 by Zonophone, cat.nr.ZONO103
  19. "Codeine (live, London, 1991) by The Golden Horde on SoundCloud". Soundcloud.com. March 9, 2012. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  20. "Vietnam War 1961–1964". The History Place. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  21. Folk and Blues: The Premier Encyclopedia of American Roots Music by Irwin Stambler, Lyndon Stambler, pp. 528–530.
  22. "Show 34 – Revolt of the Fat Angel: American musicians respond to the British invaders". Digital.library.unt.edu. April 18, 2014. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  23. ""To Tell the Truth" episode". IMDb.com. 1966-01-24. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  24. Names under the sun: Buffy Sainte-Marie – multi-awarded native American singer makes a comeback Los Angeles Business Journal, May 1992 by Michael Logan.
  25. "Son of the Morning Star". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  26. 26.0 26.1 26.2 Strong, Martin C. (2000). The Great Rock Discography (5th ed.). Edinburgh: Mojo Books. pp. 840–841. ISBN 1-84195-017-3.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  27. "nihewan.com,nihewan.com". Nihewan.com. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  28. "Cradleboard History". Cradleboard.org. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  29. New generation of Haskell family honored Topeka Capital-Journal, The, May 13, 2000 by Andrea Albright Capital-Journal.
  30. [2] Archived May 15, 2006 at the Wayback Machine
  31. "Buffy UNESCO Spokes Person". Cradleboard.org. February 13, 2003. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  32. "Buffy Sainte-Marie wins Polaris Music Prize". The Globe and Mail, September 21, 2015.
  33. "Buffy Sainte-Marie: "Working for the Government" (A Tribe Called Red remix)". Exclaim!, July 2, 2015.
  34. "2008 Native Writer's Series #3 – Buffy Sainte-Marie". YouTube. April 17, 2008. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  35. Paulsen, Sasha (September 24, 2011). "An original rebel with a resonating voice". Napa Valley Register. Napa, CA: Lee Enterprises, Inc. Retrieved September 28, 2011.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  36. "CENSORED NEWS: Uncensored: Buffy Sainte-Marie honored with Lifetime Achievement Award". Bsnorrell.blogspot.com. October 22, 2008. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  37. "Cradleboard Comments & News Stories". Cradleboard.org. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  38. "Human rights activists to be honoured at Spring Convocation (news release)". Carleton University. June 5, 2008. Archived from the original on June 8, 2008. Retrieved 2008-06-13.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  39. "OCAD News Release: OCAD to confer honorary doctorates on Carole Condé, Karl Beveridge, Anita Kunz and Buffy Sainte-Marie". June 2, 2010. Retrieved 2010-06-06.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  40. "Buffy Sainte-Marie". Governor General's Performing Arts Awards. Retrieved August 9, 2012.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  41. Wulf, Steve (2015-03-23). "Supersisters: Original Roster". Espn.go.com. Retrieved 2015-06-04.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  42. "Buffy Sainye-Marie: Awards". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2014-04-23.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  43. 43.0 43.1 Roberts, David (2006). British Hit Singles & Albums (19th ed.). London: Guinness World Records Limited. p. 479. ISBN 1-904994-10-5.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links