, February 20, 1941 or this date in 1942) is
an Academy Award
musician, composer, visual artist, pacifist, educator, social
activist, and philanthropist. Throughout her career in all of these
areas, her work has focused on on issues of Native Americans
singing and writing repertoire includes subjects of love, war,
religion, and mysticism. Her music might generally be categorized
as Folk and Traditional Music, though she did record one mostly
Country Music album, I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl
, in Nashville. Some of her other songs have more modern
popular sounds. Her work has been covered by such musicians as
, Chet Atkins
. She is also responsible for Cradleboard Teaching Project
an educational curriculum devoted to better understanding of 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 February 20, 1942 on the Piapot
Indian reserve in the Qu'Appelle
valley, Saskatchewan, Canada.
orphaned and later adopted, growing up in Maine with parents
Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie, who were related to her
She attended the University of Massachusetts
, earning degrees in teaching and Oriental philosophy
and graduating in the top ten of her class. She also earned a
in Fine Arts. 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
, Imu Piapot and his wife, who added to
Sainte-Marie's cultural value of, and place in, First Nations
she married surfing teacher Dewain Bugbee of Hawaii.
divorced in 1971. She married Sheldon Wolfchild from Minnesota in
1975, and they have a son, Dakota "Cody" Starblanket Wolfchild. She
married Jack Nitzsche
in the early
1980s. Sainte-Marie has been in a committed relationship with
Hawaiian Chuck Wilson since 1993, ("A blond boy raised in a tan
community" as Sainte-Marie says). She currently lives on Kauai.
She became an active friend of the Bah√°'√≠ Faith
by the mid-1970s when
she is said to have appeared in the 1973 Third National Baha‚Äôi
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
Sainte-Marie appeared in the musical event prelude to the Bah√°'√≠ World Congress
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
explaining the Bah√°'√≠ teaching of Progressive
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
eraduates. As part of the address, Buffy sang a song about the
Indian residential school system
she received an honorary Doctor of
Letters from Emily Carr Institute of Art and
Design in Vancouver, British Columbia,
Canada. On 13 June 2008, she received an honorary Doctor of Laws degree
University, in Ottawa, Canada, and an honorary Doctor of Music
from The University of Western Ontario on June 10, 2009 in London,
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
) 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, Joni
Mitchell (including introducing her to manager Eliot Roberts),
and Neil Young.
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
and Taj Mahal
of her most popular songs, "Until It's Time for You to
", has been recorded by artists as diverse as Elvis Presley
, Barbra Streisand
, Neil Diamond
and the Boston Pops
, Roberta Flack
, Fran√ßoise Hardy
, and Bobby Darin
"Piney Wood Hills" was made into a country music hit by Bobby Bare
. Her vocal style features a frequently
recurring, insistent, unusually sustained vibrato, one more
prominent than can be found in the music of any other well-known
popular music performer.
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", later covered by
, Quicksilver Messenger Service
as a part of his
Another Side of This Life: The Lost Recordings of Gram Parsons
, and the songwriter Charles Brutus McClay. 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
on Vanguard Records
1964, and later became a hit for Donovan
She was subsequently named Billboard
'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 plight of the Native American people created a lot
of controversy at the time.
In 1967, Sainte-Marie released the album Fire and Fleet and
which contained her interpretation of the
traditional Yorkshire dialect
"Lyke Wake Dirge
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
in January 1966. She also appeared on Pete Seeger
's Rainbow Quest with Pete
in 1965 and several Canadian Television productions
from the 1960s through to the 1990s.
In the late sixties, Sainte-Marie used a Buchla synthesizer
record the album Illuminations
, which did not receive much
notice. "People were more in love with the Pocahontas
-with-a-guitar image," she commented in
a 1998 interview.
She sang the opening song "The Circle Game" (written by Joni Mitchell
) in Stuart Hagmann's film
(1970). Sainte-Marie regularly appeared on the
children's TV series Sesame
over a five year period from 1976 - 1981, along
with her first son, Dakota Starblanket Wolfchild whom she breast
fed in one episode. She also began using Apple Inc. Apple II
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
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
in 1982. The song was later
covered by Cliff Richard
and Anne Murray
on Cliff's album of duets, Two's
In the early 1980s one of her inspirational native songs was used
as the theme song for the CBC
series Spirit Bay
. She was cast for the
1993 telefilm The
. It was shot entirely in Virginia.
In 1989 she wrote and performed the music for Where the Spirit Lives
about first nations children being abducted and forced into
In 1992, after a sixteen-year recording hiatus, Sainte-Marie
released the album Coincidence and Likely
. 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
.) Also in 1992, Sainte-Marie appeared in the
television film The Broken Chain
with Pierce Brosnan
along with fellow First
Nations Bah√°'√≠ 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
digital artist, 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
In 1969 she started a philanthropic non-profit fund Nihewan
Foundation for American Indian Education
devoted to improving
in 1969 to help Native American students participate in learning.
She founded the Cradleboard
in October 1996 using funds from her Nihewan
Foundation and with a two year grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation of Battle
With projects across Mohawk
, Coeur D'Alene
, and Apache
communities in eleven states, partnered with a non-First Nations
class of the same grade level for Elementary
, and High
grades in the disciplines of Geography, History, Social
Studies, Music and Science and produced a multimedia curriculum CD,
Science: Through Native American Eyes
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 Chicasaw and the
first Native American astronaut. In 2003 she became a
spokesperson for the UNESCO Associated Schools Project Network in
In 2004, a track written and performed by her and entitled
"Lazarus" was sampled by Hip Hop
producer Kanye West
and performed by
and Jim Jones of The Diplomats
. The track is called "Dead or
Alive". In June 2007, Sainte-Marie made a rare
United States appearance at the Clearwater Festival in Croton-on-Hudson, NY.
On 11 August 2009, Buffy made a comeback onto the music scene with
the release of her latest studio album Running For The Drum
. It is
produced by Chris Birkett (producer of her critically acclaimed
1992 and 1996 "Best of" albums). Sessions for this latest project
commenced in 2006 in Buffy's home studio in Hawaii and in part in
France. They continued until spring 2007.
Another significant CD released in 2008 is a 2CD set that digitally
debuts Buffy's three obscure studio albums that she recorded for
and MCA Records
between 1974 and 1976 (after
departing her long-time label Vanguard
). The CD re-issue of the songs from these lushly
orchestrated and emotive albums will act as the missing jigsaw
piece to Buffy's back catalogue which has to date been well
serviced. The new CD set is titled "Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet
America: The Mid-1970s Recordings".
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 other Native Americans and First Nations people in the Red
Power movements, were put out of business in the
"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 Din√©
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
finally published only in part in 2006.
Additionally, Buffy Sainte-Marie claims that in the United States,
her records were disappearing. According to her, thousands of
people at concerts wanted records, and although the distributor
claimed that the records had been shipped, no one seemed to know
where they were.
Said Sainte-Marie, "I was put out of business in the United
Awards and honours
France named Buffy Sainte-Marie Best International Artist of 1993.
That same year, she was selected by the United Nations
to proclaim officially the
International Year of Indigenous Peoples.
Sainte-Marie was inducted into the Juno Hall of Fame
for her life-long
contribution to music in 1995 and won a Gemini Award
in 1997 for the Canadian TV
special Buffy Sainte-Marie: Up Where We Belong
. This also
marked the first time she had performed her famous song to a live
She received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the National Aboriginal
in Canada in 1998, and was also made an
Officer of the Order of
she received a star on Canada's Walk of Fame.
Sainte-Marie was inducted into the Canadian Country Music Hall
- It's My Way!, 1964
- Many a Mile, 1965
- Little Wheel Spin and
Spin, 1966 (US#97)
- Fire &
Fleet & Candlelight, 1967 (US#126)
- I'm Gonna Be a
Country Girl Again, 1968 (US#171)
- The Best of Buffy
Sainte-Marie, 1970 (US#142)
- The Best
of Buffy Sainte-Marie Vol. 2, 1971
- She Used to
Wanna Be a Ballerina, 1971 (US#182)
- Moonshot, 1972
- Quiet Places, 1973
North American Child: An Odyssey, 1974
- Buffy, 1974 (Issued on CD
- Changing Woman, 1975
(Issued on CD June 2008)**
- Sweet America, 1976
(Issued on CD June 2008)**
- Coincidence and
Likely Stories, 1992 (UK#39)
- Up Where We Belong, 1996
- The Best of the Vanguard Years, 2003
- Live at Carnegie Hall, Scheduled for release in 2004
but Not Issued
- Buffy/Changing Woman/Sweet America: The Mid-1970s
- Running For The
||She Used to Wanna Be a Ballerina
||"I'm Gonna Be A Country Girl Again"
||I'm Gonna Be a Country Girl Again
||"Mister Can't You See"
||"He's An Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo"
||"The Big Ones Get Away"
||Coincidence & Likely Stories
Nations University of Canada Professor and a Cree-Saulteaux of the Muscowpetung
First Nation Blair Stonechild (
Aboriginal Faces of Saskatchewan and Michigan State University Press) is credited as being
her biographer in Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life
DVD, distributed by Filmwest Associates of Canada and the
- Some sources suggest 1942.
- This source indicates 1941 or 1942.
- Sold Over 26.5 million copies World wide Buffy
- Encyclopedia of the Great Plains entry by Paula
Conlon, University of Oklahoma, edited by David J Wishart.
- Buffy Sainte-Marie biography at
- 45 Profiles in Modern Music by E. Churchill and
Linda Churchill, pp. 110-112.
- Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life (Director's Cut)
DVD, distributed by Filmwest Associates of Canada and the US,
- Buffy fans Tarantino and Morrissey - Reader comments at
The New York Sun.
- Bah√°'√≠s and the Arts: Language of the Heart by Ann
Boyles, also published in 1994-95 edition of The Bah√°'√≠
World, pp. 243-272.
- Live Unity:The Sound of the World A Concert
Documentary, VCR Video, distributed by Unity Arts Inc., of Canada,
¬© Live Unity Enterprises, Inc., 1992.
- Cradleboard Biography of Buffy Sainte-Marie.
- Charles Brutus McClay - "Bottled in France", released 1970 by
CBS France, cat.nr.64478.
- Folk and Blues: The Premier Encyclopedia of
American Roots Music By Irwin Stambler, Lyndon Stambler, pp.
- "To Tell the Truth" Episode dated 1966-01-24.
- Names under the sun: Buffy Sainte-Marie -
multi-awarded native American singer makes a comeback Los
Angeles Business Journal, May, 1992 by Michael Logan.
- http://www.nihewan.com Nihewan Foundation.
- Cradleboard History by Buffy Sainte-Marie.
- New generation of Haskell family honored Topeka
Capital-Journal, The, May 13, 2000 by Andrea Albright
- posted at the Youth Council on Race site by Buffy
- Nihewan Foundation For Native American Education
Cradleboard Teaching Project.
- 2008 Native Writer's Series #3 - Buffy
- Beyond images of women and Indians: Straight-talk
from a Cree icon.