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Buffy Sainte-Marie: Living The Resistance

#If/ThenSheCan Ambassadors on the National Lawn at The Smithsonian pose in front of the statues that bare their likeness.
Image: Artist's Site

Freedom and Resistance, Her Way

At 81, Buffy Sainte-Marie still has work to do. It's a life mission that never stops. An engine fueled by a conviction to tell stories that speak to our bones and ignite our blood. The multi-award-winning Canadian-American singer-songwriter, activist, philanthropist, artist, and educator has forged a career of story-telling since the '60s. Born in the Cree Nation, she is the first Indigenous American to win an Oscar and a Golden Globe in 1982 for co-writing the song "Love Lift Us Up Where We Belong", from the movie An Officer and a Gentleman. Sainte-Marie was a regular guest on Sesame Street for years. In a 1977 episode of the show, she breastfed her son Dakota. It was the first time this was seen on national television. As Big Bird inquisitively looked on, Saint-Marie answered his questions in a way that normalized the conversation. Her 1969 Album, Illusions was the first album to use a Buchla 100 synthesizer to manipulate her vocals creating an edgy and mystical production. Ever the innovator, her 1992 album Coincidence and Likely Stories was the first album to be produced by having the music files sent online. Sainte-Marie didn't want to leave her home in Hawaii to go to London to record it.

Much of Saint-Marie's music is centered around topics of social injustice and protest. Her commitment to keeping Indigenous voices current is the driving force behind The Cradleboard Teaching Project and the Nihewan Foundation. These digital teacher resources are geared towards providing cross-culturally accurate educational materials that give Native students in various geographial locations a more factual account of their history and artistic influences as they relate to various subjects. Having a Ph.D. in Fine Arts and a teaching degree, some of Sainte-Marie's training is also a continuum of the experiences she's had on tour when visiting Indigenous areas near her concert venues and connecting with the residents. The artist states, "This became a way of life for me and I am grateful for all the good people who taught me across cultural borders".

Buffy Sainte-Marie challenged stereotypes and forged a movement, not for fame and fortune but due to the inherent drive to heed her soul's calling. She created lyrical and visual art and elevated the voice of others despite her own voice being silenced by the government and not getting the full recognition she deserves from the music industry. She proves that you can't stop a force of change that's meant to connect the world no matter how much they try to stop you.

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