Buffy Sainte-Marie Reference

Buffy Sainte-Marie

(Native Americans: Historical Biographies)

Article abstract: From the mid-1960's through the 1970's, Buffy Sainte-Marie was a popular folksinger who championed Native American causes.

Beverly “Buffy” Sainte-Marie was born to Cree parents on the Piapot Reserve at Craven, Saskatchewan, Canada, but she was orphaned within the first year of her life. She was adopted by a couple in Massachusetts who were part Micmac. She graduated from the University of Massachusetts in 1963 with a B.A. degree in philosophy, having honed her skills as a folksinger at coffeehouses in the “Five College” region of central Massachusetts. A brief guest appearance at the Gaslight Cafe in Greenwich Village months after her college graduation caused The New York Times to identify her as “one of the most promising new talents on the folk scene.”

Sainte-Marie signed a contract with Vanguard Records, and her albums sold reasonably well throughout the next decade. Although her work has ranged from country music to folk songs in Spanish and French, Sainte-Marie's primary legacy is that of a protest writer, having written and performed antiwar ballads (“The Universal Soldier,” also recorded by Donovan) as well as compelling and poignant songs about Native American cultural dilemmas (“Now That the Buffalo's Gone” and “My Country ’Tis of Thy People You’re Dying”). In the film The Strawberry Statement (1971), Sainte-Marie's version of “The Circle Game” was used on the soundtrack (rather than that of Joni Mitchell, who wrote the song). Sainte-Marie's husky alto voice has been favorably compared to the voices of Edith Piaf and Billie Holiday.

Since releasing an album in 1996, Sainte-Marie has performed in concert and has given speaking engagements on a limited basis, while devoting most of her time to the Cradleboard Teaching Project.

Further Reading

Oswalt, Wendell H. This Land Was Theirs: A Study of Native Americans. New York: Oxford University Press, 2005.