Indigenous Style Icon of the Week: Buffy Sainte-Marie
Born on a Cree reservation in Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Buffy Sainte-Marie was adopted and raised in Maine and Massachusetts. She received a Ph.D. in Fine Art from the University of Massachusetts. She also holds degrees in both Oriental Philosophy and teaching, influences which form the backbone of her music, visual art and social activism.
As a college student in the early 1960s, Buffy Sainte-Marie became known as a writer of protest songs and love songs. Many of these have become huge hits and classics of the era, performed by hundreds of other artists including Barbra Streisand, Elvis Presley, Chet Atkins, Janis Joplin, Roberta Flack, Neil Diamond, Tracy Chapman, The Boston Pops Orchestra, Cam’ron, Neko Case, and Courtney Love.
An educator before she was ever known as a singer, Buffy lectures at colleges and civic venues on a wide variety of topics: film scoring, electronic music, songwriting, Native American studies, the Cradleboard Teaching Project, women’s issues, the Native genius for government, and remaining positive amidst tough human realities. She serves as Adjunct Professor in Canada at York University in Toronto and First Nations University in Saskatchewan, and in the U.S. was an Evans Chair Scholar at the Evergreen State College in Washington State. She has also taught at the Institute for American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico (USA).
An early Macintosh pioneer in digital art and music, by 1994 Buffy Sainte-Marie’s huge works were among the first to be seen in museums and galleries across North America: the Glenbow Museum (Calgary), the Emily Carr Gallery (Vancouver), the Mackenzie Gallery (Regina), the Institute for American Indian Art Museum (Santa Fe), The Isaacs Gallery (Toronto), Ramscale Gallery (New York), the G.O.C.A.I.A. Gallery, (Tucson) and the Tucson Museum of Art.
Buffy Sainte-Marie virtually invented the role of Native American international activist pop star. Her concern for protecting indigenous intellectual property, and her distaste for the exploitation of Native American artists and performers has kept her in the forefront of activism in the arts for forty years.