Published on February 24, 2013 by Casey
Buffy Sainte-Marie, OC (born February 20, 1941) is a Canadian-American Cree singer-songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, 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.
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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.
She was born Beverly Sainte-Marie in 1941 on the Piapot Cree Indian reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada. She was orphaned and later adopted, growing up in Wakefield, Massachusetts with parents Albert and Winifred Sainte-Marie, who were related to her biological parents. She attended the University of Massachusetts Amherst, earning degrees (BA 1963 and PhD 1983) in teaching and Oriental philosophy and graduating in the top ten of her class.
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, native culture.
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, thirdly, to Jack Nitzsche in the early 1980s, but her current partner is Chuck Wilson (since 1993). She currently lives on Kauai.
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 Baha’i Youth Conference 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, 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. In the video documentary of the event Sainte-Marie is seen on the Dini Petty Show explaining the Bahá’í teaching of Progressive revelation.