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Over the course of her sixty year career, Buffy Sainte-Marie has inspired multiple generations of musicians, artists and activists. Since her groundbreaking debut album It's My Way! in 1964, this powerful, natural singer/songwriter has steadfastly maintained her unique style and path, often ahead of the times in her use of subject matter and new technology.
As a child, Buffy had taught herself to play the piano by ear and made up songs for fun. The gift of a guitar for her sixteenth birthday made her music portable. She invented new tunings which would influence both her own unique sound and that of other future musicians.
At university, Buffy earned undergraduate degrees in both Oriental Philosophy and Education. Upon graduation, she began singing in coffee houses in New York's Greenwich Village, leading to her first recording contract and the extensive touring that launched Buffy to international stardom. From the late 1960’s through the 1970’s, she expanded both her music and visual art into experimental technologies that evolved into what is now called digital art and electronic music. Since her groundbreaking debut album, 1964's It's My Way!, she has been an informative trailblazer and advocate for natural music, human rights and Indigenous issues, a continually evolving artist, and a contributor of positive thinking and resiliency. With songs like “Universal Soldier” and "Until It's Time for You to Go", Buffy established herself among the ranks of songwriter greats. In 1983, she took home an Academy Award Oscar for Best Original Song, as co-writer of “Up Where We Belong”, the title song of the film An Officer and a Gentleman, also receiving Golden Globe and BAFTA awards. Since that time, Buffy has been the recipient of fifteen Honorary degrees from universities across Turtle Island including an honorary Ph.D. in Fine Arts from the University of Massachusetts.
Throughout her career, Buffy has devoted much of her time and resources to supporting Indigenous peoples through a variety of educational programs. Beginning in 1969, her Nihewan Foundation for American Indian Education provided scholarships for Indigenous studies and Indigenous students, two of whom became presidents of tribal colleges; and her Cradleboard Teaching Project provided accurate core curriculum including science, government and geography based in Indigenous cultural perspectives, for all grade levels.
Her appearances on "Sesame Street” enriched public-access television with important subjects such as breast feeding, sibling rivalry, and Native American languages and cultures. When she agreed to take an acting role in the TV series, The Virginian, it was conditional that all Indigenous roles be filled by Indigenous actors, unheard of at the time.
Buffy Sainte-Marie has won several Canadian JUNO Awards and been inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame. In 1994, she helped to found the Juno Awards category Music of Aboriginal Canada.
Her critically acclaimed albums, Power in the Blood (2015) and Medicine Songs (2017) collectively won multiple awards including the highly coveted Polaris Music Prize. In 2017, Buffy received the Allan Waters Humanitarian Award. She opened the JUNO Awards’ national telecast with a riveting introduction that went off-script when she acknowledged that Ottawa is on the “un-surrendered” territory of the Algonquin and Anishinaabe Nations who have been here "for thousands and thousands and thousands of years". In 2019, Buffy was named a Companion of the Order of Canada – the nation’s highest civilian honour.
She has a star on Canada’s Walk of Fame and received Hollywood's Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award.
A natural storyteller, Buffy has recently authored her first children’s chapter book, Tâpwê and the Magic Hat, releasing editions in English and Plains Cree. Her debut children’s book Hey Little Rockabye is followed by the recent release, Still this Love Goes On.
On September 16, 2022, Indigenous artists and performers gathered at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa, Canada to perform Buffy's music themselves, and to celebrate her multi-faceted contributions to the arts. To mark the National Day for Truth and Reconciliation with an unprecedented representation of Indigenous talent, Insight Productions in partnership with Paquin Entertainment, CBC and CBC Gem and APTN produced a special presentation of the concert honouring Buffy Sainte-Marie in a 90-minute National broadcast.
With its world premiere at 2022 TIFF, the award winning feature documentary film, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, by director, Madison Thomas, has brought new awareness of her vast contribution to arts and culture. The film blends the multifaceted eras of Buffy’s life experiences and immerses the audience in the depths of her equanimity, devotion to innovation, passion for philosophy, and love for the world.