Music that Propelled the Indigenous Rights Movement Favorite 



Aug 3 1969


United States, Canada

"The Red Power Movement of the 1960s and 70s was a time of profound social change and progress for American Indians in the United States and Canada. In her outspokenness about the injustices facing Indigenous people, Buffy Sainte-Marie also sang for peace, the environment, women and children—believing that art can have impact and make a difference. She was driven by her desire for the masses to be informed about the issues, so that through being enraged they would be engaged, a mantra that animated all aspects of those turbulent times. Of Cree heritage from Saskatchewan, Canada, in her 20s, Sainte-Marie was touring, performing and developing a songbook that would reverberate across audiences.

But it was the songs “Universal Soldier,” “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone,” “Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee” and “My Country Tis of Thee” that expressed the anguish and rage from the colonial oppression North American Indigenous people were surviving. Her songs addressed American Indian causes and issues, thrusting her into the spotlight of advocacy for the rights of Indigenous peoples, while offering inspiration and hope.

But a singer-songwriter is just the tip of the iceberg of who Buffy Sainte-Marie actually is. Sainte-Marie graduated with degrees in oriental philosophy, religion and teaching. She also holds a doctorate in fine arts. The human condition was a common theme that defined the folk music scene she was immersed in. But for an Indigenous woman making her way in the 1960s, speaking truth to power was often easier said than done and could be costly—this was case for Sainte-Marie’s career.

Sainte-Marie leveraged her education, voice and visibility to champion political causes, supporting the American Indian Movement (AIM) and often lent her name to performance engagements. She actively funded the occupation of Alcatraz Island in San Francisco (1969-71) through performances and shows.

Her passion and outspoken support for Indigenous causes coupled with her association with AIM worked against her as she became blacklisted in the United States. Because she was singing about the political realities of ongoing colonial occupation of Indigenous lands and abuses of the federal government, radio stations were “strongly urged” by both Democratic and Republican administrations not to play her music."

Despite that, "in her commitment to Indigenous youth during the 1960s, Sainte-Marie worked closely with the National Indian Youth Council who worked to battle racism. These young activists organized conferences, gave speeches and inspired other notable Natives such as Vine Deloria, Jr. and Hank Adams. Collectively, activists and influential advocates demanded accountability from what many saw as the highly paternalistic Bureau of Indian Affairs.

From music and TV to education, Sainte-Marie’s artistry, joy and passionate activism and optimism have been pivotal in bringing hope and change to humanity. Sainte-Marie’s unique form of activism changed perceptions of Indigenous people, and she continues to champion efforts to end violence against Indigenous women and speak up for Indigenous rights."

Posted by rkim1023 on

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