UNCENSORED: The following interview with Buffy
Sainte Marie, detailing how she was censored and put out of business, was censored after it was written in 1999.
A portion of it was published in 2006, but
much of it, including the references to uranium, have never been published until now.
BUFFY SAINTE MARIE: Anna Mae and uranium, Bury my heart
at Wounded Knee
Beyond images of women and Indians: Straight-talk from
By Brenda Norrell (1999)
Ariz. -- Seated behind the concert stage at
Dine' College, Buffy Sainte-Marie is visionary and
philosopher, folk star
and educator, mother and
confidant to truth-seekers. A voice of history and
reason, the Cree poet and songwriter describes
the rim, beyond the defined images of women and
Relaxing after her performance onstage, Buffy
always refused to be categorized as an
aerobic-Indian-princess-Pocahontas. The result: She
and along with her Indian
contemporaries, put out of business.
"I found out ten years later, in the 1980s, that
Johnson had been writing letters on White House
stationary praising radio stations for suppressing my
however, is focused on art, not bitterness, and
explains that in Indian communities, there is no name
my own language, there is no word for art."
Instead, they say, "It shines through him." That, she
says is the mystery
-- the artist is a vehicle for the
Backstage, Buffy takes chalk in hand, detailing how
the 1960s and
1970s -- the student movement and
American Indian Movement -- were the roots of change.
In the 1960s in Minneapolis,
"The guys were in the
streets. The guys who would become AIM." In Boston,
and elsewhere in the East there was no awareness
"I grew up in Maine and Massachusetts, and I was told
that I couldn't be Indian because all
the Indians were
gone," Buffy said.
"So, in other words, the consciousness was Zero." But
there were inklings
in the white world, like in the
National Indian Youth Council and the Upward Bound
program recruiting Indian students
for college, that
there was a need for change.
"In the Indian community, in Saskatchewan where I am
Indian people were real grass-rootsy and
they had no clue of how they were being ripped off. In
the grassroots in general,
people were being worked
over by the oil companies."
The student movement and coffeehouses of Greenwich
became her platform in the 1960s. In the
multi-racial movement, students were talking and
students were listening.
student movement was extremely important. It's
not happening right now, but it was then and it was a
small window through
which people like myself came
into show business."
"Coffee was the drug of choice." And the lyrics and
"It meant that people like myself could get on a bus,
in sneakers and a trench coat with a guitar,
In the late 1960s, coffeehouses were suddenly viewed
as moneymakers. "In show business,
whatever is making
money is like honey -- and it attracted a lot of bugs
-- a lot of sharks."
The lyrics were
watered down and coffeehouses that
remained open had liquor licenses.
"In the 1970s, not only was the protest movement
out of business, but the Native American movement was
Meanwhile, Buffy cut a singular path. "I
didn't do what other people did. You didn't find me at
peace marches. I was out in Indian country."
came the occupation of Wounded Knee and the
shoot-out with FBI agents at the Jumping Bull
residence at Pine Ridge June
26, 1975. "That is where
Leonard Peltier's troubles began" Buffy says.
Buffy says that few people recount the true
what happened on that day in history.
"Who recalls that on that day one-eighth of the
was transferred in secret -- on that day.
It was the part containing uranium. That is what never
seems to be remembered."
the time, Buffy was selling more records than ever
in Canada and Asia. But, in the United States, her
records were disappearing.
Thousands of people at
concerts wanted records. Although the distributor said
the records had been shipped, no one seemed
where they were. One thing was for sure, they were not
on record shelves.
"I was put out of business
in the United States."
Later she discovered the censorship and pressure
applied to radio stations by President Lyndon
during the Vietnam era, particularly toward her
"Universal Soldier" during the anti-war movement.
says Indian people were put out of business, not
just because they were succeeding in Indian country,
but because they
were succeeding in the broader
community. She and others were a threat to the
moneymakers of concert halls, uranium
Then, fellow activist and poet John Trudell's wife and
children were burned to death in a house fire shortly
he burned an American flag in Washington D.C.,
February 11, 1979.
"I was just one person put out of business. John
is just another person whose life was put out
of business. Anna Mae Aquash and Leonard Peltier were
put out of the living
business -- we were made
But she continued. Moving into electronic music, which
she says Americans
didn't want to hear, then into
music scoring. In the 1980s, she began producing
digital art on her Macintosh at home.
brightly-colored large-scale paintings are now
featured in museums.
"Sixteen million colors are hard to
resist," she says
of the computer's palette.
In the 1990s, she created the Cradleboard Teaching
Project to link
American Indian students with other
students online around the world. Traveling now to
Indian communities and colleges,
the project debunks
stereotypes and shares history and culture by way of
Sharing the concert stage at
Dine' College with
Trudell, Buffy says she and Trudell were "just
puppies," during the takeover of Alcatraz in the
Yet, they kept struggling; kept surviving.
"We just kept chugging on. We kept coming to Indian
country. We didn't
worry about the fortune and fame
because we went with our sincerity, our hearts, and
with our friends."
was the pain of seeing people hurt, but the
movers of the '60s and '70s survived, developed,
taught, and shared with
old friends the joys of
watching children and Indian country grow.
"It was hard -- seeing people hurt," she says.
there was the pain of seeing women and the elderly
treated with lack of respect. But, people began to
up and change. Her "Starwalker" is a tribute.
"Starwalker is for all generations past and yet to
come. So many people
have seen the reality of that in
their lives," she says, adding that the song is one of
he's a friend of mine
You've seen him looking fine he's a
he's a Starwalker don't drink no wine
way hey o heya
Wolf Rider she's a friend of yours
You've seen her opening doors
She's a history turner
a sweetgrass burner and a
ay hey way hey way heya"
Although Buffy makes her home in Hawaii, much
time is spent in Canada and on the road. Fame,
however, has it drawbacks, making it impossible to
a pow wow. "Sesame Street put an end to
Buffy said Native people in Canada are doing well in
all walks of
life, the government, television and law.
"It's not like it is in the United States."
What has happened in Canada?
Canada attracted a
different type of European. "People didn't want to put
up with the U.S. gobbily-greed."
she adds, "Native people were hipper. Things are
still very pure, but very strong in Canada."
Questioned about the
media, Buffy says if you want to
find out the motive behind a newspaper's coverage,
look to see who owns the paper.
She was asked by a
Native photographer why only negative articles are
published in a leading Arizona paper.
out who owns it," she says, explaining that this
fact will reveal the motive.
Then, she adds, "Don't let the bastards
get you down."
Buffy was born on the Piapot Cree Reserve in
Saskatchewan in 1941.
Later, while evolving as a revolutionary
folk-singer, she received degrees in Oriental
Philosophy and teaching, and
a Ph.D. in Fine Art from
the University of Massachusetts.
A young Bob Dylan heard her sing in Greenwich Village
recommended she perform at the Gaslight, another
hangout of the avant-garde. Janis Joplin and Elvis
among those who recorded her lyrics.
On the road, she traveled the world and received a
medal from Queen Elizabeth II.
Shifting gears as a mother, Buffy
and her son Dakota
Wolfchild Starblanket became stars of Sesame Street in
1976 and dissolved myths about who Indians
Where We Belong," recorded for the film "An Officer
and A Gentleman," won an Academy Award in 1982.
the release of her album "Coincidence and Likely
Stories," in 1993, she helped establish a new Juno
for Aboriginal Music in Canada. That
same year, France named Buffy "Best International
Artist of 1993."
definition, she has also written country
music, including "He's an Indian Cowboy in the Rodeo."
She served as
an adjunct professor in Canada and New
York, and as an artist in residence at the Institute
of American Indian Arts
in Santa Fe.
Onstage at the Native American Music Festival at Dine'
College, a benefit concert for the Dine' Council
Arts and Humanities, Buffy sang selections from her
1996 release, "Up Where We Belong."
Ferlin Clark recalled driving Buffy
through Apache country to share her Cradleboard
Teaching Project, then convincing
her to drive until
dawn to reach the Navajo's Canyon de Chelly. Once at
Spider Rock, Buffy reached for a pen and paper
write. Inspired, she knew she would return.
In concert, Buffy dedicated "Bury My Heart At Wounded
The lyrics tell the story of Native people of the
1880s and later in the 1960s and 1970s, that
the hands of the "robber barons" driven by greed for
oil, gold and precious metals. While manipulating the
and politicians, they added uranium to their
agenda in the Twentieth Century.
In the song, Buffy sings of a senator
country, a "darling of the energy companies," and
covert spies, liars, federal marshals and FBI.
sings her safety rule: "Don't stand between the
reservation and the corporate bank. They send in
song is a also tribute to assassinated activist
Anna Mae Aquash, whose murderers remain at large. The
the act of the FBI in cutting off her
decomposed hands under the guise of identification.
"My girlfriend Annie Mae
talked about uranium
Her head was filled with bullets and her body dumped
The FBI cut off her hands and told us she'd
Bury my heart at Wounded Knee
Deep in the Earth
Cover me with pretty lies
my heart at Wounded Knee."
The Power of Buffy's sound:
YOU TUBE video: Buffy Sainte Marie singing "Universal Solider" the song that resulted in the
US censoring her and putting her out of business
You Tube link to Buffy video