OTTAWA — Iconic singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is the latest trailblazer to be honoured by Canada Post with a commemorative stamp.
“It’s pretty awesome,” Sainte-Marie said in an Ottawa media scrum Thursday. “I can tell you I never thought it would happen, my goodness.”
Now 80 years old, the five-time Juno award-winning artist has been performing for more than 60 years, and always puts Indigenous issues and talent in the spotlight.
“We have lots of Indigenous artists, we have studios, musicians, producers,” she said of the need for Indigenous music to be in the mainstream. “Records are being made, sold, listened to and we have the numbers.”
Her own songs have been covered by stars like Elvis Presley, Barbara Streisand, Neil Diamond and Cher.
Born Beverly Sainte-Marie on Feb. 20, 1941 on the Piapot Cree First Nation reserve in the Qu’Apelle Valley, Saskatchewan, she taught herself to play piano at age three and began setting her poetry to music at age four.
She was raised by adoptive parents in Massachusetts and launched her career playing coffee houses and folk festivals in the 1960s. Known for her unique vibrato voice, Sainte-Marie uses her music as a platform for social and political commentary, especially on issues affecting Indigenous youth.
In 1975, Sainte-Marie organized a benefit concert in Piapot Cree Nation that drew in more than 1,500 people. The money from the show went towards construction of a new school.
Her family continues to be proud of her achievements, with her niece Ntawnis Piapot telling CTV News that despite her international fame, Sainte-Marie is the type to spend time with them, “just her and you in the room.”
Sainte-Marie received the order of Canada, an honorary doctorate and has met the Queen in the course of her lifetime, accolades well deserved according to former Chief of the Assembly of First Nations Perry Bellegarde.
“Buffy Sainte-Marie is not elected, but she’s a strong leader, a visionary and she has had such an impact, global impact,” he said.
In 1982, she became the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar for the song “Up Where We Belong,” from the film “An Officer and a Gentleman.”
Sainte-Marie marks the 11th Indigenous person to have been honoured with a Canada Post stamp.
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