Canadian singer and song writer Buffy Sainte-Marie, who has made a 60-year career out of Native heritage even as new evidence suggests she was born to a white family, is defiant in the face of those who accuse her of pretending to be an Indian for 60 years.
Sainte-Marie, 82, has spent decades claiming to have Native heritage, but has made a series of problematic claims that seem to clash while speaking of that purported heritage. For instance, over the years she has claimed to be a blood member of at least three separate Indian tribes, the Algonquin tribe, the Mi’kmaq tribe, and the Cree tribe.
The strange conflicting information she has doled out in dozens of interviews starting back in the 1960s sent the Canadian Broadcast Corporation to do a deep dive into her background, and they concluded that the evidence showed them that Sainte-Marie has no native blood at all and was born to a white family in Massachusetts.
Despite all the evidence put forward by the CBC in its series The Fifth Estate, Sainte-Marie is insisting that she has been telling the truth and that the investigation into her life has presented fabricated evidence — even denying the authenticity of a birth certificate presented as hers.
In a long statement, the singer insisted, “Now it is time for me to shine a light on the truth, my truth,” according to the Hollywood Reporter.
Sainte-Marie lamented the “attack on my character, life and legacy” and exclaimed that it is “a deep wound to my inner child.” Despite that, she added that “I’m strong – and these allegations do not shake me.”
She then insisted she has “never lied” about this heritage claim:
I have never lied about my identity. The more I’ve known, the more I’ve pieced together a sense of self from what information has been available to me.
What I know about my Indigenous ancestry I learned from my growing up mother, who was of Mi’kmaq heritage, and my own research later in life. My mother told me that I was adopted and that I was Native, but there was no documentation as was common for Indigenous children at the time.
When I grew up, I was adopted into a Cree family by Emile Piapot (son of Chief Piapot, Treaty 4 Adhesion signatory), and Clara Starblanket Piapot (daughter of Chief Starblanket, Treaty 4 signatory), in accordance with Cree law and customs. They were kind, loving, and proud to claim me as their own. I love my Piapot family and am so lucky to have them in my life.
She roasted the CBC for its investigation into her life.
“The attack on my character is full of mistakes and omissions. While I will not stoop to respond to every false allegation, I feel it is important to clarify two things,” she railed.
“This has been incredibly re-traumatizing for me and unfair to all involved,” Sainte-Marie said. “It hurts me deeply to discover that my estranged family grew up scared of me and thinking these lies because of a letter I sent intended to protect me from further abuse from my brother.”
Sainte-Marie has claimed that her brother sexually assaulted her since the man died in 2011 but had never made the claims before that, the CBC reported. The investigation cast serious doubt on Sainte-Marie’s assault claims and found there is no evidence of such incidents from police, family, or archival records.
Sainte-Marie now claims she has such evidence, but won’t release it out of deference to the man’s family.
The singer went on to allege the CBC presented a false birth certificate.
“The second is my ‘birth certificate,’” she wrote. “It was common for birth certificates of Indian children to be ‘created’ by Western governments after they were adopted or taken away from their families. So, it was quite shocking to me to hear a city clerk say she had 100% confidence in its authenticity.”
“I’ve heard from countless people with similar stories — who do not know where they are from and feel victimized by these allegations and one-sided reporting as I do,” she added.
She claims to have a different birth certificate in her possession that proves her native ancestry.
But as she wrapped up her reply, she seemed to hedge on her heritage.
“Most importantly, this is my life – I am not a piece of paper. I am a product of both my families and all my experiences in this world,” she wrote.
“If you are a pure-blood documented something, I’m glad for you. It’s awesome and beautiful to hear you speak your lineage, history and genealogy,” she said before appearing to say you can be a “native” if you feel like one.
“But even if your documentation says you’re racially pure, you might miss the point. Being an ‘Indian’ has little to do with sperm tracking and colonial record keeping: It has to do with community, culture, knowledge, teachings, who claims you, who you love, who loves you, and who’s your family,” the singer concluded.