Advocacy group says evidence that contradicts songwriter's claims to Indigenous ancestry 'overwhelming'
An advocacy group devoted to amplifying the voices of Indigenous women says Buffy Sainte-Marie, a musician known for decades of Indigenous activism, appears to have engaged in a great deception regarding her origin as an Indigenous Sixties Scoop survivor.
The Indigenous Women's Collective said in a statement released Sunday that its comments were in response to "overwhelming" evidence in an investigation by CBC's The Fifth Estate revealing information that contradicts the songwriter's claims to Indigenous ancestry.
For many years, Sainte-Marie claimed she was born on the Piapot First Nation near Regina and then taken during the Sixties Scoop, but that has been called into question by evidence obtained by CBC News, including Sainte-Marie's Stoneham, Mass., birth certificate and members of her family saying they believe her story is built on an elaborate fabrication.
"This deception allowed her to benefit from a very deliberate and false narrative that misled thousands of Indigenous youth, adults and most tragically, Indigenous survivors of colonial harm," the Indigenous Women's Collective posted in its statement on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter.
Our response to recent revelations calling into question the Indigenous identity of Buffy Sainte-Marie. <a href="https://t.co/OGkorN6l60">pic.twitter.com/OGkorN6l60</a>
The Indigenous Women's Collective was formed after another CBC investigation found high-profile academic and former judge Mary-Ellen Turpel-Lafond's claims of being a treaty Indian of Cree ancestry did not match publicly available records.
Since that investigation Turpel-Lafond has been stripped of multiple honorary degrees and awards.
The Indigenous Women's Collective wants Sainte-Marie to face similar repercussions. The collective is calling upon the Junos Awards Committee to rescind Sainte-Marie's 2018 Juno award for Indigenous Album of the Year.
It is also calling on the committee to reconsider other artists who were nominated in that category, including Kelly Fraser, a beloved Inuk singer-songwriter from Sanikiluaq, Nunavut. The young musician, who died a year later, used her platform to promote Inuit rights and speak out against the harms of colonization and stereotyping.
In the face of the Fifth Estate episode, Sainte-Marie issued a public statement saying she found the allegations "deeply hurtful," and that she continues to claim her Indigenous identity.
The Indigenous Women's Collective acknowledged that Sainte-Marie was traditionally adopted by the Piapot family 60 years ago under sacred Cree laws of Wahkotowin, but said that such adoptions do not provide anyone permission to falsely claim Indigenous origin identity.
"Being adopted into an Indigenous family does not authorize anyone to speak on behalf of all our people," the Indigenous Women's Collective wrote in its social media post.
"The false origin story and the appropriation of Indigenous intergenerational trauma is intolerable and an act of colonial violence."
Making an Icon
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Featured VideoAn icon’s claims to Indigenous ancestry are being called into question by family members and an investigation that included genealogical documentation, historical research and personal accounts. Host: Geoff Leo
Ira Lavallee, acting chief of Piapot First Nation, has said his community will not turn its back on Sainte-Marie.
"I can relate and understand to a lot of our people who feel betrayed and in a sense lied to by her claiming Indigenous ancestry, when in fact she may not be Indigenous," Lavallee said last week.
"When it comes to Buffy specifically we can't pick and choose which part of our culture we decide to adhere to.… We do have one of our families in our community that did adopt her. Regardless of her ancestry, that adoption in our culture to us is legitimate."
The Indigenous Women's Collective also acknowledged that the fallout from CBC's investigation has been emotional for many across Canada.
The collective said it expresses its deepest compassion to everyone impacted by the investigation, whether they continue to support Sainte-Marie or are among those who feel betrayed.
Reaction to The Fifth Estate investigation into Buffy Sainte-Marie’s claims of Indigenous identity
3 days ago
Featured VideoReaction continues to pour in the wake of this CBC investigation.
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