With it being music festival season, we decided to take a look back at some of the original artists that were the forerunners during the early festival period. During the 60′s and 70′s, most artists, both mainstream and not, were seen as both artists and activists. Songs relating to our government, the war and our environment were far more common than they are now. At the gut of the activist/song writer movement was a young, Canandian-Cree named Buffy Sainte-Marie. The Cree are one of the largest groups of First Nations / Native Americans in North America, with over 200,000 members living in Canada.
Since her first album in 1964, It’s My Way!, Buffy has been writing and composing songs related to love, passion, universal power, rights and oppression.
I grew up in Maine and Massachusetts, and I was told that I couldn’t be Indian because all the Indians were gone. – Buffy Sainte-Marie
She has dedicated her life to music and spreading the message of hope and peace. Her songs and speeches show great amounts of support for aboriginal people in all nations. Sainte-Marie herself was one of the few aboriginal persons that made it into public consciousness. This, of course, lead to criticism through her long career and even censorship from the President of the United States.
I found out 10 years later, in the 1980s, that President Lyndon B. Johnson had been writing letters on White House stationery praising radio stations for suppressing my music. When Johnson came to power the lid came down … and a letter campaign from the White House ‘advised’ TV networks against work by people like me, Eartha Kitt and others, stating that they ‘deserved to be suppressed’. – Buffy Sainte-Marie
Outside of songwriting, she helped to found the Cradleboard Teaching Project—a foundation dedicated to helping Native American students participate in learning. Below is a cover from a fellow countryman, Neil Young. This post is for you, Buffy!
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Helpless (Neil Young Cover) [download]