Books by, and about, Buffy Sainte-Marie | Opinion

Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way

Blair Stonechild

Fifth House

2012, 282 pages

ISBN: 9781897252789

I admire Buffy Sainte-Marie for her music and her work as an activist, but Blair Stonechild’s book on her life provides many other reasons to be impressed by this extraordinary person who is always working to make things better. Not only has Buffy Saint-Marie made a difference with singing and songwriting and her work as an activist, but also as a digital artist, internet pioneer, educator and philanthropist.

Buffy Sainte-Marie was born of Cree heritage in Craven, Saskatchewan in 1941 to parents she never knew and was adopted by a family in Massachusetts. Stonechild describes Buffy’s early life, which was difficult, and how she became involved in music even though she could not read music. Her early music career included playing at Greenwich Village and being signed by Vanguard Records.

While many people think of Buffy Sainte-Marie as a folk singer who wrote some protest songs, including Universal Soldier, she is a diverse singer whose songs fall into a variety of genres. Some of her most popular songs include “Until It’s Time for You to Go” and her Academy Award-winning song “Up Where You Belong” and Stonechild covers her achievements as a singer-songwriter.

“Over her career Buffy has written more than 200 songs, recorded eighteen albums, and been recorded by more than 200 artists in sixteen languages. She has a devoted following. Buffy derives great pleasure from the feelings she gets from singing, nevertheless she has always considered herself first and foremost a songwriter, sometimes with a message to convey.”

I prefer songs that carry an important message and “Universal Soldier” is one of my favourites. In the chapter “Speaking Out: The Social Activist” you will read about this iconic song and how it came about. Stonechild also writes about how the US government created a blacklist of performers whose music they suppressed and Buffy made the list. Sainte-Marie’s activism is largely concerned with Native rights and environmental issues and is often addressed through her songs such as “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone”.

The chapter “Motherhood, Acting, and Art” looks at Buffy Sainte-Marie’s important work on the show Sesame Street along with her art and other ventures including creating educational materials about Native American education for teachers and students. You can learn more about this project – the Cradleboard Teaching Project – online at www.cradleboard.org

A teacher, Sainte-Marie spent considerable time on the “Cradleboard Teaching Project” which helps “…children grow through cross-cultural communication while having a unique opportunity to access engaging, accurate, enriching, core curriculum units that met appropriate standards for elementary, middle, and high school grade levels.”

For her illustrious career and helping others Buffy Sainte-Marie has been acknowledged with numerous awards including being inducted into the Canadian Music Hall of Fame, winning a Gemini Award and becoming an Officer of the Order of Canada – “the highest civilian honour in Canada.”

Buffy Sainte-Marie: It’s My Way is an interesting biography about an impressive person whose life has benefited so many.

Hey Little Rockabye: A Lullaby for Pet Adoption

Buffy Sainte-Marie, illustrated by Ben Hodson

Greystone Kids

2020, 32 pages

ISBN: 9781771644822

all ages

Buffy Sainte-Marie is many things including being a musician, an author, an activist and an educator through which she helps many and makes the world a better place. In this delightful children’s picture book – which is a song – she uses her words and music to tell the story of a young girl who wants to adopt a puppy from the local animal shelter. The inspirational song/book provides the important message that the best animal companion to get is one who is in need of a home! The picture book is nicely illustrated by Ben Hodson.

At the back of the book there is the words and music to Hey Little Rockabye along with an “Author’s Note” about Buffy Sainte-Marie’s song that she sings “…to all my animals when I first welcome them home. I have had lots of pets: dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens from my local shelter; more than thirty goats and their kids; and the most wonderful horse in the world who lived to be forty-six years old. All of them have been rescues who needed a home and they each have filled me with special joy.”

Hey Little Rockabye is a wonderful book for all ages.

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