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S36 Ep6

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On

Premiere: 11/22/2022 | 00:03:10 |

Experience the story of the Oscar-winning Indigenous artist from her rise to prominence in New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene through her six-decade groundbreaking career as a singer-songwriter, social activist, educator and artist.



About the Episode

Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On features never-before-seen archival material, new performance footage and interviews with Sainte-Marie, Joni Mitchell, Sonia Manzano, John Kay, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne and others.

Over a career spanning six decades, Cree musician, artist and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie has used her platform to campaign for Indigenous and women’s rights and inspired multiple generations of musicians, artists and activists. Following a world premiere at The Toronto International Film Festival in 2022, American Masters – Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On premieres nationwide Tuesday, November 22 at 9 p.m. ET on PBS (check local listings), and the PBS Video App in honor of Native American Heritage Month.

Directed by Madison Thomas, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On chronicles Sainte-Marie’s rise in New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene through her groundbreaking career, featuring interviews with Joni Mitchell (singer, songwriter, artist), Sonia Manzano (Maria on Sesame Street), John Kay (lead singer-songwriter of Steppenwolf, solo artist), Robbie Robertson (musician), Jackson Browne (musician), George Stroumboulopoulos (music journalist), Andrea Warner (author) and more.

Sainte-Marie’s career took flight when she received a rave review in The New York Times and caught the eye of Vanguard Records, who released her debut album, It’s My Way. Consistently recognized for being ahead of her time, Sainte-Marie’s music revealed her most sincere opinions differentiating her from the other female pop musicians of the 1960s. Early in her career she spoke out against the Vietnam War with her song “Universal Soldier,” against readily available opioids with “Cod’ine” and shared her views on romance with “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” which has been covered by artists such as Elvis, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Neil Diamond.

Sainte-Marie changed perceptions of Indigenous people in music, film and television. When approached to play a lead role in a 1968 episode of The Virginian, she famously demanded that all Indigenous roles be played by Indigenous peoples. Additionally, across her five-year stint on Sesame Street, she was the first woman to nurse on television, and she helped create segments based on her experiences as an Indigenous woman in North America.

After winning the Academy Award for writing “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman with her then husband, Jack Nitzsche, Saint-Marie stepped out of the spotlight. She returned to music after a fourteen-year hiatus with her critically acclaimed album Coincidence and Likely Stories. In 2015, she beat out Drake for the Polaris Music Prize for her album Power in the Blood. At the age of 81, Sainte-Marie actively tours and continues to be an activist for Indigenous rights, including championing efforts to end the oppression of and violence against Indigenous women.

After the broadcast premiere of Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, stay tuned for a sneak peek of our next season of In The Making.

In The Making is a digital series from American Masters and Firelight Media that follows emerging cultural icons – creators who bring insight and originality to their craft – on their journeys to becoming masters of their artistic disciplines. Join us for a first look at Jonathan Thunder: Good Mythology.

About The Film – Jonathan Thunder: Good Mythology

Filmmaker Sergio Rapu follows Anishinaabe artist Jonathan Thunder as he dives deep into the inspirations behind his surrealist paintings and animations. From the killing of an iconic American hero to critical perspectives of how indigenous people were portrayed in early children’s cartoons, Thunder’s art prompts viewers to take a critical look at our shared mythologies.

Artist Biography – Jonathan Thunder

Artist Jonathan Thunder

Artist Jonathan Thunder.

Thunder infuses his personal lens with real-time world experiences using a wide range of mediums. He is known for his surreal paintings, digitally animated films and installations in which he addresses subject matter of personal experience and social commentary. Jonathan is an enrolled member of the Red Lake Band of Ojibwe, and makes his home and studio in Duluth, MN.

He has attended the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) in Santa Fe, NM and studied Visual Effects and Motion Graphics in Minneapolis, MN at the Art Institute International. His work has been featured in many states, regional, and national exhibitions, as well as in local and international publications. Thunder is the recipient of a 2020-21 Pollock – Krasner Foundation Award for his risk taking in painting. Since his first solo exhibit in 2004, he has won several awards for his short films in national and international competitions. His painting and digital work is in the permanent collections of multiple Museums and Universities.

Filmmaker Biography – Sergio Mata’u Rapu

Filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu

Filmmaker Sergio Mata’u Rapu.

Rapu is a documentary filmmaker native to Rapa Nui (Easter Island). His content priorities are in uplifting under-represented voices and telling stories around environmental conservation.

His award-winning directorial debut, Eating Up Easter, was screened around the world and broadcast on PBS’s Independent Lens in 2020. In 2021 he produced and edited Bring Her Home, the latest feature by director Leya Hale (Dakota/Dine) which follows three Indigenous women as they work to vindicate and honor their missing and murdered relatives who are victims in the growing epidemic of Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women. Sergio also developed and produced That Got Weird, a animated digital series about racism and microaggressions.

As one of the only native Rapanui working in documentary film, he seeks to uplift under-represented voices and create thought-provoking media around environmental conservation.

"Some will tell you what you really want ain't on the menu. Don't believe them. Cook it up yourself and then prepare to serve them."

American Masters and Vision Maker Media partnered to bring Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On to public television.

An Ontario-Manitoba co-production, American Masters – Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On is a production of Eagle Vision, White Pine and Paquin Entertainment Pictures in association with American Masters Pictures and Vision Maker Media. Directed by Madison Thomas. Written by Madison Thomas and Andrea Warner. Lisa Meeches, Kyle Irving, Rebecca Gibson, Peter Raymont, Steve Ord, Andrew Munger, Gilles Paquin, Ray Halbritter, Randy Lennox, Michael Kantor and Francene J. Blythe-Lewis are executive producers. Lisa Meeches and Stephen Paniccia are producers. Michael Kantor is executive producer for American Masters.

About American Masters
Launched in 1986 on PBS, American Masters has earned 28 Emmy Awards — including 10 for Outstanding Non-Fiction Series and five for Outstanding Non-Fiction Special — 14 Peabodys, an Oscar, three Grammys, two Producers Guild Awards, and many other honors. To further explore the lives and works of masters past and present, American Masters offers streaming video of select films, outtakes, filmmaker interviews, the podcast American Masters: Creative Spark, educational resources, digital original series and more. The series is a production of The WNET Group.

American Masters is available for streaming concurrent with broadcast on all station-branded PBS platforms, including and the PBS Video App, available on iOS, Android, Roku streaming devices, Apple TV, Android TV, Amazon Fire TV, Samsung Smart TV, Chromecast and VIZIO. PBS station members can view many series, documentaries and specials via PBS Passport. For more information about PBS Passport, visit the PBS Passport FAQ website.

About The WNET Group
The WNET Group creates inspiring media content and meaningful experiences for diverse audiences nationwide. It is the community-supported home of New York’s THIRTEEN – America’s flagship PBS station – WLIW21, THIRTEEN PBSKids, WLIW World and Create; NJ PBS, New Jersey’s statewide public television network; Long Island’s only NPR station WLIW-FM; ALL ARTS, the arts and culture media provider; and newsroom NJ Spotlight News. Through these channels and streaming platforms, The WNET Group brings arts, culture, education, news, documentary, entertainment and DIY programming to more than five million viewers each month. The WNET Group’s award-winning productions include signature PBS series Nature, Great Performances, American Masters, PBS NewsHour Weekend and Amanpour and Company and trusted local news programs MetroFocus and NJ Spotlight News with Briana Vannozzi. Inspiring curiosity and nurturing dreams, The WNET Group’s award-winning Kids’ Media and Education team produces the PBS KIDS series Cyberchase, interactive Mission US history games, and resources for families, teachers and caregivers. A leading nonprofit public media producer for nearly 60 years, The WNET Group presents and distributes content that fosters lifelong learning, including multiplatform initiatives addressing poverty, jobs, economic opportunity, social justice, understanding and the environment. Through Passport, station members can stream new and archival programming anytime, anywhere. The WNET Group represents the best in public media. Join us.


Funding for Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On has been secured through CMF POV Fund, Rogers’ Documentary Fund, Ontario Creates and Telefilm’s Theatrical Documentary Fund.

Original series production funding for American Masters is provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AARP, Cheryl and Philip Milstein Family, Judith and Burton Resnick, Seton Melvin Charitable Trust, The Blanche and Irving Laurie Foundation, Vital Projects Fund, The Ambrose Monell Foundation, Lillian Goldman Programming Endowment, The Philip and Janice Levin Foundation, Ellen and James S. Marcus, The André and Elizabeth Kertész Foundation, Sue and Edgar Wachenheim III, The Rosalind P. Walter Foundation, Koo and Patricia Yuen, Thea Petschek Iervolino Foundation and public television viewers.


♪♪ [ Instruments tuning ] -All right.

Okay, Jim, this is guitar one, and, uh... ...this will be our first song. [ Clears throat ] [ Cheers and applause ] -[ Strums 'It's My Way' on guitar ] [ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ -♪ I'm cutting my own way ♪ ♪ Through my own day ♪ ♪ And I dare say ♪ ♪ Is it's my own ♪ -She was always way ahead of the game.

She knew she had a gift, and she was not afraid to share it, show it, be proud of it.

When she played, it was hers.

-♪ The years I've known ♪ ♪ And the life I've grown ♪ ♪ Got a way I'm going ♪ ♪ And it's my way ♪ -She's an icon, she's a six-time Juno winner, a trailblazer, an Academy Award winner, a Companion to the Order of Canada.

All of those things come to mind, but they're not strong enough to actually define who Buffy Sainte-Marie is.

-♪ Sword in my own hand ♪ ♪ I got my own plan that only I can know ♪ ♪ Don't be... ♪ -When you're told generation after generation that you're ugly, you're dirty, you're a savage, you don't belong, Buffy comes along, tells you something very different.

-♪ I got my own world ♪ ♪ I got my own life ♪ -She's such an amazing, well-rounded Human being, and that comes through in everything that she does.

-♪ I got my own kith ♪ -Oh, I was very impressed with her.

Her stage performance and her songwriting ability -- Buffy was different.

-Buffy is the boldest woman I know in a quiet and compassionate way.

-♪ I got my own tears and it's my way ♪ -Places that Buffy has been erased from -- well, I mean, it's all of them, particularly the mainstream music industry.

-♪ The years I've known ♪ ♪ And the life I've grown ♪ -I'm so grateful for the work that Buffy has done to bring attention to missing and murdered Indigenous women and making sure that people are aware of what's going on so that we can do something about it.

-♪ Put down the story ♪ -Throughout her career, she's always at the cutting edge, and her songs encapsulate all of time -- drawing on the past, speaking now, and sending it into the future.

-♪ You're bound for glory ♪ ♪ All on your own one day ♪ ♪♪ -They only made one Buffy Sainte-Marie, I can tell you.

[ Cheers and applause ] [ Birds chirping ] -I've lived in Hawaii in a real obscure place in the mountains of the middle of nowhere with a bunch of goats and my sweetheart.

And it's funny -- I have a lot of confidence in solitude.

And I think that's what's allowed me to enjoy music for so long.

Songs are like snapshots of your life.

I write about everything.

Oh, here's some more Hawaii ones.

Ooh, this one's kind of nice.

[ Plays down-tempo tune ] ♪♪ You know, I love show business, but I really do need the other side of that.

I'm kind of not surprised to be 80 years old and have things where they are right now for me professionally.

♪ Little boys tap dancing in the Quarter streets ♪ ♪ Of New Orleans, yeah ♪ I found out somewhere along the way -- I can't tell you what year it was or where I was in my journey, but at a certain point I realized that what I was doing at that time, the timing was off.

♪ Put on some high-heeled shoes, go out on the town ♪ In the early '60s, you know, people would just be flabbergasted that I would dare to use the word 'genocide' regarding the North American Holocaust.

And it took another over 50 years before truth and reconciliation brought the facts to light, and it vindicated my music.

♪♪ I learned that sometimes you have to carry the medicine for a long time before it's time to administer it.

♪♪ [ Rooster crows ] [ Down-tempo music plays ] ♪♪ As a child, you know, I was told two things that kind of should have ruined me.

And the two things are, 'You can't be a musician -- you can't read music.'

[ Chuckles ] You cannot tell me I can't be a musician just because you don't recognize natural music.

♪♪ And the other thing that I was told is, 'You can't be an Indian. There aren't any more.

Oh, there may be a few in Arizona, but, no, there aren't any around here.

So you must not be one.

And they were all dead and vanished anyway.'

From a real young age, I was dealing with other people's ignorance about things I really cared about, people I loved who just didn't know the facts about Indigenous people or natural musicians.

I knew things intimately from daily experience that never even crossed their minds.

Things like that probably should have ruined me, but they did not, because I knew so definitely that the world sometimes is either wrong or they're not there yet.

♪♪ [ Up-tempo music plays ] -Tonight from Toronto, the music of the inimitable Buffy Sainte-Marie.

[ Applause ] -Buffy Sainte-Marie joins me.

I read a quote that you said the town you were brought up in Maine was Javex City, USA, and then they tried to turn you white.

[ Laughter ] Is that a misquotation?

-No, I said. [ Laughs ] [ Marching band playing ] I grew up in Maine and Massachusetts, you know, in places where there weren't any Indians.

They didn't believe in Indians.

They thought we were either all dead and stuffed in museums or never had existed in the first place because they had wiped out their Indians in the 1600s.

And then I go back to school and they try to tell me Columbus discovered America, right?

-Yeah. -And I knew darn well, right, what had happened, yeah?

[ Laughter ] We know -- We know how it really happened.

You know, like in 1492 on October 12th, you know, that's when the Native North American people discovered Columbus.

He was lost.

He thought he was in India, poor thing.

[ Laughter ] [ Applause ] I'm an adopted child, and I was born in Canada and grew up in Massachusetts and Maine.

And I didn't play with the other kids in games.

I really felt like an observer.

There was only one Indigenous person besides me in the town.

He was the mailman, [chuckles] and he also had a trading post and he used to do beautiful beadwork for the movies.

I'd ride my bike about four miles around the lake and go and visit with them.

And, you know, he was about the only one I could talk to.

My mom -- she didn't know that it bothered me that I didn't know what kind of Indian, or if I couldn't be one, what was I?

So she -- what she said to me was, 'When you grow up, you can find out for yourself.

And that's pretty darn good.'

So I did.

[ 'Better to Find Out for Yourself' plays ] ♪ Take it from me that a man can be ♪ ♪ More trouble than you'll ever know ♪ ♪ He'll love you some ♪ At the beginning, I never thought I would have a career.

I didn't think I was a singer or anything.

I was a very good singer, but I knew I was a writer.

I knew I was a songwriter.

So I went to Greenwich Village to try my luck at singing in the coffeehouses of the time.

♪ Better to find out for yourself ♪ ♪ Handsome stride and shoulders wide ♪ When I arrived, it was kind of just at the end of the beatniks.

Nobody had heard of a hippie yet.

♪ With his head hung low and his shoulders down ♪ There were many artists called folk singers who were doing different things -- Odetta, Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan was still playing in the Village.

And it was all mixed up, and it was so exciting.

[ Horns honking ] -The first time I went there, I was stunned because, you know, New York, you always see people in luxurious penthouses, in the movies, you know.

When I got to New York, it was garbage in the streets and it was so funky.

I was really amazed, you know?

-Oh, there was a lot of people.

Oh, it was happening. New York was happening.

The Village was -- it was -- it was smokin'. And Buffy -- things started moving for her.

-I think the first place I probably went to was Gerde's Folk City.

I met Bob Dylan there.

He heard me play. He liked it.

♪ Little wheel spin and spin ♪ ♪ Big wheel turn around and around ♪ He said, 'You know, go and see Sam at the Gaslight Cafe.'

So I went over and very, very quickly -- like, probably within a week or two -- the journalist from 'The New York Times,' Robert Shelton, came down and he gave me a review, [laughing] a spectacular review.

♪ And the devil's in hell ♪ ♪ Hearts, they shrink, buckets swell ♪ And the people at the Gaslight Coffeehouse -- they blew it up into a vertical billboard and put it outside the club.

And the place was just full of people.

♪ Blame the angels, blame the fates ♪ ♪ Blame the Jews or your sister Kate ♪ -Oh, I was very impressed with her.

I was always amazed that she could stand on one foot with her leg cocked up and sing and never bang her nose on the microphone.

[ Laughs ] -♪ Big wheel turn around and around ♪ -Then 'Time' magazine also called her 'one of the most intriguing new talents to emerge in many a moon.'

It was just like a very kind of over-the-top quote, but the kind that gets you all the attention.

And those positive reviews had record labels knocking on her door.

♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] [ Slide projector clicks and whirs ] -Buffy, there are so many facets to your particular diamond.

It's hard to know exactly where to start, but I think we'll confine ourselves to the musical topic.

When did you begin to be aware that you were musically inclined?

-Well, the first time I saw an instrument was when I was four, when my parents brought a piano to the house.

They had somebody's old beat-up piano that was given to them.

And I sat down and began to play with it, which is what I think children should do with music.

I played with it as a toy.

And within a couple of days, I was playing my own music.

♪♪ I was an isolated child.

And so music, for me, was my playmate.

It was my big playmate.

[ Piano playing ] Anything I heard on the radio, I could play it on the piano.

You know, you play Tchaikovsky or Mozart on a record, and I could sit down and, you know, come up with the chords and... [ Laughs ] [ Bells tolling ] I felt a real freedom in college.

I got a single room in a dorm, and my housemother was British and she appreciated my music.

And I used to sing to the girls in the dorm.

And I discovered philosophy as a sophomore.

And so that's how I wound up with a philosophy major, with a teaching minor.

-The time that I was going to the University of Massachusetts was when I met a lovely sister, Buffy.

-Taj saw me, he says, coming out of this listening library.

We went and put on actual headphones.

-She had a big coat and a book bag and a guitar, and so I helped her -- I helped her up the stairs with the book bag.

-And he told me he was intimidated [laughs], which is really, really a laugh.

He's huge, you know, and I'm... -But, and she said, 'Have you got a guitar here?'

-And I said, 'Yeah.' So I go get my guitar, and we sit down in this -- in this hallway, and one of us strums an 'E' chord and one strums a 'D' chord.

And we're absolutely in tune in two different keys.

That's serious.

Okay, so I knew I had a friend.

-♪ Can you remember the times ♪ ♪ That you have held your head high? ♪ -Buffy really was pretty -- she was representing and deeply committed to Indigenous people and Indigenous rights.

-♪ Oh, it's all in the past, you can say ♪ ♪ But it's still going on here today ♪ -She was, like, pretty much the first person that I knew that was, like, speaking it out, and I still -- I can see it while I'm talking to you.

I can see Buffy standing in the doorway, and the guitar was tilted up and she was throwing down.

-♪ Now that the buffalo's gone ♪ -She was who she was.

No two ways about it.

-When I went to sign my record contract with Vanguard, you know, Blue Note was interested in me, too, and they were a jazz label.

When I signed with Vanguard and the day I went up there, they said, 'Okay, well, you know, where's your lawyer?'

And I said, 'I don't have one of those.'

And they said, 'Oh, that's okay. You can use ours.'

[ Chuckles ] So I signed up for seven years.

♪ I'm cutting my own way ♪ ♪ Through my own day ♪ -Those first albums starting out, there was this, you know, really powerful female voice, you know, Indian voice, you know, having understood that the history was a lot deeper than anything had been presented to us and that folk music contained this, too.

[ Applause ] -We'd like to present to you this very gifted young lady, Buffy Sainte-Marie.

-Buffy Sainte-Marie. -Buffy Sainte-Marie.

-Oh, Buffy's the hottest -- excuse the expression - the hottest singer right now.

-She was on the cover of 'Broadside' magazine.

And you couldn't miss her.

I mean, really, you weren't you very much alive if you miss her cover.

♪♪ [ Horns honking ] -Buffy's first album -- well, it just floored me because 'It's My Way' that song itself, which was sort of, 'take it or leave it, this is who I am, this is my way,' you know, I was just really astounded by the intensity and the passion.

And you realize that those young singer-songwriters -- they reflected the concerns we had.

-♪ Freedom! Freedom! ♪ ♪ Freedom, freedom ♪ -All the music was the soundtrack of that whole time.

It's like what was on our minds was being -- was coming back to us through music.

And, you know, Buffy's stuff, like, cut right through it.

-She was already a young woman with so much power and so much, um... history.

Such a young person, how she understood life, how she understood what was happening in the world, not just for us, but for... war, for where we were at.

♪♪ -I had to spend the night in San Francisco Airport because I was trying to get to Toronto.

And in the middle of the night, a group of medics came in and they were wheeling wounded soldiers.

And I got to talking to one of the medics, and they explained to me that, yes, indeed, there's a horrible war going on in Vietnam, because we were being told that there was no war.

And I just got to thinking, 'Who is it who's responsible for war?'

♪ He's 5-foot-2 ♪ ♪ And he's 6-feet-4 ♪ Is it these poor, wounded soldiers who, you know, they're lying there and, in a way, there's some responsibility right there.

♪ He's only 31 and he's only 17 ♪ ♪ He's been a soldier for a thousand years ♪ Then I got to thinking, 'But what about career military officers who spend their whole lives learning how to make war better?'

♪ He says it's for the peace of all ♪ So there's some responsibility there, I'm thinking.

♪ Must decide who's to live and who's to die ♪ ♪ And he never sees the writing on the wall ♪ But who is it who actually makes the phone call to actually start a war?

And now I thought I had it. Oh, let's blame the politicians.

♪ But without him, how would Hitler have condemned him ♪ ♪ At Dachau? ♪ But in this world that we're living in, in North America, who is it who elects the politicians?

It's us. It's you and me.

It's about individual responsibility for the world we're living in.

He's universal soldier. ♪ The universal soldier ♪ And he really is to blame. ♪ And he really is to blame ♪ But his orders come from far away no more.

♪ No more ♪ ♪ This is not the way we put an end to war ♪ I got into Toronto.

I finished the song up at the Purple Onion, and I performed 'Universal Soldier' that same night, and that song had -- it just had an immediate effect.

-♪ He's 5-foot-2 and he's 6-feet-6 ♪ -And people started -- other artists started singing it, too.

You know, it became pretty well-known quite fast.

-♪ He's only 31 and he's only 17 ♪ -Do you get great pleasure in hearing other people perform your songs?

Because they are such a personal part of you, aren't they?

-Well, yeah, I do. I mean, I'm flattered, you know?

And the way I feel about songs is that once I've sung them, then it doesn't do to keep your hands on it and try to hold it back.

You have to let people have it and do what they want with the song.

-In the beginning, that was my favorite of her songs.

Then later I played in Fort Bragg, you know, for the soldiers coming back from the war.

And then I ended up with a different opinion, you know.

'He's the universal soldier. He really is to blame.'

I thought, you know, it's a shame these guys are coming back from the war to encounter such hostility.

I began to kind of disagree with the premise of the song.

-'Universal Soldier' was always about our collective responsibility for war.

It's not just the military. It's all of us.

-When I hooked up with Bob Dylan, he said, 'Oh, man, you gotta hear Buffy Sainte-Marie.'

And he went over to the record collection there, and he pulled out an album and it had 'Universal Soldier' and 'Cod'ine' on it.

And 'Cod'ine,' I thought, 'Whoa,' you know, 'Codeine?'

You know, and in Canada, codeine was available in drugstores.

I mean, you could just buy it like people buy aspirins, the 220s, and, uh... and I guess, you know, there was this certain naivete that they didn't realize it could be dangerous and very addictive.

-I found out the hard way very young about opioids and doctors, you know.

I mean, I was in my early 20s and a doctor, you know, overprescribed me opiates.

♪ But I'll real and I'll fall ♪ I had a bronchial infection, and a doctor in Florida gave me shots and pills that I thought were vitamin B12 and antibiotics.

Well, a few weeks later, I was driving through Atlanta with some friends, and I was feeling worse than ever.

I stopped at a drugstore to get a refill.

The pharmacist looked at the prescription, and he told me he didn't think my problem was bronchitis at all.

He said I was strung out and going through opiate withdrawal, and it was gonna get a whole lot worse.

And, of course, he wouldn't refill the codeine prescription.

I was stoned.

This Florida doctor had prescribed me huge amounts of codeine, which is like opium, morphine, heroin, and I went through withdrawal.

It's unimaginable how.

♪ But I'll real and I'll fall ♪ ♪ And I'll die on cod'ine ♪ But see, I learned a lesson.

Some things are bigger than me.

And I'm afraid of things that are bigger than me.

♪♪ -The song was written in 1964, and we've been in a, you know, opioid crisis for the last ten years, if not longer.

So I think it really shows just how much Buffy was ahead of her time.

-I've always really connected with her song 'Cod'ine,' being displaced from my own community.

Drugs and alcohol and addiction and mental health is something that I struggled with for a long, long time, you know?

And it's a fight that I'm still fighting today and I fight every day.

You know, and having that song 'Cod'ine' is almost like, you know, it's this moment where Buffy's speaking about these issues directly.

So it's like, that just meant a lot to me to kind of relate to her on that level.

[ 'Born to be Wild' plays ] ♪♪ -♪ Get your motor running ♪ ♪ Head out on the highway ♪ -I really did see a seismic shift in the '60s in the music business.

All of a sudden there's big money there, right?

-[ Screams ] -♪ Gonna make it happen ♪ ♪ Take the world in... ♪ -Show business changed.

The drug went from coffee and a little pot to alcohol and a little cocaine, and a lot of coffeehouses went out of business.

They couldn't compete.

It just went from a time of innocence to a time of, 'Goose it. Here's where the money is.'

-♪ Fire all of the guns at once ♪ ♪ And explode into space ♪ -These managers and record companies realized that they could make a lot of money.

So they created a model that maximized profit.

But it was all at the expense of artistic expression.

-♪ I never wanna die ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -From when Buffy's first record came out, I mean, Elvis had only been on the radio for, what, eight years?

Like rock 'n' roll was, by the industry standards, brand new.

It was brand-new.

So they could have built it right.

They just chose money and chart position.

Fine. You're allowed to do that.

But let's not pretend that's not what you did.

-In those days, you didn't have any power.

The record company had all the power.

-I would go in to record and, you know, there'd be a bunch of guys I had never met, you know, adult businessmen and, you know, an engineer and nobody I knew.

And I'd start singing. And then I left.

And then the album came out.

So I had nothing to do with choosing which take or pointing out what was right or wrong.

I just didn't have control over my own music, and I wish that I had had.

-After seeing the pressure Vanguard put on me, Joni decided against signing with them.

-Yeah, they wanted me to deliver a ridiculous number of albums per year, you know, and writing your own music -- like the workload was, it was impossible.

I turned them down.

-I have no interest in politics, nor office, no nothing.

I wanted to play music and I wanted to get it out to people.

Of course, the industry tried to, you know, cash in on it, but, you know, really, that's their job.

And our problem is that they give us the playbook, and we're reading the playbook and then they're playing dirty.

[ Chuckles ] ♪♪ -When I arrived in Greenwich Village, I had never met a businessman.

I had never met a lawyer.

I didn't drink, and an awful lot of stars started going down to drugs and alcohol.

-♪ You know I smoked a lot of grass ♪ ♪ Oh, Lord, I popped a lot of pills ♪ -The big managers and lawyers, they were all into it.

[ Laughing ] They were into it.

-♪ But I've never touched nothing ♪ -But when you don't drink in show business, that means that after the show you don't go out to the bars, which is a very bad move in show business because that's where you make deals.

And I wasn't there.

-♪ Stones in their eyes ♪ -So I really wasn't very good [laughs] at faking it socially.

I didn't -- I just didn't know how.

So I made some mistakes.

Because I was so green, people took advantage.

I wanted the message of 'Universal Soldier' to spread.

The Highwaymen were a vocal group coming off a huge hit, 'Michael (Row the Boat Ashore).' One night they came to the Gaslight.

They heard me sing 'Universal Soldier' and told me they wanted to record it immediately.

And they asked me, who was the publisher?

My manager, Herb Garr, knew this guy at the next table, Elmer Jared Gordon, who said he was a publisher.

And so I signed away the publishing rights to him for $1.

And then later people started crediting the song to Donovan.

I made a lot of that kind of career mistake, and I was kind of a social boob in that way.

But the rights to 'Universal Soldier' -- it took me ten years, but I bought it back.

I bought part of the publishing back for $25,000 it cost me to buy back part of my own song.

♪♪ But I never did it again. I learned my lesson.

I learned not to do that.

♪♪ -I think the people who think Buffy made terrible career moves are looking at it from an industry perspective, and that their only way of assigning the successful tag is if you do it this way.

Did she make the right career moves to play that capitalist game?

No, but I bet she knew that.

I bet those people who say that about her now -- 'Oh, she should have done this' -- well, where were you?

Well, where were you?

♪♪ [ Animals calling ] -Wow.

We got a lot of letters here.

[ Laughs ] Oh, man, they were -- people were scolding Smithsonian for not knowing that 'Universal Soldier' was actually a song.

A couple years ago, the 'Smithsonian' -- they had done a story on Vietnam veterans, like, the carvings on their bunks.

And someone had written a quote from 'Universal Soldier,' and the 'Smithsonian' didn't realize I had written it.

[ Laughing ] And so it came out in 'Smithsonian' magazine that it was written by an unknown soldier writer.

And they said that they had been flooded with more letters that they ever had in the history of their magazine -- letters letting them know it was not an unknown person who had written those lines.

Most of them said it was me.

It was Buffy who wrote those lines.

But a lot of them said it was Donovan.

[ Laughs ] Let's see. 'Dear Editor, the free-verse poetry attributed to Robert Simpson in 1967 was actually taken from none other than the 1960s-era folk singer Donovan.'

Boo! [ Laughs ] Wrong.

Um... Oh, here's somebody who knew I wrote it.


'Was actually written by Cree folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie as part of her war protest song, 'The Universal Soldier.'' Yes. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you, Roger Jacobs.

[ Laughs ] [ Motor running ] -Are you aware there's a very strong 'back to the land' movement that a great many people are interested in the decentralization? -Mm-hmm.

-In contrast to the increasing problems of urban life, here are you, a country girl, really.

-[ Laughs ] Why, yes, I am really at height.

You see, I'm very close to this way of life that's different from the city way of life.

I find I get very rattled and I don't produce anything in my own mind.

Even now, being on the road with a band is hard.

But when I first started, I was always by myself, traveling in Europe and Australia and Asia with all these suitcases and guitars and no helpers.


You know, I was in show business all of a sudden and then, 'Oh, how do I get out?'

Everybody else trying to, 'How do I get into show business?'

I was trying to get out.

And so I had a concert in Honolulu, the only one I ever did [chuckles], and I asked the travel agent, I said, 'I want to go early.'

I wanted to get out of L.A. 'Where should I go?'

And she sent me to this island that nobody cared about.

And I bought my place four days later.

-Everywhere went, like, 'What?!' I mean, I-I always hold my judgment.

What do I know? What do I know?

And we were so wrong.

Hey, she knew what time it was.

-♪ I live on a farm in the middle of nowhere ♪ ♪ In the country, you could say ♪ ♪ The one I love, he loves me ♪ ♪ He love, he love, he loves me ♪ ♪ Ooh, it's a beautiful day where I come from ♪ Everybody said, 'That's the worst career move you could make.'

You know, that's okay.

♪ Top of the world, nowhere town ♪ ♪ I fell in love and then I settled down ♪ I was never strategic about building a career.

So I'm kind of pulled back from what everybody else was doing.

♪ I'm in the middle of nowhere ♪ ♪ It's where I come from ♪ ♪♪ [ Strumming guitar ] ♪♪ ♪♪ 'Until It's Time for You to Go' is, um... I don't know. It just popped into my head.

You know, I had a crush on somebody, for sure.

♪ And I'm not a queen ♪ ♪ I'm a woman ♪ ♪ Take my hand ♪ ♪ We'll make a space in the lives that we planned ♪ ♪ And here we'll stay ♪ ♪ Until it's time for you to go ♪ What I wanted to offer when I was first starting out, to this day, is I always want to be offering people stuff that they won't get somewhere else.

♪ We laughed and played at the start ♪ ♪ Like in a game ♪ And this song was saying, 'This is so wonderful.

And, you know, we'll make it happen until it's time for you to go.'

And it doesn't say why you have to go, but it allows -- it allows your loved one to leave the room.

-I think it is the actual first feminist anthem.

It's sung from the perspective of a woman who is basically like, 'We will love each other right now, and we're not asking for forever.'

-♪ And I'll never ♪ -That's not the kind of messaging we were hearing from women's perspectives in pop music.

-♪ Until it's time for you to go ♪ -The way she performs it and the mood that is expressed, there's just an honesty in it.

-♪ See you again ♪ ♪ Still I'll stay until it's time for you to go ♪ -I'm in Nashville, and I'm recording, and the phone rings, and it's this associate of Elvis's business people.

His name's Furlan, so... 'Hi, Furlan. How you doing?'

-'Buffy, Elvis just recorded your song.

We're gonna have to have some of that publishing money, honey.'

[ Laughs ] So I said, 'Oh!


No. I said no. No.

This -- This was Elvis recording my song.

I was genuinely flattered, thrilled, and grateful.

But, no, he didn't write the song.

I did.

And having given away the publishing for 'Universal Soldier' for $1, I didn't want to do that again.

-♪ We laughed and played at the start ♪ ♪ Like in a game ♪ -Elvis recorded that song nine times.

-♪ You could have stayed outside my heart ♪ -Because my little song was apparently Elvis and his wife, Priscilla's, love song together.

♪♪ Oh, gosh, A lot of people have recorded that song.

Barbra Streisand, Francoise Hardy, Sonny and Cher.

Cher by herself.

[ Chuckles ] A lot of wonderful people.

I'm very happy that that song arrived in my head, not somebody else's.

♪ And here we'll stay until it's time ♪ ♪ For you to go ♪ ♪ Mm, mm, mm, mm ♪ In the early '60s, I'd go to Toronto to play in Yorkville, and I hung out at the Friendship Center on Spadina.

I made some friends and mentioned my adoption story and they suggested I come to this powwow at Wiikwemkoong Reserve on Manitoulin Island the next weekend.

And to that powwow came a group of Crees, and Emile Piapot was one of them, and we just enjoyed our conversations and enjoyed each other's presence.

And he invited me to come to the Reserve, which is north of Regina, Saskatchewan, and I did.

♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey, hey-o, hey-o, hey-o ♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey-o ♪ -When she came to Piapot my kokum remembers there was people, like, they were rushing around and trying to make her a bed, and they didn't have any, like, mattresses or beds, so they made her -- they made, like, a bed out of coats.

She was super down to earth, everyone said, and she just kind of, like -- she just kind of plops herself on the ground and just sits down and talks to you, right?

-♪ Hey, hey, oh, hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ -She was a very kind person.


-She was an auntie.

She taught me how to eat spaghetti.

[ Both laugh ] -Being around them, they were so sweet.

They were super traditional.

And actually, Emile Piapot told me that he had talked to his wife, Clara, who we always call 'Kokum,' which means grandmother.

He told me that they had lost two daughters and that they wanted me to be their daughter.

-Cree adoption means when you adopt somebody in the family, they're not adopted.

They become real members of the family.

And it's a very serious undertaking.

We have the... Means 'she adopts someone.'

But the [speaks Cree] -- it refers to family.

So you bring somebody into the family, [speaks Cree]. A lot of us do this with people that we connect with.

-It was a real love affair of family, and that kind of experience -- it's definitely healed something in me from my childhood that was needy or, if not broken, at least busted up a little.

[ Laughs ] ♪ Hey, hey, hey-o ♪ ♪ From the old way, way-o, way, way, way ♪ -More and more, you see people, they go back.

They want to be part of the past.

What does it mean to be a human being?

To be a mother? To be a father?

To be -- to have a relation?

They realized that the healing comes from inside, from the past, not from the future, not from other people who say, 'We're gonna heal you.'

We have to heal ourselves.

-[ Singing in Cree ] -I made a lot of money in the '60s.

I mean, I-I never meant to when I did.

Somebody was always running off with large, you know, scads of money.

But I wasn't paying too much attention because there was always enough to eat.

And I started a scholarship foundation, and I found out what that was like.

I found out the great reward of having the luxury to give away money.

In the '70s, I was on the road a lot, so I had the additional advantages of, you know, airplane tickets to concerts, which got me there, and then, oh, a week off to go and spend with Indigenous people of that area.

♪ Freedom for the stallion ♪ ♪ Freedom for the mare and her colt ♪ You know, there would be opportunities presented to come to this reserve or to do this show.

And I would say yes.

♪ Spirit, what we gonna do ♪ -When Buffy comes to a community, she says, 'You matter. Your community matters.

I'm here because you're here and we're here.'

-♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey, hey-o, hey ♪ -And that's so important.

♪♪ -I was 17 when I met her.

So impressionable, and a brown girl looking... at a brown woman saying things that I believed in.

That gave me the strength to say, 'I could do this.

We're still alive.

We're not extinct. We're not dinosaurs.

We're -- We're Indians.

We're Native people.'

-The majority of the people's impression of the Indian is what we see on the motion picture screen or television.

-Yeah, there's really two versions, I think, of who the American Indians are.

One version says that they're ignorant savages, and the other one pictures them sort of standing on a cliff, you know, proud, noble people.

-Yeah. [ Laughter ] [ Indistinct talking ] [ Whistling melody plays ] [ Cheering ] -There are literally thousands of Indian 'and cowboy' movies.

-This Indian's no Indian.

-If he's no Indian, why is he wearing a chicken for a hat?

-A lot of the time, it was an Indigenous people were played by -- it could be anybody.

You could have blond hair and blue eyes and wear a wig, and you're on your way.

♪♪ [ Train whistle blows ] ♪♪ So Buffy Sainte-Marie -- she gets asked to play a lead role in 'The Virginian.'

-'The Virginian' was a popular TV show that ran from 1962 to 1971.

So I told them that, 'If you want me to do it, all of the Indigenous parts be played by Indigenous people.'

And of course they said, 'Oh, that's asking too much.

You know, there are --' I forget -- 'like 36 extras, but our makeup people are fantastic.

They can turn a dog into a cat.'

And I said, 'No, it's not just about makeup and fooling white people.

These people will bring their entire culture to your -- to your film.'

♪♪ I really can't imagine.

She is this 28-year-old woman and she says, 'Well, you have to hire Indigenous people to play Indigenous parts.'

And, I mean, that's a conversation we're having in 2021 that people are still pushing back against.

-They didn't know that I was already working with Jay Silverheels and with my friend Lois Red Elk.

They were already running the Indian Actors Workshop, so I knew that I had the goods.

Try and imagine 'The Sopranos' without Italians.

[ Chuckles ] Regarding Indigenous actors, I wanted to show who they were and where to find them.

So that comes back to something that I say a lot.

You don't have to go in and tear everything down.

I mean, that'll take you forever and it's impossible.

No, just cook it up yourself.

And once people get a whiff of the real deal, a lot of them are gonna just say, 'Oh, I see.'

The argument is over.

You've given them a gift that they didn't even know they wanted.

[ Applause ] Sometimes people wonder why Indian people had it so hard over 100 years ago.

Or even more recently.

People wonder, what happened to the American Indian Movement in 1973, 100 years later, at the same place?

100 years ago, it was gold.

That's what happens.

Now it's uranium, coal, natural gas.

I wrote a song about these things.

Nothing in the song is new.

But when they're strung together, they tell a deeper story.

♪ Indian legislation's on the desk ♪ ♪ Of a do-right congressman ♪ ♪ Now, he don't know much about the issues ♪ ♪ So he picks up the phone and he asks advice ♪ ♪ Of the senators out in Indian Country ♪ -There was such an incredible movement going on in the '60s.

You know, you had the American Indian Movement.

You know, you had John Trudell out there.

You had Willie Dunn and Buffy Sainte-Marie front and center as one of those voices.

-♪ Bury my heart at Wounded Knee ♪ -♪ Bury my heart at Wounded Knee ♪ -♪ Deep in the earth ♪ -♪ Bury my heart at Wounded Knee ♪ -♪ They get these energy... ♪ When I first met the American Indian Movement, they were a brand-new group of guys who were trying to let us know about our own civil rights.

-We are not even trying to overthrow the government.

What we're trying to do is to force the white man to live up to his own existing laws.

-♪ And we get the FBI... ♪ So I started supporting their work, and I would show up at their benefits and stuff to spotlight the issue.

-♪ Rich, get rich quick ♪ -The Indian no longer as victim, but the Indian triumphant.

-You said it. -Yeah?

Is that -- Do you feel that personally?

-I certainly do.

But I think that what's important is for other people to get used to the idea.

♪ Bury my heart at Wounded Knee ♪ -♪ Bury my heart at Wounded Knee ♪ -♪ Bury my heart at Wounded Knee ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] -She had notoriety, and she had fame, and she was using her influence to help lend visibility.

And it was all to create momentum, to create confluence, you know, to bring all of the issues of our rights as just human rights, you know, to the forefront.

-She was using her platform to speak truth to power, and she didn't shy away from some of the topics that, you know, many people were like, 'You know, we may not want to bring that up,' or, you know, 'Perhaps don't approach this that way.'

And she really laid it on the table.

-When I did talk shows, I told the truth about what U.S. politicians were trying to do to Indigenous people.

-Jack Cunningham... -'Good Morning America' with millions of viewers was an opportunity to educate ignorant politicians, like Jack Cunningham, who was trying to abolish all treaties with Native American tribes.

-Why would you abolish all the treaties?

-Well, I think, first of all, if you're really interested in helping the Native American Indians come to the full capabilities that they're capable of, you have to stop relegating them through these treaties and the way they're administered into being second-class citizens.

-Well, I certainly hope that the people interested in Panama treaties or the people in China interested in Taiwan or anywhere else in the world are listening to this kind of legislation, because whether you know it or not, all U.S. treaties are the same, whether it's with an Indian nation or with any other nation.

What I think is the most amazing thing about your bill is that you dare to call it the Native Americans Equal Opportunity Act, when actually you ought to call it the Native Americans Rip-off Act.

It's only one more of the same in a history of such bills.

♪ Now that your big eyes are finally opened ♪ ♪ Now that you're wondering, how must they feel? ♪ ♪ Meaning them that you've chased ♪ ♪ Across America's movie screens ♪ ♪ Now that you're wondering ♪ ♪ How can it be real? ♪ ♪ You've asked for my comment ♪ ♪ I simply will render ♪ ♪ My country 'tis of thy people ♪ ♪ You're dying ♪ ♪♪ [ Siren wailing ] Things changed.

It went from a grassroots civil rights movement to something that was really different.

The publicity that you would see in those days was aimed to make us look bad.

And the American Indian Movement had been infiltrated by Doug Durham of the FBI.

He was a plant.

And there was an undercurrent of violence.

So things changed.

[ Gunshots ] In 1973, there was another incident at Wounded Knee.

It lasted 71 days and it resulted in violence and death.

My friend Annie Mae Aquash got caught up in what was happening.

She got deeply involved in the American Indian Movement.

And the last time I had talked to Annie Mae, she had told me that, um, that she was in danger.

They said that she was a missing person, and Annie Mae wound up dead.

[ Sighs ] And they cut off her hands for identification.

Her death was ruled some kind of accident, but she had a bullet in the back of her head, you know?

[ Projector clicks and whirs ] It's quite heartbreaking and very awful.

♪♪ [ Static crackling ] -Secret FBI memos made public today show that the late J. Edgar Hoover ordered a nationwide campaign to disrupt the activities of the New Left... -I had no idea J. Edgar Hoover considered me a security threat.

-He ordered his agents not only to expose New Left groups, but to take action against them to neutralize them.

-To have your music suppressed is to have official government stationery arrive you know, to radio programmers, radio owners, and encourage them strongly to not play your artist.

Radio was vital in the '60s and '70s and '80s, frankly.

There weren't a lot of other spaces.

You know, charts are built on radio play, and you have to get your music out there.

Otherwise you are -- you just don't exist.

And that's really what happened to Buffy.

♪♪ -I never knew that I was blacklisted or my music was suppressed or -- I didn't know that.

I just thought singers come, singers go.

God, that was fun, you know, fun while it lasted.

And then many years later, [laughing] when -- when my lawyer said, 'Well, look at your FBI files,' I went, 'What FBI files?

The FBI didn't care about me.'

I had no idea that there was any strategy to it by [laughs] somebody like J. Edgar Hoover.

♪ Coincidence and likely stories ♪ ♪ They dog your trail like a pack of lies ♪ ♪ Disinformation, spin it like a silkworm ♪ -Buffy is an example of how politics were played against her.

Her voice, her presence, her words were so threatening to the largest military power in the world.

And I think, you know -- I know the United States owes her a big apology.

I think this country owes her a really big apology.

And she should be getting all kinds of awards, because she would have broken through in the U.S.

had she not been prevented by the government.

-♪ It's a perverse company you work for ♪ ♪ They build the past, it just can't last ♪ ♪ It's obsolete by design ♪ -She sacrificed a lot by bringing out truths.

She sacrificed a lot to make sure the Indigenous reality, the Indigenous truth, was known.

You know, that's part of her legacy.

That needs to be honored.

That needs to be recognized.

What she did was very selfless.

♪♪ [ Rooster crows ] -'Would you buy a used continent from this woman?

This way to the Buffy car!'


Ooh, I like this better. Oh, there's me.

And there's Muhammad Ali. Mwah, mwah!

Floyd Westerman. Stevie Wonder.

Marlon Brando.

Richie Havens right there.

What really bothered me about being blacklisted wasn't so much that Buffy's career had been, [chuckles] you know, ditched.

It wasn't that.

It's that I thought that if only people knew about the content of what these songs were about, I thought I could have been more effective.

I think I could have done a lot if there hadn't been people deliberately opposing either what I was singing about or who I was, or, you know, if I'd had some different breaks.

Come on, come on! [ Smooches ] Come on, come on. Hello!

-Even though, you know, she was blacklisted, she found other ways to continue to, you know, manifest in different forms and shapes and influences.

-Yes. -Even around the world, that's still kind of permeated within the United States.

[ Banjo strumming ] -I didn't know I was blacklisted.

I just thought my music career was slowing down.

And then came 'Sesame Street.'

-♪ Sunny days ♪ -I was recording in Nashville, but the phone rang, and 'Sesame Street' was asking me, did I want to go on and say the alphabet and count from one to five or something like everybody else did?

And I said, 'No, I don't really want to do that.

But have you ever considered doing any Native American programming?'

[ Dog barks ] So the first thing that we did, we went to Taos Pueblo, and Big Bird's like, 'Mm!' and he's all antsy.

And I said, 'What is it, Big Bird?'

You know, and he said, 'I heard there were Indians around here.'

Well, I'm an Indian. We're all Indians.

-You're an Indian? -Sure, I am!

-Oh, wait a minute. -And all the kids are Indian.

-Are you an Indian?

-I am. -I'm an Indian!

-Yeah! -Aha, wait a minute.

You're not gonna fool Big Bird.

-I can tell you my first impression of her, and I believe that we were on a reservation.

And everybody knew about Buffy Sainte-Marie because she was an icon of the '60s.

And Buffy did expand my understanding and humanized Indigenous people, Native Americans, in a personal way that was organic.

-[ Singing in native language ] ♪ I'm an Indian and I like sunshine ♪ -And I remember she wrote a song and the lyric was, 'And I am real and I can feel and I'd like to take your hand.'

-[ Singing in native language ] -Wow, an Indigenous person is on 'Sesame Street.'

Like, that -- that's -- that's like -- that's like a rocket being launched to the moon for Indigenous kids seeing that on the screen.

-[ Singing in native language ] -I remember my mom was, like, freaking out and she just yelled at me to come and watch her on TV, you know, because this was my only connection to my culture was Buffy Sainte-Marie.

-♪ And I'd love to shake your hand ♪ All of a sudden, I was reaching little kids and their caregivers in 72 countries of the world three times a day.

Essentially, I was giving the same message.

I just wanted little kids to understand that Indians exist.

[ Singing in Native language ] Think of that, Fred? -[ Whinnies ] -Not bad, huh? I like you, too.

-Suddenly she ends up becoming a part-time cast member for those five years and is helping to write different scenes and scenarios from lived experience.

-So all you kids live here in Hawaii, huh?


-I had been doing 'Sesame Street' for about a year, and I discovered that I was pregnant.

And I thought, 'Well, I'll just have to tell 'Sesame Street.'' And instead of sending me away, my sweetheart at the time, you know, Sheldon Wolfchild, who I'd known through the American Indian Movement, and eventually our baby, Cody, we became the first family on 'Sesame Street.'

-[ Chuckles ] Buffy.

And Cody?

-Yeah. -[ Laughs ] Sheldon, how are you? Oh!

-When I was a kid growing up and growing up in, you know, poverty and a very tense family situation, I would dream of not wealth, of not opportunity, but of family.

I would sometimes, you know, think of, like, what if Buffy Sainte-Marie was my mother?

-♪ 'C' is for Cody ♪ -Whatcha doing, Buffy?

-I'm feeding the baby.

See, he's drinking milk from my breast.


-Buffy Sainte-Marie nursing Cody on 'Sesame Street' is a story that will live on in perpetuity.

-Oh, that's a funny way to feed a baby.

-Oh, lots of mothers feed their babies this way.

Not all mothers, but lots of mothers do.

-She was the first woman to nurse on television, and I think everybody was very thrilled and excited to see that.

-Oh. -And it's good for him.

And I get to hug him when I do it, see?


-People sometimes ask me, they say, 'Well, you know, was it -- oh, it must have been really controversial at the time.'

And it wasn't.

It wasn't controversial at all.

To my knowledge, we didn't get any nasty mail about it.

But we do now.

You know, it's up on YouTube and somebody takes it down and somebody puts it up and somebody takes it down.

So in more contemporary times, people have objected to it, but at the time it was not controversial.

It was just wonderful.

And again, it gave me a chance to reach 72 countries of the world with that message.

I'd been living in Hawaii a long time, and by 1981, my marriage with Sheldon Wolfchild was over.

And my friend Jack Nitzsche, who I had known in the '60s, he couldn't come up with a theme for this movie that he was scoring called 'An Officer and a Gentleman.'

And so I played him the melody for 'Up Where We Belong.'

[ Piano playing ] And the doggone thing -- it just had a life of its own.

-♪ Who knows what tomorrow brings ♪ ♪ In a world few hearts survive? ♪ -She was a writer beyond just being a -- people seeing her as a protest or, you know, some sort of writer like that.

She was a musician, you know, creative on any front that could work.

-♪ The road is long ♪ -When I heard that song, I recognized Joe Cocker doing Buffy's phrasing.

I could hear through him Buffy's writing on that song, and I thought, 'Wow.'

-♪ Love lift us up where we belong ♪ -And the winner is... Jack Nitzsche, Buffy Sainte-Marie, and Will Jennings, 'Up Where We Belong,' from 'An Officer and a Gentleman.'

[ Applause ] -You have this moment where there's this enormous smash hit that gets all kinds of recognition, wins an Oscar.

You knew she was a force.

She was a different kind of artist.

-♪ Up where the clear winds blow ♪ -By that time, Jack and I were married, and I totally respected Jack as a -- He's just a musical genius, he really is.

He was quite different from everybody else, but and troublesome.

And he knew that he was troublesome.

-The first time I met Jack, I could feel this energy go up my back.

It was like I had a physical reaction to him.

I didn't understand then that it was probably the heroin.

♪♪ -When he was mad at me, you know, he come down on the show-business side of me.

I was getting beat up in the car on the way to the Oscars.

How he's getting just really verbally tweaked.

[ Camera shutters clicking ] He had a real problem with separation anxiety.

[ Laughing ] And if I were four inches away from him, there'd be a -- there'd be serious trouble.

Even on stage at the Oscars, Jack was feeling really needy.

I just was not allowed to be in show business after I got married.

It was kind of over for almost eight years.

I just kind of, uh... I was there, but I didn't want to be there.

Years later, the final straw came one morning when I was still asleep.

He did assault me.

He skin-popped me with heroin, put a tiny needle of heroin just under my skin.

My body recognized the same feeling I'd had when that doctor addicted me to codeine, which is heroin's little sister.

[ 'Bad End' plays ] ♪ Mm-mm-mm ♪ ♪ And there was a time I was okay ♪ While I was in it, I thought, 'Oh, I'm strong enough,' or, 'I can be so good, it'll stabilize him.'

And it wasn't good for me.

He was loving it, but I was hating it.

♪ Now there's bruises in the bed at night ♪ ♪ Needles in the drawer ♪ ♪ Blood all in the mirror ♪ ♪ And there's strangers at the door ♪ ♪ I believe I... ♪ And eventually I escaped at 4:00 in the morning, thanks to my friend Kayle.

♪♪ ♪ Bad end ♪ -I just remember her calling me in the middle of the night and say, 'It's time.'

-♪ Oh, bad end ♪ I had packed up a little suitcase for me and Cody, and we went to the airport, and it was over.

That was just the end of that.

♪♪ ♪ I believe I'm coming to a bad end ♪ ♪♪ I grew up with real self-esteem problems, real bad self-identity problems, although in those times when I was a kid, I mean, nobody had ever heard the phrase 'child abuse.'

You know, people didn't talk about child molesting.

-Were you molested as a child? -Yes.

-[ Crying ] -I saw some really extreme things as a child.

-[ Crying ] -There was abuse at home.

I was afraid to go home.

And there were pedophiles and bullies all over the place.

And I was a little girl.

And they were doing what they do, you know, in secret.

And a of them did it to one little girl or another.

And I also grew up with a brother who was an absolute horror.

He was a sexual abuser, a brute.

[ Chuckles ] He even used to torture my toys.

My mom told me that someday I could have my own life and then I could find out things for myself.

I could cut my own path, find my own way.

And she made it possible for me to go to college.

She always pointed to the light at the end of the tunnel.

-Buffy, is it challenging for you to talk about early trauma, intimate-partner trauma?

Are these hard things to relive?

-No, it wasn't hard to relive, but the one thing I think I may have learned is that throughout my life, I think that I have lacked a sense of when there is a predator around.

I think that was something that I was not allowed to learn, because when a child is being abused and traumatized, the word 'no' only makes it worse.

So I think that's something that I may be starting to learn -- the scent of a predator.

♪♪ ♪ I'm thinking of love charms ♪ Oh, I'm so glad you did it in Cree as well.

-Yeah. -Yeah.

I took 16 years off in the middle of my career to be a mom and raise my son, Cody.

[ Chuckles ] He's now my neighbor.

He's real active online, makes his own music, away from the spotlight.

And so I was kind of persona non grata in a lot of corners of show business.

They'd forgotten about me.

And I started doing digital art.

This is called 'Force.' She was forced to dance.

And it comes from a story that I wrote about this woman who was being manipulated by the boys in the group, and, see, her hands are tied behind her back.

She's looking away.

And here is Spider woman.

When I look back on some of my paintings, you know, some of them are as emotional as my songs.

And these things that I was doing by myself as an artist, I remember every bit of how personal it was, how many people are involved in that one painting.

So Spider Woman represents the sacred feminine that can undo things if you if -- you allow it.

You know, you can be like this, but eventually you have your potential and your agency again.

[ ] [ ] [ ] I got my first Macintosh in 1984.

It was 128K. That's how much memory it had.

And I hadn't recorded for a long time.

But I was writing all these songs.

And a little label called Ensign, they asked if I was interested in making a record.

I said, 'Well, yeah, but if I do, I don't want to go to England and make a record.'

So they had a guy named Chris Birkett who was also using computers.

-Buffy said, 'Well, the thing is, uh, I live in Hawaii and you live in London, Chris.

And I don't want to be coming over here all the time.

And I'm sure you don't want to be flying to Hawaii all the time to make this record.

How -- Do you think there's another way of starting it.'

-Okay, hear that going down? 'Ahhh.'

I want to trim that off, so I know I don't need that much.

So all of my MIDI parts, we created them in my studio and then we sent them down the phone lines, and Chris worked to inhale what I was sending.

And the album turned out to be 'Coincidence and Likely Stories.'

♪ I'm going home ♪ -♪ Hey, hey, a-ya, hey-a, a-ha-ya ♪ ♪ Hey-a, hey-a, hey-a ♪ -In those days, it was revolutionary, you know, swapping files by Internet.

Me and Buffy were the pioneers in digital communication.

-♪ That's where the heart rests ♪ -What? A folksinger's doing that?

And it worked perfectly.

ahead of its time. Way ahead of its time.

And that's the kind of fearlessness that I think most people couldn't do, most people couldn't do.

-It was Buffy's reemergence into being a creative player again.

-♪ Hey-a, hey-a, hey-a ♪ -♪ I'm going home ♪ ♪♪ Whoo!

[ Indistinct conversations ] -Whoo! -Whoo-whoo!

-Oh, there we go.

[ Audience murmuring ] [ Laughs ] [ Laughter and applause ] Wait a minute. Now, I'm a teacher, and you don't get mad at anybody for not knowing.

That's why we're here. [ Laughs ] [ Cheers and applause ] Thank you for asking.

The red dress is is in honor of missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

[ Cheers and applause ] It's a Jaime Black idea, and it's in honor of all the people who are working to make things better in that area of -- [chuckles] of human bone-headedness.

[ Applause ] Jaime Black -- an artist -- she came up with the idea of red dresses hanging in the trees, in photographs and, you know, imagery, helping to carry that idea forward and letting people know about missing and murdered Indigenous women and girls.

♪ Lo, how to dream tree is sighing and shaking ♪ ♪ Pretty dreams fall down on thee ♪ ♪ Oh, how my poor heart is crying and aching ♪ -5,203.

That's how many Indigenous women and girls were reported missing to the FBI in 2021.

That is two and a half times higher than any other race... report that violence against Indigenous women and girls amounts to what the commissioners call a Canadian genocide.

-♪ Many the candle to stand and be burned ♪ -We know that one in three Native women in North America will be raped, abused, an act of violence committed against them.

One in three, by a non-Native perpetrator, at that.

-We are still here! We are still here!

-It's not even a PTSD. It's an ongoing stress in community, you know, because you see what happens.

-We are still here! We are still here!

-This isn't a new problem.

This has been going on for 500 years.

♪ Heart is crying and aching ♪ It's part slavery, part prostitution, all -- all bad.

It's not voluntary.

[ Crowd singing ] And it all originates with this damn Doctrine of Discovery.

The Doctrine of Discovery -- it's a bulletin from the Pope that lets you know what God really wants.

And they declared that if explorers may come across an inhabited land, if they're not Christians, you're supposed to kill them or enslave them.

You can enslave them if they promise to become Christians.

Otherwise you kill them and you take the land, you know, for us.

In Canada, in the U.S., those laws are still in place now.

[ Piano playing ] ♪ They took me from my Indian nation ♪ ♪ Tied me with a rope ♪ ♪ They put me on a reservation ♪ ♪ Denied me any hope ♪ ♪ I am on the bottom of the pile in my own country ♪ But you know how -- the way I feel about it?

It's really hard for non-Indigenous people to be dealing with even dealing with truth and reconciliation about the residential schools.

So I hesitate to bring up... slavery... until the time is right.

I mean, maybe the time is now. I keep talking about it.

But I do have hopes that the Doctrine of Discovery will be -- just make it go away.

I do have hope.

♪ I think about our future generations ♪ ♪ Babies yet unborn ♪ -I hope that the world will be able to -- will have the palate to hear the message, because I don't think it's a message of trying to invoke any sense of guilt.

You know, but I think too many people are afraid that we want retribution.

And that is just such a short-sighted view of any kind of Indigenous value or knowledge.

-♪ Walk in balance ♪ [ Speaks native language ] [ Cheering in distance ] ♪♪ [ 'Power in the Blood' plays ] ♪♪ -Welcome to the 11th annual Polaris Music Prize Gala, everybody.

How you feeling?

[ Cheers and applause ] -When I made 'Power in the Blood' in Canada, I guess people would consider it a comeback because what it was a comeback to, it was like a comeback to the bank. [ Laughs ] ♪ Power in the blood ♪ -And people really liked it.

It wound up winning the Polaris Prize.

♪ No time for spin doctors' medicine ♪ ♪ Corporation, government selling me some cover-up ♪ -Drake was up for the award as well as some other people.

Buffy really didn't -- I don't think she expected to get the prize, and so she was just kind of overwhelmed.

[ Cheers and applause ] ♪♪ -We recorded -- it was at Orange Lounge.

It's a studio in Toronto, and it's up maybe five, six flights of steps.

And she [laughs] kind of bolts up the steps, not out of breath at all, and just has this incredible burst of sunshine energy just beaming at you.

And that energy did not end.

-♪ No time for backhanded compliments ♪ -It was amazing.

Coming out with this album, you know, that is still relevant and, like, crushing everything that year, you know, like, it was just -- your day's not over until you say it is.

-♪ No, no, no to war ♪ ♪♪ -Like that first ripple in the water, the rest of us become these echoes.

♪♪ -♪ No, no, no to war ♪ [ Cheers and applause ] My proudest moment wasn't when I [chuckles] -- when I received my award.

It was when I found out years later that one of my very early scholarship recipients went on to be the the founder and president of a tribal college.

I mean, to do some little thing as an individual and to see some little thing that you do, you give to somebody else in the grassroots, and they maximize it to a degree that I never even would have imagined.

♪♪ ♪ We are circling ♪ I've always cared a lot about young people in education.

Visiting so many reservations, I saw that most Indigenous high school students didn't know how to negotiate the path to college.

So I created the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education.

At first all I did was give scholarships.

But by the 1980s, I expanded to create an entirely new curriculum through Indigenous eyes, and I shared it with Indian and non-Indian schools in 18 states and 2 provinces.

This was called the CradleBoard Teaching Project.

You're on the way.

My newest project, Creative Native, is designed to teach students in reservation communities the skills needed to have a career in the arts.

♪ We are circling, circling ♪ My whole life, I've wished there was somebody in the world like me interested in this stuff -- music, indigeneity, and art.

So I tried to build one.

And now there is.

So, again, that circles back to something I say a lot.

Some will tell you what you really want ain't on the menus.

Don't believe them!

Cook it up yourself and then prepare to serve them.

♪ This is harmony ♪ I'm pretty happy with my life.

You know, I've had some hard times, but a lot of my personal and artistic dreams have come true.

And to be able to look backwards at how it braids together, you know, it's like a sweetgrass braid.


-She's this Renaissance woman.

She is just -- you can't just say she's one thing.

And her focus on really breaking the colonial cycle and really deconstructing that -- like, before decolonization was a word, she was doing it in practice.

♪♪ -I think Buffy's legacy is generation to generation to generation to generation and beyond.

And it's gonna take us to places that we need to be.

And it's gonna be taking us to places that we will be thankful that we are there.

And I think that comes to each person in their own way.

♪♪ [ Applause ] -Buffy Sainte-Marie's artistry, humanitarian efforts, and leadership have made her an icon in the entertainment industry.

She was the first Indigenous person and is the only Native American person to date to win a competitive Oscar for co-writing the song 'Up Where We Belong.'

[ Applause ] -That's really, really very nice.

You know, personally, it's a thrill.

But I've been lonesome.

I mean, for all these years, I've been the only Indigenous person to win an Oscar.

And that felt funny.

And you're saying, 'Wait a minute.

Yeah, I've got this, but...' It's really about being effective.

And I was just thrilled and have used the fact that I have an Oscar in ways to try and make something happen.

[ Applause ] [ 'Carry It On' plays ] ♪ Hold your head up ♪ ♪ Lift the top of your mind ♪ ♪ Put your eyes on the Earth ♪ ♪ Lift your heart to your own home planet ♪ -Buffy's willingness to speak truth to power has given all of us the presence of mind that we can do this.

-♪ And you will see we are only here by the skin of our teeth ♪ -Buffy is in every chord that I play and embodied in every note that I sing.

She's helped so many young artists.

-♪ Carry it on ♪ -♪ We're saying ♪ -Oh, carry it on ♪ -♪ Keep playing ♪ -Her legacy will be her albums, you know?

I don't think it's so important to remember us as it is to remember the work and keep on keeping on. [ Laughs ] -Her legacy will be to promote self-awareness, pride in our own Creeness.

will be her legacy.

-♪ Mother Nature, she's the daughter of God ♪ ♪ And the source of all protection ♪ -Buffy's career wasn't just about Buffy.

If you can go down in history as being ultra successful, and people still remember you as fighting for that's maybe the greatest thing you can ever be.

-♪ Oh, carry it on ♪ -♪ Keep saying ♪ -My sister -- I will always and forever love her.

And they can't take that away.

-♪ Oh, carry it on ♪ ♪♪ -♪ Carry it on ♪ -Witnessing Buffy's work, not only as an artist, musician, mother, but activist, I think is just -- it's quite profound.

-♪ Oh, carry it on ♪ -We can be half the person she is.

[ Laughs ] -♪ Carry it on ♪ -♪ I'm praying ♪ ♪ Carry it on ♪ ♪♪ [ Cheers and applause ] Um... What else?

[ 'Starwalker' playing ] -♪ Hey, hey, oh, hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪ Hey-a, hey-a, hey-a, hey-a, hey-a, hey-a ♪ ♪ Hey, hey, hey, hey ♪ ♪ Starwalker, he's a friend of mine ♪ ♪ You've seen him looking fine ♪ ♪ He's a, a straight talker, ♪ ♪ He's a, a star walker ♪ ♪ Don't drink no wine ♪ ♪ Hey, oh, hey, oh, hey ♪ ♪ Wolf Rider she's a friend of yours ♪ ♪ You've seen her opening doors ♪ ♪ She's a history turner, she's a sweetgrass burner ♪ ♪ And a, a dog soldier ♪ ♪ Hey, oh, hey, hey, oh ♪ ♪ Holy light, guard the night ♪ ♪ Pray up your medicine song, oh ♪ ♪ Stake dealer you're a, a spirit healer ♪ ♪ Keep going on, hey, hey, oh, hey ♪ ♪♪


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