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The CBC is questioning Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous heritage. Wait–what?

An upcoming CBC Fifth Estate program will feature an investigation into the Indigenous heritage of Buffy Sainte-Marie, one of the most iconic singer-songwriters this country has ever produced. Her claims to that ancestry will apparently be contradicted by members of her own family.

Wait. Buffy is not an Indigenous Canadian? She’s not from the Piapot Cree reserve near Craven, Saskatchewan? She was born in Stoneham, Massachusetts? I quote:

Late last year, CBC received a tip that Sainte-Marie is not of Cree ancestry but, in fact, has European roots. She is the latest high-profile public figure whose ancestry story has been contradicted by genealogical documentation, including her own birth certificate, historical research and personal accounts — the latest chapter in the complex and growing debate around Indigenous identity in Canada.

Talk about a serious allegation. Buffy has responded.

TL;DW version: In the video, she calls herself “a proud member of the Native community with deep roots in Canada.” She then goes on to say “But there are also many things I don’t know, which I’ve always been honest about. I don’t know where I’m from, who my birth parents are or how I ended up a misfit in a typical white Christian New England home. I realized decades ago that I would never have the answers.”

Meanwhile, the descendeants of Chief Piapot have defended her.

“We spent our entire lives together with Buffy as a family, decades together, and we will continue to love and support one another. She has been committed to our family and community and has worked tirelessly to inspire, support, uplift our family, and share our community knowledge and ways and those of other Indigenous Peoples all over the world.

“We grew up knowing that Buffy and our grandparents [Emile and Clara Starblanket Piapot] adopted each other and how deeply committed and loving they were to one another. We heard from older family about how my grandmother cried when she had to leave after an extended family visit on our homelands or after the pow-wow.

“Buffy is our family. We chose her and she chose us. We claim her as a member of our family and all of our family members are from the Piapot First Nation. To us, that holds far more weight than any paper documentation or colonial record keeping ever could.”

Prepare for a firestorm of controversy.

Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38165 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

2 thoughts on “The CBC is questioning Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous heritage. Wait–what?

  • Leave Buffy Ste. Marie alone. Who cares if she’s indigenous or not – she’s made a great contribution to Canadian culture and that’s enough. Stop making an inconsequential accusation matter and stirring up trouble.

    Your coverage of the Keilburgers and their organization a few years ago was so biased and wrong that you’ve damaged your credibility on many of your investigations.

  • I watched the story and it was pretty convincing but the fact her biological son compared his DNA to her sister in the USA and they have a clear familiar match. She wasn’t adopted – zero chance.
    It sucks because I admired her growing up. I saw her on Sesame Street and all the other shows and was proud of her. The Piapot family ceremonially adopted her so I have to respect that she is part of the indigenous community but she isn’t indigenous. And as long as she lies about it, all her good works will be tainted.


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