Buffy Sainte-Marie, Gentle Activist

( – promoted by buhdydharma )

On this past Sunday evening, I sat with my daughter, a 7th grader, and went over homework with her. She needed colored pencils to complete an assignment for History. Teacher had talked to them about Columbus Day and the homework was to draw… the faux version of history taught to the poor leetle 5th graders on one page, and divided by the spiral bound, the true version on the other. (scans below in comments.LL) She colored while I read aloud to her from Zinn.  I know she is in a great (public) school, gifted and all that, plus an IB program, but still … maybe there is hope if middle school curriculum is embracing some truth in its history classes. Buffy St. Marie knows a thing or two about that concept.


Democracy NOW! aired a full hour yesterday evening with Buffy St. Marie. I only caught a few minutes of it while I was in my car, but I found the links as soon as I got back home, so I thought I’d share here in essay form. PLEASE take the time to go view/read transcript there.

She kind of made me cry a little.

AMY GOODMAN: Buffy, you’re going to have to go soon, and I wanted to talk about one of the songs on Running for the Drum, and it’s “America the Beautiful.”

BUFFY SAINTE-MARIE: Mm-hmm. Well, “America the Beautiful” has been recorded by so many different people, and it’s also had verses added by many, many people. You go on the internet, and you’ll see there’s all kinds of verses from all kinds of perspectives. I mean, some of them are really kind of racist, and others are just kind of natural and beautiful.

But my friend John Herrington, Commander John Herrington, was the first Native American astronaut. And when he was going to get his ride, NASA invited me to sing and invited a whole lot people to come from his reservation, Chickasaw reservation in Oklahoma. And I had been thinking about “America the Beautiful,” so I wrote new verses for it, and I also wrote an introduction for it. It says, [singing] “There were Choctaws in Alabama, Chippewas in Saint Paul. Mississippi mud runs like a river in me. America, ooh, she’s like a mother to me.” So it’s-and the verses continue from there, with small changes, and then there’s a middle section, too.

But it really reflects kind of a different approach to America than you usually see in the headlines. It’s about America the country, not America the nation state. It’s about the real America that so many people, regardless of their political associations, really feel in their hearts-you know, this beautiful, beautiful place. So, it’s yet another take on “America the Beautiful.” People seem to enjoy it.


Her activism is in the direction of education, call it “philanthropy” if you want (her website does) but I applaud her efforts. If you go read the D-NOW transcripts, Buffy talks about her experience of being blacklisted in the 70’s and she also talks about Leonard Peltier. She will not be broken.

Buffy Sainte-Marie virtually invented the role of Native American international activist pop star. Her concern for protecting indigenous intellectual property, and her distaste for the exploitation of Native American artists and performers has kept her in the forefront of activism in the arts for forty years. Since 1969 she has operated the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education, whose Cradleboard Teaching Project serves children and teachers worldwide, free and online.

During the 1990s Buffy Sainte-Marie focused her time mostly on the Cradleboard Teaching Project, using her multimedia skills to create accurate, enriching core curriculum based in Native American cultural perspectives. The American Indian College Fund presented her with their Lifetime Achievement Award. Cradleboard’s interactive multimedia CD-ROM SCIENCE: Through Native American Eyes features Buffy on camera as well as producer and director.

Visit www.cradleboard.org to learn more.

I’ll make a point of sharing this information with my kid’s History Teacher.

Phew. This Essay could easily take my whole day. Ill update with some more good stuff, but I got get some “real work” done for a bit!!


It’s obvious in some of her more “statement” songs that she really knows where it’s at. Ill add some of those under Comments. But she’s learned to harness a gentle force, that’s for sure.

This is probably one of my most favorites of all time: Magic is afoot…

This I mean to whisper to my mind

This I mean to laugh with in my mind

This I mean my mind to serve ’til

service is but Magic

moving through the world

and mind itself is Magic

coursing through the flesh

and flesh itself is Magic

dancing on a clock

and time itself the magic length of God.

(words: Leonard Cohen, music: Buffy Sainte-Marie)

Oh, I wandered off again…heh. She does have an amazing range. She’s got 18 albums on her website. I’m an old folky, but a lot of her tunes are pretty Country (ergh). Always did love Cripple Creek though. And she’s written several beautiful ballads. If you’re not familiar with her music, follow some of these links and have a listen.

NOTE: a previous essay I did last month on Bonnie Raitt & activism is here. But don’t think Imagonna start a new series or anything. heh.


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  1. Photobucket

  2. Photobucket

  3. No No Keshagesh (good video)

    I never saw so many business suits.

    Never knew a dollar sign that looked so cute.

    Never knew a junkie with a money Jones:

    He’s singing, “Who’s selling Park Place. Who’s buying Boardwalk”?

    These old men they make their dirty deals.

    Go in the back room and see what they can steal.

    Talk about your beautiful and spacious skies.

    It’s about uranium; it’s about the water rights.

    Put Mother Nature on a luncheon plate.

    They cut her up and call it real estate.

    Want all the resources and all of the land.

    They make a war over it: Blow things up for it.

    The reservation now is poverty row.

    There’s something cooking and the lights are low.

    Somebody’s trying to save our mother earth.

    I’m gonna help them to save it,

    To sing it and bring it

    Singing: No no Keshagesh:

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    No, no, no, no Keshagesh

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    No, no, no, no Keshagesh

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    No, no, no, no Keshagesh

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    Ole Columbus he was looking good,

    When he got lost in our neighborhood.

    Garden of Eden right before his eyes.

    Now it’s all spy ware: now it’s all income tax.

    Ole’ brother Midas looking hungry today.

    What he can’t buy he’ll get some other way.

    Send in the troopers if the natives resist.

    Old, old story boys, that’s how you do it boys.

    Look at these people; ah they’re on a roll.

    Gonna have it all, gonna have complete control.

    Want all the resources and all of the land.

    They’ll break the law for it: Blow things up for it.

    When all our champions are off in the war,

    Their final rip off here and is always on.

    Mr. greed I think your time has come.

    We’re gonna sing it and pray it and live it then say it.

    Singing: No no Keshagesh:

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    No, no, no, no Keshagesh

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    No, no, no, no Keshagesh

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)

    No, no, no, no Keshagesh

    You can’t do that no more, (no more, no more no more)


    {from her new album, Running for the Drum}

    • justCal on October 13, 2009 at 19:12

    to hear that Buffy is still going strong.

    Folk music,the people’s music,has been a major influence in my life and my own music since I was a youngster in the ’50s.I remember a collection of Civil War era songs showed up at our house.It was one of those record club deals that mom didn’t return fast enough.It hooked me.

    Buffy and Joan Baez became two of my favorites.The voices,the songs,and the teenage boy that still lives in here somewhere thought they were way hot.

    Unfortunately time passes,formats change,music collections come and go,and I’m embarrassed to admit I don’t have any of their music currently.I’ll have to correct that.

    Thanks for the memory trip.

    P.S.  Country is the people’s music too.There’s some good stuff there one just has to dig a little deeper.            

    • Joy B. on October 13, 2009 at 21:13

    She out-Yoko’d Yoko before Yoko was anybody!

  4. Here’s another one. I like how she blends traditional native riffs in this song with a more familiar (to most of us) western pop form… seamlessly.

    Plus the sentiment is what its all about.

    Heaven isn’t so far away as people say

    I got a home high in my heart

    Heaven is right where I come from; I never throw it away

    I know the place and I’m going home

    I’m going home

    I’m going home


  5. thanks for sharing!

    This is going down in my artists list.  

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