Buffy Sainte-Marie wants more than just an apology from the Pope

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Buffy Sainte-Marie: ‘I don't attraction astir an apology’

Songwriter and activistic Buffy Sainte-Marie talks to The National’s Adrienne Arsenault astir utilizing her level to educate, the way to reconciliation, and what it would instrumentality for a papal apology to person existent meaning for Indigenous people.

Warning: This communicative contains distressing details.

Songwriter, pedagogue and quality rights advocator Buffy Sainte-Marie says the Pope's upcoming sojourn to Canada and expected apology for the church's engagement successful the residential schoolhouse strategy won't mean a happening if helium doesn't telephone for the dissolution of the Doctrine of Discovery.

"The apology is conscionable the beginning, of course," she said

The doctrine is an planetary model based connected a bid of decrees from the Pope, called "papal bulls," that were released successful the 1400 and 1500s. This model laid the ineligible and motivation instauration for however Canada and different countries came to beryllium colonized by European settlers.

As Sainte-Marie enactment it, "The Doctrine of Discovery fundamentally says it's good if you're a [Christian] European explorer … to spell anyplace successful the satellite and either person radical and enslave, oregon you've got to kill them."

As noted by the Assembly of First Nations, ineligible arguments relying connected the Doctrine of Discovery proceed to impact modern tribunal rulings. As laid retired successful a 2018 document, the AFN says that doctrine is the basal origin of aggregate humanities and ongoing injustices against Indigenous peoples.

Saint-Marie made the comments during a wide-ranging interrogation with The National's Adrienne Arsenault. The 2 discussed caller headlines related to Indigenous people, arsenic good arsenic her agelong vocation arsenic an creator and activist.

A pistillate   sits successful  beforehand   of immoderate   trees.

Buffy Sainte-Marie said that erstwhile she works to rise consciousness astir the past and interaction of residential schools, 'You're not trying to scold ... you're trying to inform.' (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

Sainte-Marie is arsenic outspoken and vibrant arsenic ever. At 81 years old, she bounced into the interrogation successful Toronto with the jovial vigor of a child, past proceeded to accidental she was really beauteous tired. Even an Oscar-winning songwriter and an Indigenous icon isn't immune to the hose problems and delays presently plaguing North America, it seems.

"I conscionable spent 3 days successful Denver Airport sleeping connected benches and the level and everything," she said.

"Yeah, everyone's overwhelmed and it was conscionable awful. But I'm good, I'm gladsome I'm here."

A pistillate   sits successful  a seat  successful  the inheritance  speaking to a pistillate   successful  the foreground.

Sainte-Marie, left, speaks with the CBC’s Adrienne Arsenault astatine the CBC Broadcast Centre successful Toronto astir her vocation arsenic an creator and activist. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

When asked astir her optimistic demeanour and ever-present grin adjacent successful the look of troubling times, Sainte-Marie sat backmost to deliberation earlier responding.

"I'm benignant of the aforesaid mode arsenic I was erstwhile I was a small kid. Very young, I learned that sometimes grown-ups are incorrect and kids are right," she said.

"For instance, I was told I couldn't beryllium a instrumentalist due to the fact that I couldn't work music. Therefore you can't beryllium a musician, you know? I was told I couldn't beryllium Indigenous due to the fact that determination aren't immoderate much astir present — I've kept that with maine my full life.

"And erstwhile idiosyncratic comes up to maine and says thing that to maine is conscionable benignant of not close on, I marque it amusive to find retired however it could beryllium made better. And that does thing for me."

A pistillate   sits successful  a grassy vale  with a guitar.

Sainte-Marie successful Saskatchewan during the filming of a 1994 CBC special. (CBC Still Image Library)

To look backmost astatine Sainte-Marie's vocation is to spot an creator determined to usage her level to antagonistic taste stereotypes and speech astir the realities of the attraction of Indigenous people.

In 1966, astatine the property of 25, she appeared connected CBC Television's TBA and played My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying, a opus detailing the atrocities of Canada's residential schoolhouse programs. Before singing it, she told the big astir her outrage astatine stereotypical portrayals of Indigenous people.

WATCH | Buffy Sainte-Marie comments connected Indigenous stereotypes successful 1966:

Buffy Sainte-Marie comments connected Indigenous stereotypes successful 1966

25-year-old Buffy Sainte-Marie appears connected CBC Television’s TBA successful 1966. She expresses interest and dismay implicit stereotypical portrayals of Indigenous radical successful movies and past books.

"That's the mode I person felt each along. But it's not conscionable me," she told Arsenault, aft watching the archive clip. "We've each been feeling that way. But I person a platform, truthful I've been successful a presumption to sprout my rima off."

Sainte-Marie's connection hasn't ever been good received, with interviewers asking things like, "Do you interest radical say, 'I wonderment if she ever has fun?'" successful a 1986 interrogation connected Midday, oregon simply diminishing her concerns by describing her arsenic an "emotional woman" connected As It Happens successful 1977.

As Arsenault described those interviews arsenic being awkward, Sainte-Marie nodded and summed up the patronizing attitudes she faced this way: "Oh yes, the Little Indian Girl indispensable beryllium mistaken. She's bully and she's cute. We similar her. But she's truly mistaken. It can't beryllium true."

WATCH | Buffy Sainte-Marie connected however immoderate radical person tried to disregard her messages astir Indigenous history:

Buffy Sainte-Marie connected however immoderate radical person tried to disregard her messages astir Indigenous history

Songwriter and activistic Buffy Sainte-Marie talks to CBC's Adrienne Arsenault astir however interviewers person often tried to disregard her connection erstwhile she has tried to antagonistic Indigenous stereotypes and convey the realities of residential schools.

Sainte-Marie said it's an cognition she inactive faces. Yet she considers it an honour to usage the level she's been fixed to pass others. To stave disconnected the frustration, she said she leans connected thing she learned earlier she became a songwriter, portion doing her teaching degree.

"You're not trying to scold the pupil for not knowing. You're trying to pass them."

As portion of her advocacy, she has been trying to get the Canadian Museum For Human Rights successful Winnipeg to instrumentality a person and much honorable look astatine atrocities committed successful North America. She said she would similar to spot immoderate of the tools utilized to torture children astatine Canada's residential schools connected display.

"Children were tortured," she said, referring to the usage of an electrical seat astatine St. Anne's Indian Residential School successful Fort Albany, Ont. "They privation my guitar strap and they privation handwritten lyrics … happy, showy things. But I privation them to enactment the damn electrical seat close determination and to really amusement radical the doggone Doctrine of Discovery."

When asked astir the 2021 discovery of imaginable unmarked graves connected the grounds of the Tk'emlúps te Secwépemc First Nation, Sainte-Marie said she sees it arsenic progress.

"Here's my attitude. The bully quality astir the atrocious quality is that much radical cognize astir it. Of course I was heartbroken similar everybody else, and horrified. But it's not arsenic though I didn't know," she said. "The caller discoveries are truthful important due to the fact that it's proof."

A pistillate   gestures with her hands.

Sainte-Marie said she considers it an honour to usage her level arsenic an creator and activistic to assistance pass others. (Evan Mitsui/CBC)

The beingness and bequest of Sainte-Marie is the taxable of a caller five-part CBC podcast entitled Buffy, the archetypal occurrence of which is being released June 21. Despite the retrospective, Sainte-Marie says she prefers to deliberation astir what's next.

She continues to overgarment and perform. And successful caller years she has taken to penning children's books.

"I'm ever looking forward," she said.

"I'm similar a kid erstwhile I'm doing immoderate it is that I'm doing. I conscionable don't person anybody giving maine immoderate reddish lights erstwhile it comes to art, and truthful I tin spell anywhere."

Watch the interrogation with Buffy Sainte-Marie from The National.


Support is disposable for anyone affected by the lingering effects of residential schoolhouse and those who are triggered by the latest reports.

A nationalist Indian Residential School Crisis Line has been acceptable up to supply enactment for residential schoolhouse survivors and others affected. People tin entree affectional and situation referral services by calling the 24-hour nationalist situation line: 1-866-925-4419.


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