Education and Activism

Everything Buffy does raises awareness. She is a powerful voice for human rights, the environment, and the realization that every person is creative. At the beginning of her music career, she wrote “The Universal Soldier”, a song protesting war, and “Now That the Buffalo’s Gone”, a song that brings the harsh reality of the atrocities committed to Native Americans into the light. Her first album, It’s My Way, did not stop with these powerful protest songs. She sang songs that spoke to just about every condition of being human. She still does. This is what William Ruhlmann says about It’s My Way in his review at AllMusic:

This is one of the most scathing topical folk albums ever made. Sainte-Marie sings in an emotional, vibrato-laden voice of war (“The Universal Soldier,” later a hit for Donovan), drugs (“Cod’ine”), sex (“The Incest Song”), and most telling, the mistreatment of Native Americans, of which Sainte-Marie is one (“Now That the Buffalo’s Gone”). Even decades later, the album’s power is moving and disturbing.

In 1966, she released the song My Country ‘Tis of Thy People You’re Dying, one of the most powerful and well known protest songs of the genocide of Native Americans.

Music is not the only vehicle for Buffy’s activism and making a difference in the world. In the late 1960’s, she started the Nihewan Foundation, a scholarship program to send Native American students to college. She has spent a lot of time supporting Native Americans fighting legal battles over land rights. She stood in support of the American Indian Movement (AIM) with their occupy protests.  Most recently, she has been an outspoken advocate for the Idle No More movement.

Another important facet of Buffy is that of an educator.  She earned degrees in Oriental Philosophy and teaching from the University of Massachusetts. She anticipated that she would be a teacher and teach on Indian reservations. But, while taking a break right after her graduation, and performing in Greenwich Village , New York City, her music career took off. To this day, however, Buffy puts a lot of energy into education, in her own creative ways.

Buffy appeared as a regular cast member on Sesame Street from 1975 to 1981.  On this children’s education television program that was shown to millions around the world every day, Buffy taught that Native Americans exist today and she gave children and their care-givers true insight into Native American culture.

In the mid-1990’s, Buffy started the Cradleboard Teaching Project.  This cutting-edge program was one of the first education programs to use the internet, connecting students on reservations and reserves in the USA and Canada with schools all over the world. It is a Native American based curriculum that gives students all over the world a first hand experience of Native American culture, as opposed to the myths and inaccuracies typically taught in mainstream schools. Students learn Native American history from a Native American perspective, and study a core curriculum in a Native American context that includes the ground-breaking multi-media CD, Science: Through Native American Eyes.





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