Born in Saskatchewan on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley and later adopted, Buffy Sainte-Marie grew up in Massachusetts where she discovered piano at a young age, and fostered her talents for music by composing poems and learning to play guitar. She emerged onto the music stage in the 1960s folk music era, but she was already writing diverse songs that would become international classics in the worlds of country, rock, jazz, and pop. Chet Atkins, Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Glen Campbell, Barbra Streisand, and Celine Dion have all covered her songs, as have countless other artists. Widely known for her protest anthems (“Universal Soldier”), openhearted love songs (“Until It’s Time for You to Go”), and incendiary powwow rock (“Starwalker”), Buffy’s music stands the test of time and continues to inspire audiences and other artists the world over.
Fuelled by her dedication to music, art, philanthropy, social activism, and education, Buffy Sainte-Marie has been active in the music industry for more than fifty years. Over the course of her career, Buffy has received countless awards and honours for her creative and humanitarian work. Most notably, Buffy received an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and BAFTA Film Award for penning the smash hit “Up Where We Belong” from the motion picture An Officer and a Gentleman. She has been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, the JUNO Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. She is also an Officer of the Order of Canada, and a recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Charles de Gaulle Award, Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, Gemini Award, multiple JUNO Awards, the Polaris Music Prize, two medals from Queen Elizabeth II, and countless honorary doctorates. Most recently, Buffy was recognized for her work as a social activist and educator with the Allan Waters Humanitarian JUNO Award, and the International Folk Music Awards’ People’s Voice Award.
Buffy began advocating for the protection of Indigenous intellectual property and performers from exploitation when she founded the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education in 1966. The Foundation’s goal was to encourage Native American students to participate in learning, and to foster public awareness of Indigenous culture. It has since provided students and teachers with scholarships and teacher training, as well as access to core curriculum written from Native American cultural perspectives that met National Content Standards.