Canadian singer Buffy Saint-Marie has been accused of faking her Indigenous heritage in a bombshell feature by the CBC which claims she was born in Massachusetts to a white family and not, as she claimed, on an Indian reservation.
Saint-Marie, 82, has been a folk music icon and Indigenous success story in Canada since she found fame in the 1970s.
She has always described herself as belonging to the Cree tribe, and says she was adopted as a child by a white family as part of the infamous Sixties Scoop, when Indigenous children in Canada were removed from their families and adopted by white parents.
Saint-Marie has been a folk music icon and Indigenous success story in Canada since she found fame in the 1970s
But now, members of her family are claiming to CBC that she is lying.
CBC also claims to have unearthed a birth certificate that traces her roots to Massachusetts, where she grew up.
She has always maintained that she was born on the Piapot First Nation reservati on near Regina in Saskatchewan then adopted by Massachusetts couple, Albert and Winifred Santamari.
She says she rediscovered her native ancestry later in life and was accepted into the community.
In a Facebook video published this week after CBC’s report, Saint-Marie doubled down on her heritage, insisting she is a ‘proud’ member of the native community’ and claiming her adoptive mother gave her reason to believe she was Indigenous.
Saint-Marie with Queen Elizabeth in 1977 at the National Arts Center in Ottawa
Saint-Marie, shown in 1970s, says she grew up in Massachusetts and discovered her Indigenous roots and family as a young adult
Saint-Marie has long been a celebrated Indigenous success story. She insists her story is true
She refers to the Piapot First Nation as her ‘chosen family.’
‘They took me in as an adult and claimed me as their own. This has been and always will be my truth.
‘There are those who want to question me…for 60 years I have been sharing my story as I know it. I’m an artist, an activist, a mom, a survivor, and a proud member of the native community with deep roots in Canada.
‘There are also many things I don’t know which I have always been honest about.
‘I don’t know where I’m from, where my birth parents are, or how I ended up a misfit in a typical, white, Christian, New England town.
In a video on Facebook this week, she insists she has always been truthful and that the claims of her family now ‘hurt’
Saint-Marie posted this photo of a man she called ‘Daddy’ on Facebook in 2021
‘I realized decades ago I’d never have the answers to these questions,’ she said.
The CBC article suggests that her story has changed many times over the years when it comes to where she is from.
Saint-Marie’s niece Heidi – the daughter of Saint-Marie’s older brother Alan, says: ‘She wasn’t born in Canada.… she’s clearly born in the United States.
‘She’s clearly not Indigenous or Native American.’
Saint-Marie has always claimed to have been part of the ‘Sixties Scoop’ or ‘Big Scoop’, when Indigenous children were taken from their birth families against their will.
But CBC reports she was born ten years before the phenomenon began.
The newspaper also cites conflicting interviews in which Saint-Marie has claimed to both know who her mother is and have ‘no idea’ about her identity.
Saint-Marie’s lawyer told CBC in an email: ‘At no point has Buffy Sainte-Marie personally misrepresented her ancestry or any details about her personal history to the public.
‘Any perceived inconsistencies CBC has found in Sainte-Marie’s story can be explained by the truth.’
She also posted a lengthy statement on social media insisting she had always been truthful.
Saint-Marie with Johnny Cash on his eponymous show in 1959