Buffy Sainte Marie: Performer and Native American Activist

A Plowboy Interview with Buffy Sainte Marie, a talented entertainer who opens up about the real problems that American Indians face..

| March/April 1971

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    Buffy Sainte Marie uses her many talents to help the American Indian community.

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Buffy Sainte Marielives on a farm in Hawaii, has a house in Maine and is the wife of a former surfer—now farmer—named Dwayne Kamaikalani Bugbee. Periodically she leaves these havens, visits various reservations around the United States, and gives concerts. The proceeds go to her foundation, Nihewan, which puts Native Americans through law school. 

Buffy has scored films, acted on television and made a remarkable series of records dealing with Indian complaints against the white man's record of broken promises, genocide and hypocrisy. She has also written some of the loveliest love songs I have ever heard, and is in the process of deciding whether or not she wants to do an evening of her material with a symphony orchestra.  

Buffy Sainte Marie is a remarkable woman: A performer who uses the fame her many talents have focused on her to spotlight the problems the American Indian faces today. The fact that she is so keenly aware of how little has been done to make restitution in any form for the wrongs perpetuated by the white man to its host peoples and is still able to write songs of love, peace and simple pleasures is a testament to not only her creative abilities, but to her eloquent humanism.  The following interview was recorded during Mrs. Kamaikalani Bugbee's last visit to Los Angeles. 

You have just returned from a series of visits to various Indian reserves. Did you sense any increase in the anger or militancy among the Indian youth? 

Well, it varied from tribe to tribe, from kid to kid. When I talked to the kids, there would be a lot of shouting and cheering for the statements that had to do with not taking any more of what their fathers had to take in order just to eat. At the same time, though, the kids would be taking part in the traditional ceremonies and attending the " pow wows during the day, then showing up for the rock concerts at night. It's not as if a kid has to choose any particular bag on the reserve.

The kids on the Rocky Boy Reserve in Montana are completely different from the kids at the Navajo Reserve. The kids on the Navajo reserve are not as aware of the Indian people on other reservations. There are so many Navajo people on the Navajo reserve, that I found the people unaware of the problems on other reservations. I found them shocked to hear of the conditions other tribes have to put up with. Then too, the Indians at Wind River would be greatly surprised to find out how well the peoples on the Navajo reserve were doing . Even I was surprised to find them doing so well.

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