Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography

Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography


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"Buffy Sainte-Marie is an icon and inspiration. This book is necessary—an authorized insight into the making of a legend." —Terese Marie Mailhot, author of Heart Berries

A powerful, intimate look at the life of a beloved folk icon and activist.

Folk hero. Songwriter icon. Living legend. Buffy Sainte-Marie is all of these things and more. In this, Sainte-Marie’s first and only authorized biography, music critic Andrea Warner draws from more than sixty hours of exclusive interviews to offer a powerful, intimate look at the life of the beloved artist and everything that she has accomplished in her seventy-seven years (and counting).

Since her groundbreaking debut, 1964’s It’s My Way!, the Cree singer-songwriter has been a trailblazer and a tireless advocate for Indigenous rights and freedoms, an innovative artist, and a disruptor of the status quo. Establishing herself among the ranks of folk greats such as Joni Mitchell and Bob Dylan, she has released more than twenty albums, survived being blacklisted by two U.S. presidents, and received countless accolades, including the only Academy Award ever to be won by a First Nations artist. But this biography does more than celebrate Sainte-Marie’s unparalleled talent as a songwriter and entertainer; packed with insight and knowledge, it offers an unflinchingly honest, heartbreakingly real portrait of the woman herself, including the challenges she experienced on the periphery of showbiz, her healing from the trauma of childhood and intimate partner violence, her commitment to activism, and her leadership in the protest movement.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781771643580
Publisher: Greystone Books
Publication date: 09/25/2018
Pages: 304
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.20(d)

About the Author

Andrea Warner is the author of Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography (Greystone Books, 2018) and We Oughta Know: How Four Women Ruled the '90s and Changed Canadian Music (Eternal Cavalier Press, 2015). A freelance writer, Andrea is also an associate producer at CBC Music, a theatre critic at the Georgia Straight, a radio columnist, and the co-host of the weekly podcast Pop This!. Her pronouns are she/her/hers, and she is a settler who was born and raised in Vancouver on the unceded traditional territories of the Musqueam, Squamish, and Tsleil-Waututh First Nations. Pop culture, art, and feminism make her happy. On Twitter: @_AndreaWarner

Table of Contents

Foreword 1

Prologue 5

1 Suffer the Little Children 13

2 Qu'Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan 25

Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on surviving abuse 46

3 Universal Soldier 47

4 It's My Way 61

5 Cod'ine 71

Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on uncertainty 86

6 My Country 'Tis of Thy People You're Dying 87

7 Better to Find Out for Yourself 103

8 Until It's Time for You to Go 117

Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on fame 128

9 Not the Lovin' Kind 129

10 Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee 141

11 Generation 159

12 Up Where We Belong 171

Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on happiness 190

13 The Priests of the Golden Bull 191

14 We're Only Getting Started 205

15 No No Keshagesh 225

Interlude: Buffy Sainte-Marie on decolonization 240

16 Power in the Blood 241

17 Carry It On 253

Afterword: Buffy and Me 267

Acknowledgments 276

Discography 278

Notes 283

Bibliography 289

Index 291

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Buffy Sainte-Marie is a beacon: she shows us how unwavering vision and fierce independence go hand-in-hand with the work of creating solidarity, community, justice, and beauty. This book is the captivating story of that achievement."
– Naomi Klein, author of No is Not Enough and This Changes Everything

“Buffy Sainte-Marie’s career is enormously more impressive and significant than has been acknowledged or understood. This book draws decades of incredible, world-changing accomplishments together to make an irrefutable case for her place among the rock ‘n’ roll and songwriting greats. Fuck yeah.”
– Tanya Tagaq, Inuk songwriter and throat singer; winner of the 2014 Polaris Prize for Animism as well as multiple Juno Awards.

“Long overdue, Andrea Warner’s expansive, authorized biography reveals the astonishing range and breadth of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s work as a musician and writer, activist, educator, and spiritual leader. Speaking to Warner in a series of in-depth conversations, Sainte-Marie describes her extraordinary life, working within the commercial music industry for more than five decades on her own terms. Avoiding the traps of success and image obsession, Sainte-Marie has brought Indigenous values and culture into mainstream media. She is a true star, and this book goes a long way toward showing us how and why.”
— Chris Kraus, author of I Love Dick and After Kathy Acker: A Biography

"A crucial and compelling book that further cements Buffy Sainte-Marie's place in music history."
– Jessica Hopper, author of The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic

"Warner has composed an extraordinary portrait of one of our most extraordinary artists, a book that feels suffused with Buffy Sainte-Marie's personality and spirit."
– Sean Michaels, author of Us Conductors

"For me, Buffy Sainte-Marie will always be that beautiful, raw piece of energy that burst into a television studio and energized the darkness with her light.

I have known her through the years and yet only with this heartfelt and revealing book do I know all the details of Buffy Sainte-Marie that I had only guessed or that had been hinted: the dreadful, terrifying abuse she experienced as a tiny child; the misunderstanding and prejudice that she faced; the struggles to assert herself as Indigenous, and; her defiant affirmation as herself as a woman who could be known, simply, as 'Buffy.' Her female qualities gave her the strength and the power which we now understand as being the source of all the great things that have happened to her in her career.

I want anyone who has picked up this book to understand that only by reading a life like this—only by understanding the tremendous efforts that Buffy has made—can we come to the understanding of what we are and have been as a people. Buffy Sainte-Marie helped us to realize that not everything can be taken away. She made us realize that out of loss and denial can come enormous gifts and beauty."
– Adrienne Clarkson, 26th Governor General of Canada (1999-2005)


When I started out in the sixties there weren’t many women writing music, but Buffy Sainte-Marie was an exception to the rule. Whenever Buffy came through town I went down to the coffee house to hear her play. Her songs were so smart, so well-crafted, and her performances were stunning. She was different from the stereotypical music industry old boys’ club. When I moved to Toronto to pursue music, I stopped at the Mariposa Folk Festival on the way to see Buffy perform. A year later, I played that same festival, so you could say I followed in Buffy’s footsteps.

Buffy really helped me at the beginning: before I was well-known, she performed songs I wrote, bringing them to a wider audience, and she played my tape for anyone who would listen. Over the years since, Buffy and I have maintained a long-distance mutual respect. We have ties to Saskatchewan, but we share more than just a home: we both write songs with emotion, songs with a message. And to this day, we both walk our own path.

I’ve watched Buffy’s long career with admiration, and I’m honored to write this foreword to her authorized biography. Buffy Sainte-Marie is one of folk music’s unsung heroes, and her inspirational life is a story that deserves to be read.

— Joni Mitchell, June 2018

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