Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's My Way by Blair Stonechild
REGINA — Growing up during the era of assimilation was not an easy time for First Nations people, said Blair Stonechild.
On Wednesday, Stonechild a professor of Indigenous Studies at the First Nations University of Canada (FNUniv) hosted a book launch for his latest piece of work, a biography on Buffy Sainte-Marie titled, It’s My Way.
“Back then you didn’t really hear anybody say anything public about aboriginal rights and I would say she was the first one who sang in a very public way and was very popular,” he said. “She really took that whole area of native rights as something that she wanted to use her music as a way of bringing it to the attention of the public.”
Stonechild said he instantly became a fan of Sainte-Marie and when he was a young college student in the 1960s she was his inspiration.
“She made me feel proud,” said Stonechild. “She gave a sense of pride being a First Nations person. I grew up during the assimilation period, which is the time when schools, for example, taught students that their culture was not good and that it was backwards and was something not worth keeping.”
He admired her tenacity because not only was she bringing aboriginal issues to the forefront, but she was doing it at a time when there were very few female folksingers and even very few women who worked outside the home.
About five years ago, while he was looking for a new research project he realized that no one had written a biography on Sainte-Marie.
“I thought, ‘Gee this can be a very interesting story,” he said. “It was a story that I thought was important and would be a really good example for others to learn about.”
Stonechild said it wasn’t an easy task to compile Sainte-Marie’s biography.
“She began singing in 1963 and was an international star by 1965 ... she was so multi-talented,” said Stonechild. It was important, to him, to tell Sainte-Marie’s entire story so others could understand how much she has done for First Nations people not only in Saskatchewan but around the world.
“She shares a lot about her early life, the difficulties she had growing up,” said Stonechild. “Then she talks about the challenges of becoming a star.”
He said because Sainte-Marie was and still is involved in many musical, visual arts and educational projects that it was impossible to tell her story chronologically.
“I had to group the information around certain themes,” said Stonechild, adding that he’s satisfied with the end project, but most importantly so is Sainte-Marie.
PURCHASE BOOK HERE Buffy Sainte-Marie: It's My Way