CBC Investigation Questions Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous Heritage Claims

Buffy Sainte-Marie
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Buffy Sainte-Marie
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Photo Credit: Kimberli Mäkäräinen / CC by 4.0

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation releases an article and documentary questioning the indigenous heritage of singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.

The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) has released a report calling into question the indigenous heritage of ‘60s singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie. CBC cites members of the artist’s family in addition to genealogical documentation that suggests Sainte-Marie’s story is “built on an elaborate fabrication.”

Ahead of the report’s debut, Sainte-Marie released a statement maintaining her native ancestry, and asserting there was no documentation, “as was common for indigenous children born in the 1940s.” CBC’s investigation includes a birth certificate listing Sainte-Marie’s parents as Albert and Winifred Santamaria, the Massachusetts couple who she says adopted her. The same doctor who delivered Sainte-Marie’s sister in 1948 signed the birth certificate.

“Research has also revealed that children adopted by parents in Massachusetts were commonly issued new Massachusetts birth certificates with the name of their adoptive parents,” writes Sainte-Marie’s lawyer in an email to CBC.

Sainte-Marie says she was one of many native children removed from their homes, adopted, and “assigned kind of a biography,” a practice called the Sixties Scoop. “In many cases, adoptive people don’t really know what the true story is.” But CBC notes the Sixties Scoop “is widely recognized to have started in 1951. Sainte-Marie was born in 1941.”

“Nobody except for Buffy ever talked about Buffy being adopted,” Sainte-Marie’s niece Heidi told CBC. Buffy’s cousin Bruce and his family also denied her claims she was adopted, and called her claim to indigenous ancestry a publicity stunt.

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s official website says the musician “is believed to have been born in 1941 on the Piapot First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan.” Her biography also calls her a “Cree singer-songwriter.”

“What I know about my indigenous ancestry, I learned from my growing up mother, who was part Mi’kmaq, and my own research later in life,” writes Buffy Sainte-Marie in her statement. “My mother told me many things, including that I was adopted and that I was native, but there was no documentation as was common for indigenous children born in the 1940s.”

“As a young adult, I was adopted by Emile Piapot (son of Chief Piapot, Treaty 4 Adhesion signatory), and Clara Starblanket Piapot (daughter of Chief Starblanket, Treaty 4 signatory), in accordance with Cree law and customs,” Sainte-Marie continues. “They were kind, loving, and proud to claim me as their own. I love my Piapot family and am so lucky to have them in my life.”