A woman that means the world to me
On November 3, 2017, the one and only Buffy Sainte-Marie is coming to St. Francis Xavier University to give a talk, entitled, ‘Power in the Blood, Justice in the Soul’. Who is Buffy Sainte-Marie you may ask? Buffy is an aboriginal singer-songwriter, musician, educator, poet and social activist. She has won countless award for her music and accomplishments including an Academy Award, Golden Globe, two Juno awards, and a Polaris Music Award. When I first heard the news of Buffy coming to StFX I could not believe it and when I finally received confirmation that Buffy was truly coming to StFX, I think I almost passed out. Buffy Sainte-Marie is a woman that means the world to me, I have looked up to her since I was a young girl.
I am an aboriginal woman from the Mi’kmaq Qalipu First Nations Band in Newfoundland and Labrador. Growing up native, I did not know much about my heritage. My father’s generation and the generations before him were told to not talk about being native, they did not want anyone to know that they were native in fear of being taken away. Their culture was lost, language forgotten and stories vanished. In recent years, my family has come to take pride in their heritage, dive head first into our culture and dig up the forgotten stories and practices, participate in pow wow and now, my father sits on the Mi’kmaq Qalipu First Nations Band Council as a councillor. It’s been very liberating to finally be in a space to embrace my heritage although it has not always been easy. Often, I’ve felt as if I didn’t belong. I’ve struggled with trying to find my aboriginal identity. Part of the struggle being because I don’t necessarily look very aboriginal, which always seem to raise eyebrows when I say that I am. Along the way I have discovered many different aboriginal artists, musicians, activists, and leaders. For me, it was Buffy Sainte-Marie that stood out for me and became someone that I looked up to.
The first song that I ever heard by Buffy came on CBC radio on a Saturday morning, and was ‘Darling Don’t Cry’. From that first song, I knew I had to find out who this woman was. From there grew my love for Buffy Sainte-Marie.
I look up to this woman for many reasons. Buffy started her solo music career in the 1960s which, for a woman, was not easy and for an aboriginal woman, that was almost unheard of. Buffy would stand on stage in her spotlight and she would raise the issue of the treatment of aboriginal people in Canada. In the 60s and 70s Buffy would talk of the hardships of the residential school systems. She used words like ‘genocide’ when referring to the history of aboriginal people in Canada. Words like this would shock people and make a lot of people angry. No matter what people would say to her, she would continue to work hard at her career. With Buffy, she embodies what strength is and for that, I look up to her tremendously.
Fun fact, she was on Sesame Street from 1976-81. She would appear on episodes, including one episode with her son, whom she breastfeeds on the show, which is pretty damn cool.
When Buffy Sainte-Marie is here at StFX I’m going to have the honor of partaking in a talking circle with her. A talking circle is way for elders to solve problems. In a talking circle, it allows for barriers to be brought down and it gives the freedom for everyone to express themselves in any way that they wish to. If someone was to have told my 14-year-old self about this opportunity, I would not have believed them. It is truly amazing that Buffy Sainte-Marie is coming to StFX and is an action that demonstrates that this campus is working very hard to be more involved with the indigenous community. Back in September, the Mi’kmaq flag was permanently installed and now during Mi’kmaq history month we have Buffy Sainte-Marie coming to give a talk. I implore everybody that if you have the chance to make it to this event, please go. This is a once in a life time opportunity to hear Buffy speak. November 3rd, 6:30-8:45 in the Schwartz Auditorium, make sure you don’t miss this, StFX.