The Liz Warren Of Folk Music? — Report Casts Doubt On Buffy Saint-Marie’s Indigenous Roots

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Kay Smythe News and Commentary Writer
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Oscar-winning folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie was met by accusations in late October that her Indigenous heritage is nothing more than a lie.

An investigation by the Canadian Broadcast Corporation led to Sainte-Marie, 82, being branded a “pretendian,” a term given to someone who pretends to come from an Indigenous bloodline. The report used the singer’s birth certificate, which lists her name as “Beverly Jean Santamaria,” born in Stoneham, Massachusetts, to European-heritage parents.

The article further quotes family members who claim her story of Native ancestry is “an elaborate fabrication.” Sainte-Marie’s claims to be Cree, the largest First Nation in Canada, go back as far as Sesame Street appearances in the 1970s. Then, in 1982, she won an Oscar for her song “Up Where We Belong,” and was labeled the first Indigenous person to win at the Academy.

As recently as 2021, Sainte-Marie appeared on a Canadian stamp. She was also the main feature of a documentary on her work championing Indigenous peoples of Canada, which was nominated for an International Emmy in 2023.

Her birth certificate is significant, as Sainte-Marie has previously claimed she was adopted. But her family members claim Sainte-Marie has threatened them to protect her story of her past. (RELATED: ‘Manipulated And Groomed’: Retired Green Beret Explains Why So Many Women Go Missing)

“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,” Sainte-Marie previously stated, CBC noted, but whether or not that’s true is anyone’s guess at this point.