CBC newsmagazine The Fifth Property has aired its Buffy Sainte-Marie exposé.
The hourlong documentary episode, offered by senior investigative reporter Geoff Leo, alleges that the singer-songwriter – thought of the primary Indigenous winner of an Academy Award – has been fraudulently posing as Native all through her 60-year profession.
Whereas the specifics about Sainte-Marie’s background different as they appeared in articles and different supplies over time –The Fifth Property discovered information clippings referring to her as Algonquin, Mi’kmaq and Cree – finally her accepted (and approved) biography was that she was born in 1941 on Cree land within the Canadian province of Saskatchewan and faraway from her delivery household and adopted by a white American household, the Sainte-Maries, as a part of a authorities coverage generally known as the Sixties Scoop. Later, as a younger grownup, she reconnected with the Cree folks and was adopted by descendants of Chief Piapot in line with Cree methods.
However The Fifth Property unearthed Sainte-Marie’s purported delivery certificates, which states that she was born in 1941 in Stoneham, Mass., to Albert and Winifred Santamaria – her supposed adoptive mother and father, who’re listed as white. Though a consultant for Sainte-Marie instructed this system that adopted kids in Massachusetts have been generally issued new delivery certificates with their adoptive mother and father’ names, Leo traveled to Stoneham to confirm Sainte-Marie’s documentation, which seems to have been filed on the time of her delivery and never later.
“It doesn’t seem that she was adopted in any manner, form or type,” Stoneham city clerk Maria Sagarino instructed Leo.
This potential smoking gun may very well be a destabilizing and demoralizing blow for a lot of members of the Indigenous neighborhood, who prior to now 12 months even have seen aspersions forged on the heritage of high-profile figures together with Sacheen Littlefeather and unbiased movie producer Heather Rae.
“You’re gonna hear folks say, ‘I’ve misplaced one other hero,’” says Native Research professor Kim TallBear, who seems within the documentary alongside different famous watchdogs of “Pretendianism,” together with freelance journalist Jacqueline Keeler and lawyer Jean Teillet. “She’s actually necessary in Indian Nation.”
The episode additionally contains interviews with the musician’s cousin and niece, who say that the household avoided exposing Sainte-Marie’s true parentage for worry of monetary reprisal.
One relative tried to talk out – Alan St. Marie, Buffy’s older brother, who had been writing letters to newspapers in an try and set the document straight. However after he knowledgeable PBS – whose Sesame Avenue launched Sainte-Marie to an entire new technology of potential listeners – that they have been in truth organic siblings, the singer despatched him a letter threatening to show him for molesting her as a toddler if he didn’t stop and desist.
“For those who inform those that I’m Caucasian, I’ll inform folks that you’re a pedophile,” says Alan’s daughter, Heidi St. Marie, of her interpretation of her aunt’s letter. Alan died in 2011.
In a press release launched sooner or later upfront of the Friday premiere of the Fifth Property investigation, Sainte-Marie stated that the CBC reached out to her in September to ask her about her identification and childhood sexual assault. “Painfully, the CBC has additionally pressured me to relive and defend my expertise as a survivor of sexual abuse which I endured by the hands of my brother, in addition to one other member of the family – whom I’ve by no means publicly named,” she wrote. “All I can says is what I do know to be true: I do know who I like, I do know who loves me. And I do know who claims me.”
These embody members of the Piapot household, two of whom emailed The Fifth Property a press release that was additionally made obtainable to The Hollywood Reporter: “We’re direct descendants of Chief Piapot, and we’re simply two of the many individuals of the Piapot First Nation who name Buffy Sainte-Marie our relative,” wrote Debra and Ntwanis Piapot. “Nobody, together with Canada and its governments, the Indian Act, establishments, media or any individual anyplace can deny our household’s inherent proper to find out who’s a member of our household and neighborhood.”
Teillet says that Sainte-Marie’s Cree adoption was “a really critical and beautiful factor,” however it doesn’t make her really Indigenous.
“Buffy’s musician, and she or he’s executed superb issues. Did she should do it in redface?” she asks. “I’d argue she didn’t should. She selected to try this.”