Buffy Sainte-Marie to be featured on PBS documentary

PBS documentary examines the life of Indigenous trailblazer Buffy Sainte-Marie

Oscar winner and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie is the focus of an American Masters documentary. (Courtesy of Matt Barnes)

Buffy Sainte-Marie knows how to speak the truth.

It’s a trait she’s never been afraid to express.

The Oscar winner is the subject of the American Masters documentary, “Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On.” The film spans over six decades, as the Cree musician, artist and activist used her platform to campaign for Indigenous and women’s rights and inspired multiple generations of musicians, artists and activists.

It will premiere at 8 p.m. Tuesday, Nov. 22, on New Mexico PBS, channel 5.1. It will then be available to stream on the PBS Video app.

The documentary is being shown as part of Native American Heritage Month.

“This isn’t the first documentary abut my life,” Sainte-Marie says. “I find that after everything, people in the United States still don’t know about me. The way it is for me is that I’ve had a long life and weaves of successes. I took 16 years off to raise my son. Through all of this I remain busy. I raise goats now. You can’t feel too sorry for me.”

The documentary starts as Sainte-Marie’s career took flight when she received a rave review in The New York Times and caught the eye of Vanguard Records, who released her debut album, “It’s My Way,” in 1964.

Early in her career she spoke out against the Vietnam War with her song “Universal Soldier,” against readily available opioids with “Cod’ine” and shared her views on romance with “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” which has been covered by artists such as Elvis, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Neil Diamond.

Sainte-Marie says she changed perceptions of Indigenous people in music, film and television.

Buffy Sainte-Marie performs with her band. (Courtesy of Christie Goodwin)

When approached to play a lead role in a 1968 episode of “The Virginian,” she famously demanded that all Indigenous roles be played by Indigenous peoples.

Additionally, across her five-year stint on “Sesame Street,” she was the first woman to nurse on television, and she helped create segments based on her experiences as an Indigenous woman in North America.

In 1983, after winning the Academy Award for writing “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” with her then-husband, Jack Nitzsche, Saint-Marie stepped out of the spotlight.

She returned to music after a 14-year hiatus with her critically acclaimed album “Coincidence and Likely Stories.”

In 2015, she beat out Drake for the Polaris Music Prize for her album “Power in the Blood.”

At the age of 81, Sainte-Marie actively tours and continues to be an activist for Indigenous rights, including championing efforts to end the oppression of and violence against Indigenous women.

She credits all of her success and happiness to having a positive attitude.

“I hate pain so much,” she says. “I always tell the kids to keep their nose on the noise trail and stay away from the drug and alcohol life. Life is difficult already to keep adding pressures. People need to find the joy in every day.”

The film is directed by Madison Thomas and features interviews with Joni Mitchell, Sonia Manzano, John Kay, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne, George Stroumboulopoulos and Andrea Warner.

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