Buffy Sainte-Marie Pushes Back Against CBC Report: "This Is My Life — I Am Not a Piece of Paper"

An investigation into the singer-songwriter/activist's claims to Indigenous ancestry was published by the broadcaster last month

Photo: Levi Manchak

BY Megan LaPierrePublished Nov 23, 2023

Buffy Sainte-Marie has pushed back against CBC's "Who is the real Buffy Sainte-Marie?," addressing The Fifth Estate's investigation into her Indigenous heritage publicly for the first time since the report was published last month.

The singer-songwriter/activist maintains that she hasn't lied about her identity, characterizing the report as an attack on her character and legacy, full of mistakes and glaring omissions.

"Being an 'Indian' has little to do with sperm tracking and colonial record keeping: it has to do with community, culture, knowledge, teachings, who claims you, who you love, who loves you and who's your family," Sainte-Marie wrote in a statement to the Canadian Press [via CBC News].

CBC had reported that it found the artist's birth certificate, which indicates that she was born in Massachusetts in 1941. Signed by an attending physician, the document lists both parents and the baby as being white — which CBC says is corroborated by Sainte-Marie's marriage certificate, a life insurance policy and the United States Census.

In her statement, the singer-songwriter said that she will not "stoop to respond to every false allegation," but claimed that it was common practice for birth certificates to be "created" after Indigenous children were adopted or taken away from their families. She has never known if it was real.

"I've heard from countless people with similar stories who do not know where they are from and feel victimized by these allegations," Sainte-Marie said. "Most importantly, this is my life — I am not a piece of paper."

CBC spokesman Chuck Thompson wrote in an email yesterday (November 23) that the broadcaster stands by the story, saying that all evidence was fairly presented. He also said that a town clerk in Stoneham, MA, assured that the document on file was an original birth certificate and another being inserted after the fact wasn't possible.

Before the report was published, Sainte-Marie pre-emptively issued a statement, admitting, "I may not know where I was born, but I know who I am."

Earlier this week, Carry It On — the 2022 Madison Thomas-directed documentary about Sainte-Marie's life and career — won an International Emmy in the Arts Programming category, prompting outcry from some Indigenous groups in the wake of CBC's probe into the artist's ancestry.

Latest Coverage