Buffy Sainte-Marie on Tar Sands: 'You've Got to Take This Seriously'
For decades, Buffy Sainte-Marie has been an artistic trailblazer. The Sixties folk explosion saw the Canadian-born Cree songwriter confront the colonial status quo with hit songs like "Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee" as well as the anti-war anthem "Universal Soldier." Sainte-Marie, who is currently based in Hawaii, is gearing up to record her first album of new material since 2008 (more on that later), and took a few minutes to share her thoughts on a number of topics with ICTMN.
We've seen your Tweets (@BuffySteMarie) about the oil sands, or tar sands as they're sometimes called -- what's your take on the situation?
Almost a year ago I went to Fort McMurray (Alberta) and I was just devastated with what's going on there. Just devastated. I just told everybody I could: "You've got to take this seriously." Even since I was there, other people have really stepped forward in their own ways, Neil Young in particular. He's caught a lot of criticism because he didn't involve me, Susan Aglukark or other Native people. Neil came to the induction ceremony in Nashville, at the Musicians Hall of Fame, and I told him I'd seen some of the criticism and not to listen to it at all! Because it's so important, it has to be everybody doing whatever they can, whenever they can, and being effective at whatever level they can be. You reach people your way, I do it my way and Neil does it his way. But people have to see it.
It's really worth a trip to Fort McMurray just to see it with your own eyes. If you really want to see something historic in your life, go to Fort McMurray and just bear witness to what they're doing. It's never going to return, and this is the future of the planet if the present people are allowed to stay in charge. We are allowing them to stay in charge. We are allowing it. That's why we have wars. We have to be really vigilant and supportive of one another, because it has to stop. There's no turning back.
Neil Young toured with the First Nation that's experiencing high cancer rates from the tar sands. And yet he also caught criticism when people said, "Oh, he's just an outsider, he lives in California -- what right does he have to criticize this?"
(Laughs). Because it's not only about Canada, that's why! Good for Neil for stepping up. Everybody should be stepping up at whatever their most effective level is. It's not just about Native people and it's not just about Canada. Just the weather changes are indicative: people just gotta wake up.
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