Buffy Sainte-Marie, Indigenous Musician and Changemaker, in New Documentary

November 9, 2022


American Masters – Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On premieres on THIRTEEN and nationally on PBS on November 22 at 9 p.m. See all THIRTEEN air dates for American Masters.

Over a career spanning six decades, Cree musician, artist, and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie has used her platform to campaign for Indigenous and women’s rights and inspired multiple generations of musicians, artists, and activists. She became the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar in 1983, for “Up Where We Belong,” a song featured in An Officer and a Gentleman. She was the first recurring Indigenous guest star on Sesame Street. She has received numerous awards and honors, including induction into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame.

American Masters explores the life, career, artistry, and activism of the trail-blazing singer-songwriter in the documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On, premiering on THIRTEEN, pbs.org/americanmasters, and the THIRTEEN app (thirteen.org/anywhere) in honor of Native American Heritage Month. Directed by Madison Thomas, the film chronicles Sainte-Marie’s rise in New York’s Greenwich Village folk music scene and her subsequent groundbreaking career, featuring interviews with music greats Joni Mitchell, John Kay, Robbie Robert-son, and Jackson Browne; Sonia Manzano (Maria on Sesame Street); music journalist George Stroumboulopoulos; author Andrea Warner; and Sainte-Marie herself.

Sainte-Marie’s career took flight in the 1960s when a rave review in The New York Times led to the release of her debut album, It’s My Way (1964, Vanguard Records). Her music differentiated her from the other female pop musicians of the era. She spoke out against the Vietnam War with “Universal Soldier,” against readily available opioids with “Cod’ine,” and shared her feminist 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 changed perceptions of Indigenous people in music, film, and television. When approached to play a lead role in a 1968 episode of The Virginian (1962-71), she famously demanded that all Indigenous roles be played by Indigenous peoples. During her five years on Sesame Street, she was the first woman to nurse a baby on television and helped create segments based on her experiences as an Indigenous woman in North America.

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

American Masters and Vision Maker Media (VMM), the premier source of public media by and about Native Americans since 1976, partnered to bring Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On to public television.

A woman with dark an brightly dyed hair is photographed from above. She wears a hacked with many tassles nd moves her arms to set them in motion.

Buffy Sainte-Marie Photo: Matt Barnes