“The good news about the bad news is that more people understand now
To mark this occasion I am leaving an interview I had with Buffy last June, it ran in Winnipeg Metro.
On June 21, the Summer Solstice, Canadians will celebrate National Aboriginal Day even as many non-Aboriginals remain in the dark about their First Nations, Inuit and Metis neighbours. A recent survey by the Environics Institute and the National Centre for Truth and Reconciliation found only about 40 per cent of non-Aboriginal Canadians even knew of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission. One of the commission’s recommendations however was for increased education and the same survey found seventy per cent of participants were familiar with the residential school system. That increase in awareness is reason enough for award winning artist and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie to celebrate and headline a free festival at The Forks on June 25.
“The good news about the bad news is that more people understand now,” says Sainte-Marie from her home in Hawaii. “More people are aware now of what happened, and aware of the implications of what happened in the past to natives, aboriginal peoples. What I am celebrating is more people know now than knew fifty years ago when I was first talking about boarding schools and genocide.”
She will be talking further about boarding schools and genocide at the AGO Creative Minds Art and Social Justice event at Massey Hall in Toronto Sept. 20. This event will be livestreamed on CBC.ca. She will be also be performing at Hillside in Guelph July 24 with The Sadies whom Sainte-Marie first met at the Pyramid Cabaret on Fork Street. She says they were fans and asked her onstage to special guest on “Cod’ine”.
No Sadies but Buffy’s special guests at the Forks will be the Winnipeg Symphony Orchestra and conductor Alexander Micklethwate. It may shock purists of either tradition but reconciliation takes many forms.
“It might surprise an audience who thinks of me as a lesser musician, as a pop musician and they might think of orchestral music, in particular European classical music as being a higher type of music. I don’t rank any kind of music. I truly adore orchestral music. I was the little girl who lay down on the floor with my mother's vacuum pipes in my ears attached to the record player while I listened to Tchaikovsky, headphones before we had them,” she says.
Buffy Sainte-Marie listening to the Europeans even as the Europeans had taken away the voice of her people. It’s ironic but to reconcile truthfully people need to listen to each other. And when they do there’s no end of reasons to celebrate.
Sainte-Marie says Canadians can further celebrate the resonance the T.R.C. has in the United States and internationally, and the spotlight it puts on indigenous issues worldwide.
“I think all Canadians, of course we are heartbroken it ever happened, but we ought to be thrilled that the leadership that put Truth and Reconciliation on the map and in the headlines in Canada, are also impacting the countries to the south where it has not even been recognised yet. So thats a good thing, thats a good thing,” she says.
It’s a good thing both Aboriginals and non-Aboriginals have Buffy Sainte-Marie speaking up, singing out and walking us along the path of reconciliation.
I would also suggest you take the time to listen and view this remarkable event.