Buffy Sainte-Marie has been named the 2020 recipient of the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award.
Each year, Slaight Communications and Canadian Music Week (CMW) recognize an outstanding Canadian artist for their contribution to social activism and support of humanitarian causes.
Sainte-Marie will be honoured for her work over the last six decades as a trailblazing musician, activist and educator.
“Buffy Sainte-Marie sets the bar for everything the Allan Slaight Humanitarian Spirit Award stands for,” said Gary Slaight, CEO and President, of Slaight Communications and the Slaight Family Foundation. “For her, worldwide success and the status of music legend was not a personal goal, but an opportunity – an opportunity to try to right wrongs, an opportunity to give back to the planet, and an opportunity to alter the course of Indigenous lives through education.”
Believed to have been born in Saskatchewan on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation Reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Sainte-Marie was adopted to American parents and grew up in Massachusetts. She discovered piano at a young age and later guitar and songwriting, emerging onto the 1960s folk scene.
In 1969, she made the world’s first ever quadraphonic electronic vocal album, Illuminations, collaborating over the years with Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, Celine Dion, Donovan, Barbra Streisand, Joe Cocker, and Jennifer Warnes. In 1982, she became the first Indigenous person to win an Oscar for composing the hit Up Where We Belong from the blockbuster feature film An Officer and a Gentleman, which also earned her a Golden Globe Award and BAFTA.
Sainte-Marie’s activist efforts include advocating for the protection of Indigenous intellectual property and performers, founding the Nihewan Foundation for Native American Education in 1966. The foundation’s goal was to encourage Native American students to participate in learning and foster public awareness of Indigenous culture. It’s since provided students and teachers with scholarships and teacher training, as well as access to core curriculum written from Native American cultural perspectives. Most recently, she’s focused her advocacy on The Creative Native Project, which seeks to empower and inspire Indigenous youth to explore creative arts and live production by creating community arts weekends under the guidance of professional mentors.
She’s previously been inducted into the Canadian Songwriters Hall of Fame, JUNO Hall of Fame, and the Canadian Country Music Hall of Fame. She is also a Companion in the Order of Canada, and a recipient of the Governor General’s Performing Arts Award, Americana Music Association’s Free Speech in Music Award, Charles de Gaulle Award, Screen Actors Guild Lifetime Achievement Award, Gemini Award, multiple JUNO Awards, the Polaris Music Prize, two medals from Queen Elizabeth II, and countless honorary doctorates. Most recently, she was recognized for her work as a social activist and educator with the Allan Waters Humanitarian JUNO Award, and the International Folk Music Awards’ People’s Voice Award.
Sainte-Marie will be recognized at the Canadian Music and Broadcast Industry Awards on May 21 at the Bluma Appel Theatre, St Lawrence Centre for the Performing Arts.
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