Let’s You and Her Fight

Let’s You and Her Fight
Responding to the Attack on Buffy Sainte-Marie

Buffy Sainte-Marie in 2009. Photo by sidrguelph, Flickr. 

Buffy Sainte-Marie in 2009. Photo by sidrguelph, Flickr.

As owners of DNA Consultants, and on behalf of our staff and customers, we wish to say something about the recent media coverage of legendary singer/songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie, who is 82 years old .

The two sole owners are of Cherokee, Choctaw and other ancestry. Many of our customers and well-wishers share American Indian ancestry, often confirmed by forensic DNA testing, with us, and are naturally concerned over the shocking charges leveled at Buffy, an icon in public awareness of American Indian history, culture and identity.

We congratulate  the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for awarding an Emmy yesterday to the makers of “Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On,” directed by Madison Thomas and narrated by Sainte-Marie. The one-and-a-half-hour documentary was produced by Eagle Vision, White Pine Pictures and Paquin Entertainment, premièred at the Toronto International Film Festival last year and is available to view for free at PBS online.

The film was made and released before a sneak attack on Sainte-Marie by the CBC/Radio Canada broadcast on Oct. 27, 2023, titled “Investigating Buffy Ste-Marie’s Claims to Indigenous Ancestry,” which provoked academicians like Kim Tall Bear and Jacqueline Keeler to denounce the singer as a “pretendian.” The take-down piece appeared after statements by Sainte-Marie which contradicted much of its material sight unseen, and which were not acknowledged in it. See Buffy Sainte-Marie Releases Statement About Indigenous Heritage Ahead of Investigative Report.

Evidently, the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences was aware of the so-called revelations and specious arguments against Sainte-Marie but awarded the Emmy to her and her director anyway. This event speaks loudly for the force of Sainte-Marie’s counterclaims and sincerity. The pointed affirmation shows that not everyone is ready to buy into the “pretendian” smear campaign.

Some may wonder why it is always outspoken, effective women—often minority women—who are targeted to be silenced and rendered powerless in our triumphalist late patriarchal society? Buffy was blacklisted by J. Edgar Hoover and the FBI in the early 1960s. Her work was officially banned on radio stations across the U.S. for two decades. Yet her star only continued to rise. As part of the programming on Sesame Street, her music and messages reached 42 countries day after day for many years.

“For my entire life,” she has said,  “I have championed Indigenous, and Native American causes when nobody else would, or had the platform to do so. . . . I have always tried to bridge gaps between communities and educate people to live in love and kindness. This is my truth.”

The words to one of her lesser known songs go: “Every time I go to town the boys start kicking my dog around/ Makes no difference if’n he’s a hound, they better stop kicking my dog around.”

We think the media and academia better stop kicking Buffy Sainte-Marie around.


See also

“Buffy Sainte-Marie Is What the World Needs Now,” by Madison Warner (post)

Andrea Warner, Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Authorized Biography, with Foreword by Joni Mitchell (notice)

Live Performance of “Starwalker” by Buffy Sainte-Marie, Canada Day, July 20, 2017

Buffy Sainte-Marie – Official Site: News and Free Music Samples

Buffy Sainte-Marie says CBC investigation into ancestry includes fabrications,” by Jessica Wang for Entertainment (Nov. 23, 2023)


  Comments: 10

  1. The identity delusion spares no crack or crevice of American society. I read a charming response from Buffy. She said simply, despite my best efforts, I have never known anything of my birth parents, I have been public about this fact. I will die never knowing anything of my birth parents. My audience knows as much about my ancestry as do I.

    Period. Well said Buffy…. there is no news there.

    As an academic side note, while Buffy cannot prove her native ancestry, no one can prove a white ancestry. 100 years ago, with no evidence of her birth, she would have been shipped to a Indian school and left to rot.

  2. They can’t have it both ways. Federally recognized tribes have long claimed it’s not the genetics that matter & most will not accept a DNA test – more concerned about being recognized in the community as an American Indian ( something she has). DNA testing companies rightly never claimed to tell people they are American Indian but can tell them if they have Native ancestry.
    They have always adopted people into their community & tribe ( there were Scots/ Irish chiefs long ago) & consider that the end of the story no matter how old they are ( she was adopted later). Some talk about the spirit of being an Indian is what’s important. Wallace Black Elk said non- Native people would one day be born with an Indian spirit. I think she definitely has an Indian spirit and defy anyone to say otherwise.

    • Awa’inicci’ka’welawalew but momma call me Bruno

      There is a push in the states to use our better natures to erase certain verbiage from use relative to the naturals. Russel means told us not to stop using the term “Indian” because the day we do, the last treaties will become void since all and I mean ALL land usage rights of the Naturals is under the term Indian.
      We have even in the small backwood town here, all the native names erased from streets, mountains, cemeteries, parks and most schools.
      Like what? And not replaced with kinder terms that still uphold the legends they were named for but entirely different non-native terms. Squaw mountain is now Marble peak… uhhh talk about a white washing done at the hands of bleeding heart ignorant kids. Thing is it don’t matter cuz they can drown us and they can bury us but our Phoenix can’t be extinguished. I am white skinned and dance like a broken toaster but you know what, my 3rd great grandmother was Cree wind clan and on paper at least so were the 3 women behind her in line, sure they built the bridge that touches me outta scots, carib and Englishmen so I don’t know how “pure” blooded I am an injun but I know I am Wind clan without a doubt. The visions, the intuitions, the knowing, the knowing without knowing, the ancestral voices I duet with in the forest breeze.. yeah I don’t need a better test to prove I am that line of grandmas baby bird.
      I could take 100,000 of Buffies haters out in 5 minutes of coding time if I was as hurtful and shameful as those jerks are. But that’s not how we use our magic, not now not ever. We are the turn the other cheek crowd and we do it better than any professed pro at it.
      I love Buffy and what she has did for the marginalized so fresh off “Indian termination act” from the gov we still feed. She was born only a decade after the USA had an “Indian termination act” like what the holy hell is anyone on her case about when no mfer has answered for that holocaust of the holy peoples. Like seriously. It’s time to usurp these morons before we find ourselves the next Nazis after the fact. Much love is what I say!

  3. It is not, I believe, the Indian way to challenge a person’s identity or status. Live and let live. After some quick research on Ancestry.com I can guarantee, however, Kim TallBear has scant grounds genealogically for trying to out-Indian anyone or be a spokesperson for all Indians. Isn’t there an old-fashioned adage about living in glass houses.
    The famous investigator of indigeneity was born Kimberly Margaret Tall Bear-Dauphin on October 6, 1968, in Pipestone County, Minnesota. In other words, she was not born on a reservation. Her father is named as Vernon Eddie Krogman, who was manifestly white. His parents were John L. Krogman and Matilda W. Krogman, and his grandparents were all German, either born in Iowa or Germany. There is nothing but German in his known family
    The mother’s name on TallBear’s birth certificate is given as Lee Ann Krogman, she was born in 1948 and her parents were evidently Randolph Tallbear (b. 1922) and Arline Tallbear (b. 1926). I say “evidently” because there is only one document on Ancestry.com naming them together and that is Lee Ann Krogman’s birth record. Otherwise, the grandmother appears as Arline Lamb, Arline Gilbert and Arlene Heminger (b. 1948). On the 1950 Federal Census, it was reported that Randolph Tallbear said he was never married, and Arlene or Arline Heminger’s race was recorded as “white” There are numerous discrepancies in the records. If Kim Tallbear was born in 1968 (which we can take as true), the fact that Vernon Eddie Krogman married Lee Ann, or Arline, the mother, on Feb. 18, 1969, means TallBear was illegitimate. Oops!
    Oddly, Randolph Tallbear, Kim Tallbear’s maternal grandfather and the source of half her surname, was listed as Cheyenne and Arapaho on Indian agency records, not as Santee Sioux or Dakota. Kim TallBear is enrolled in the Sisseton Wahpeton Oyate Indian nation, 150 miles away from her family’s residence.
    The other half of Kim TallBear’s birth name was Dauphine. In adulthood, Kimberly Margaret sometimes went by Dauphine as a first name or last name before settling on Kim TallBear. For instance, she lived on 801 Princeton Street in Fort Worth, Texas as Dauphine K Tallbear (not strictly speaking her birth name). In other cities she gave her name as K. Tallbear. One gets the impression she moved around quite a bit and used different names.
    Arlene Heminger alias Lamb alias Gilbert alias Tallbear was the daughter of Felix A. Heminger, a Sioux Indian born in Flandreau, South Dakota, in 1900, and Marie Agnes Dauphinais, a Canadian described in records as Mixed Blood. She was born about 1907 in Saskatchewan.
    Apparently Kim TallBear’s most proximate full Indian ancestor was Lucie Heminger, the grandmother of Felix Heminger (or Haminger or Hemminger). Born in 1833. Lucie was Kim TallBear’s great-great-great-grandmother. She had Albert Heminger with an unknown white father from Kentucky, so Albert Heminger was half-Indian and half-white, as stated in the records. Lucie was claimed to be a Sisseton Dakota Sioux, though she did not live on a reservation.
    The Hemingers preferred to be related to Chief Little Crow (1810-1863), a Mdewakanton Dakota, who went down in history as the leader of the Sioux Uprising of 1862. If this was the tribal connection, though, Kim TallBear could claim only 1/64 degree blood quantum by strict genealogy. She had more White, more Arapahoe and more Canadian Metis than Sisseton.
    So of TallBear’s eight great-grandparents, four were German, two were apparently Arapahoe, one Canadian Mixed Blood (Metis) and one about half Sioux Indian/Dakota. The Dakota line, represented by Felix Heminger, a great-grandson of Dakota Chief Little Crow, with more white than Indian connections, was obviously the prestigious one which a descendant would want to draw attention to and emphasize. The majority white ancestors were ignored in this quest for iidentity. But no one is 100% anything. We are all mixed, in ways we often do not know and do not appreciate. We all make decisions about what to emphasize and deemphasize in our public identities. Those decisions are mostly private. . . until challenged in public.

  4. Just, Who is Who to Tell Anyone else Who is Who? I know my Trail of Tears ancestry from family. I researched to find my Great Great Great Grandmother wrote the Indian Affairs translated, transcribed letters which were misfiled. Her name was Elizabeth Reed and the other woman’s name was Elizabeth Reese. My Elizabeth Reed ancestor wrote letters that spanned years to prior to her own death near the turn of the 20th Century. The file notes only have handwritten, “Denied” and describes her as a Black Cherokee. If Elizabeth Reese was a Black Cherokee she was robbed of her Cherokee membership too. We have not even started accounting for the Admixed Colonial Cherokee much less the Admixed Black Cherokee. We all need to fight this Genocide of Our Ancestry. First the Blood, them the Trail of Our Bloodlines all erased by Colonial Denialism. My ancestors, All My Ancestors, Colonial to Mayflower Pilgrims, Quakers, and British and French Colony citizens since the beginning, I let no one off the hook. As a descent of hundreds to tens of thousands of years of ancestors on this continent, I am going to stand up even in the face of racism and bigotry from every viewpoint. We all descend from ancient souls. Divide and Conquer is Old World. Bring on the Rainbow of Blood. Let go of the Curse of Colonial Rules.

  5. Who is doing the work? It doesn’t matter who you are or what you have. What matters is whether you are doing the work. The work to make things better, heal harrms and injuries, bless the land and creatures on it. Identity is not about pieces of paper. It has nothing to do with the head. It’s about heart and spirit. I think Buffy has that and has been operating on a very high level. She is an old soul, a beautiful spirit. She embodies the wisdom in the inspirational poem, “The Invitation.” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. “It doesn’t interest me if the story you are telling me is true I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself. If you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul. If you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.” That is clearly Buffy’s truth, to bridge communities, as she herself has said, to step up and do the work where others wouldn’t or couldn’t, to take us up where we belong. Who cares about her blood quantum or identity? My mother taught me growing up in Mexico to always look at who’s doing the work. I do the work of a medical doctor in a Colorado small town and have given a lot of care to iindigenous patients over the years because I am one of them by birth and inclination and association and many of them have broken lives. That is always the concern of mothers and matriarchs the world over, to make life whole and eternal and transformational. https://www.ekhartyoga.com/articles/philosophy/the-invitation-a-poem-by-oriah-mountain-dreamer

  6. I have admired the music of Buffy Sainte-Marie from the beginning of her career. I first saw her in concert in 1964. I deplore this pretendian campaign to rob people of their legacies, their achievements and seek to destroy all they have accomplished. No matter the outcome of the details of her origins, she is an educator, an artist, a philanthropist, and no amount of hate can destroy that. So much hatred I have read as a product of the CBC “Making an Icon” and the social media posts sparked by Jacqueline Keeler. The ugliest misogynist drivel I have ever read. I have been doing genealogy research for over fifty years and have combined it with DNA testing. Research has been a lifelong passion. That is what I do. Not to judge, but to understand. I have worked on Buffy’s history in the past and I came back to it because of “Making an Icon”. The polemic proved nothing. It did suggest a great deal.

    I have come across in my research children living in plain sight, in the families of others and in my own extended family. Children whose parentage may be known to a few but often not to the children themselves. The first situation is highlighted in Buffy’s response when she says, with a great deal of pain, that as an adult her mother, Winifred (Kenrick) Santamaria, changed her story and said Buffy may have been born as the result of an encounter outside of wedlock. Buffy said it was not her story to tell. Before I heard those words I read the 1940 census for North Reading, Middlesex, Massachusetts, recorded April 1, 1940, which included Albert Santamaria, Winnifred Irene (Kenrick) Santamaria, Alan and Wayne Roger Santamaria, Lucille Winifred (Kenrick) Repetta and her four year old daughter who is listed as Joan E. but who was Lorraine Repetta. I then read that Wayne Roger Santamaria died on May 16, 1940. The death of a child can bring untold grief and trauma to a family and the child’s parents. DNA testing is said to have been done by Elaine “Lainey” Sainte Marie-Mixter, Winifred’s daughter, and Dakota “Cody” Starblanket Wolfchild, Buffy’s son, and they are a match. Mama’s baby, Daddy’s maybe. Buffy, according to her Stoneham birth certificate, was born on February 20, 1941, which means she was conceived around two weeks after Wayne’s death. Ponder that.

    In the 1950 census the household includes Albert, Winifred, Alan K., age 13, Beverly J[ean], age 9, Elaine L, and Arthur C. Santamaria, age 34, the brother of Albert. The haters don’t want to acknowledge that Buffy has recounted being molested by Alan and in an interview with Jim Farber, published November 21, 2022, by a member of her father’s family. She kept diaries about it as it happened. She had no relationship with Alan’s daughter Heidi nor with Bruce, the son of Arthur. Ponder that. The two people who give the most damning testimony about Buffy. They talk about her Italian nose. No, the nose is that of Frank Prentiss Atwood, the grandfather of Winifred. He is a colorful character who wrote a four-page account of his background for one of his children. How he took the name [Daniel and Frank] Fitzgerald so he could marry [Elizabeth] Mary Brennan, the daughter of two Irish Catholics. When their children marry, they marry as Atwoods. Several in the family inherited Frank’s nose including Buffy, her brother Alan, and Winifred’s brother, Frank Atwood Kenrick. No one has been able to find Frank Prentiss Atwood’s birth, although he always gave it as Louisiana and wrote in his account that his mother was half Seminole. It is documented that his son, Frank Prentiss Atwood, Jr., took a trip to Louisiana, perhaps to find his father’s origins. Jacqueline Keeler can’t refute Frank Prentiss Atwood, Senior’s claim so the CBC ignores him. They cannot refute the claims of Mi’kmaq (Micmac) ancestry so the CBC ignores them. Buffy’s sister, Lainey Sainte Marie-Mixture is said to have had “almost no” Native American ancestry. A one- percent of an ethnicity is about five generations back. As one looks back, past that fifth generation, the number of ancestors increases.

    The grasping of a place to belong changes in Buffy’s accounts and no doubt changes are made by the press. She meets Emile and Clara Starblanket Piapot in 1962, and is taken in by them and their family. She is loved unconditionally and works to earn their respect. Listen to the statement by their granddaughter, Ntawnis Piapot, in “Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life, The Documentary”. How Buffy took all she was taught and “condensed them down. It is a real talent to condense all of it into a song and to be able to inspire people with it. It’s an amazing, amazing talent she has.” This is the woman I met at the last concert of hers I attended, a benefit for the Awkwesasne Freedom School. This is the woman I choose to stand by. She has earned her legacy, no matter the DNA.

  7. After reading some of the articles posted on your blog, I’ve come to admire your commitment of “letting the chips fall where they may”. So I’m perplexed by your willingness to give Buffy St. Marie a pass for (falsely?) claiming to be of Native American heritage. I’m sure you understand why people are tired of the ‘Rachel Dolezals’ & ‘Elizabeth Warrens’ of the world who tell outright lies about their heritage in order to gain some benefit. So I recommend that you urge anyone with questionable heritage claims (like Buffy St. Marie) to “put up or shut up” by taking a DNA test.

  8. This “issue” is clearly a tempest in a teapot, easily and instantly quelled by spitting on a cotton swab!Why this simple remedy has not been undertaken invites no small degree of skepticism. At the height of her fame, it is likely Buffy St. Marie would have been awarded honorary memberships, as an advocate the Native American tribe of her chose. However, one wonders if her fame would have ascended to the same height, without the (false?) claims about her actual ancestry. For those who care (and I don’t,) let the truth be known. Either way, one still has to wonder if would have made these claims, had she known that in approximately 10 years, the development of DNA testing could promptly refute or confirm her assertion.

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