Joining the ranks of Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen and Rush, Indigenous singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie is the latest artist to be honoured with a commemorative Canadian stamp.
Canada Post revealed the stamp celebrating Sainte-Marie at a small, in-person event at the National Arts Centre in Ottawa on Thursday.
“It feels like an embrace. It feels like it comes from more than only my own family or my own show-business people that I know — it feels like a national kind of thing,” Sainte-Marie told CBC News.
The image of the 80-year-old used on the stamp was taken by photographer Simon Fowler and was the cover of the singer’s single The Big Ones Get Away, from her 1992 album Coincidence and Likely Stories.
Stamp was in works for some time
The idea for the stamp had been in the works for some time, said Canada Post spokesperson Valérie Chartrand. It generally takes up to 1½ or two years to take a stamp from idea to issue date, she said.
For Chartrand, getting a chance to honour the five-time Juno Award winner and Order of Canada recipient in person made the wait worthwhile.
“She really is one of those Canadians that has contributed to the evolution of our country,” said Chartrand.
Acknowledging that “you get a platform for a few minutes,” Sainte-Marie said she hopes this honour provides an opportunity “to share some positivity and some ideas.”
“There are so many people, Indigenous and otherwise, who are really doing a lot of great work in Canada, and really throughout the world,” she said.
Connecting Canadians through her music
The lifelong activist and advocate for Indigenous, social and environmental issues is well-known for connecting with Canadians through her music, as well as through her long-standing educational and philanthropic efforts.
Sainte-Marie first made a name for herself during the folk boom in the early 1960s.
“I felt, even early in the ’60s, that if only people knew about just the poverty and the wretched dishonesty that goes on in exploiting Indigenous people, if only people knew, they would care and they’d do something about it.”
She became the first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award in 1983 in the original song category for Up Where We Belong, which she co-wrote for the film An Officer and a Gentleman.
Journalist, historian and author Nicholas Jennings describes Sainte-Marie as “a true original” and someone who has a style “unlike any other.”
“[Sainte-Marie] came on the scene and really started making waves as a performer, as a songwriter, in the early ’60s,” he said. “She’s now 80 — and she’s had this extraordinary career where she’s never stopped.”
Sainte-Marie is still performing and creating; she went back on the road for a couple of shows this summer.
“She’s one of those artists who never, never rests on her laurels. She’s always creating, always innovating.… That’s, I think, a true measure of greatness,” said Jennings.
“I’m a writer. I love to write,” said Sainte-Marie. Though she admits, these days, using her computer “is just plain easier.”
“I don’t use stamps very often anymore. I do like to send cards,” she said. “Now, when I have my own stamp, I guess I’m going to start sending postcards.”