The recent story about Buffy Sainte Marie’s identity has rocked Indigenous peoples across the country. After it aired, calls for the icon’s awards to be rescinded rang out through social media.
Rhonda Head is an award-winning opera singer from Opaskwayak Cree Nation in northern Manitoba.
Head told Nation to Nation host Annette Francis that the story by the Fifth Estate brought tears to her eyes, and it took a few days to process the information.
“She won awards that were an accolade, that were meant for Indigenous musicians and that’s what really hurts me the most,” she said. “I would like to see that her awards be taken away forever, for her not being truthful and taking up space.”
Sainte Marie’s claims of adoption through the Sixties Scoop sparked debate as well.
Some say that a customary adoption does not make you Indigenous – but according to Damien Lee, who was adopted as a baby into Fort William First Nation in northern Ontario – it is a legitimate basis of Indigenous citizenship.
Lee, who holds a PhD in Indigenous studies and is an associate professor at Toronto Metropolitan University, said he is non-Indigenous but identifies as Anishinaabe.
“I’m claimed as such and my community embraces me as such and technically, I don’t have Indian Status, but I am a member of Fort William,” he said.
Lee also referred to adoption as a wild card, where people who want to pretend to be indigenous make up adoption stories and sneak under the radar.
Sainte Marie said she was adopted into a Cree family as an adult 60 years ago. Lee said that can be just as legitimate, but in Sainte-Marie’s case truth telling is really critical.
“We see this in other cases of alleged “pretendianism” as well, where adoption comes up, it’s not always clear if the truth is being told,” said Lee.
Finally, Evelyn Korkmaz is part of a group of residential school survivors from the Fort Albany Residential School, who in 2018, she helped form the Indian Clergy Abuse group.
The group made a trip to Rome last month to attempt to ask the Pope to help stop clergy abuse.
“This year we went to ask the Pope, through the media, to implement zero tolerance for clergy, sexual abuse, as well as zero tolerance for cover-ups,” she said. “We want him to implement it into the canon law, so that these clergy predators do not, you know, get shuffled around to a different location or, you know, to re-offend again.”
Korkmaz said that they will continue to pressure the Pope.
“This is not just happening here in Canada. We represent twenty-eight countries and five continents so it’s a big, big issue,” she said. “So if the pressure is on from all around the world eventually, you know, the Vatican will do something because it would have no choice.”