I met one of my activist heros at the 2nd International Indigenous Women’s Health Conference held in Albuquerque last month. Buffy Sainte-Marie made history with her song—Universal Soldier—during the Vietnam War era. The song was actually about the individual responsibility we all share for war, for making, financing or sustaining wars. Her song won her fame in the anti-war movement, but as a Canadian Cree singer and songwriter, it also got her banned from many U.S. concert and educational venues. That song is what she is most known for—but Buffy remained an activist on many fronts for the next four decades using her music and poetry to educate and affect social change, and to work for the rights of indigenous people and their lands.
Buffy was a keynote speaker at the Indigenous Women’s Health Conference. I was there to represent Healthy Native Babies, a SIDS risk-reduction program sponsored by the National Institute of Health. I have been a co-designer and consultant for this project since its inception over eight years ago.
I had the great good fortune to hear Buffy speak and sing, and then to offer her a signed copy of my book as a gift for her years of activism on the planet. I figured she would love to read about the courageous midwives who have been relentlessly working and advocating for women’s rights during the same time period in which Buffy has been working for human rights. It was real honor and very exciting to stand next to Buffy Sainte-Marie and to send her home with my book!