Buffy Sainte-Maries urges patience, empathy on road to reconciliation

Buffy Saint-Marie was presented with an honorary doctorate degree from Dalhousie University on Tuesday, April 17. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Andrew Vaughan

Indigenous-rights activist Buffy Sainte-Marie says all Canadians – Indigenous and not – must show empathy and patience as they grapple with a legacy of racism she has been fighting much of her life.

The award-winning singer-songwriter told an audience in Halifax that the path to reconciliation between the country’s Aboriginal and non-Indigenous population is through teaching others about injustice in a compassionate and non-combative way.

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Saint-Marie issued the appeal before being presented with an honorary doctorate degree from Dalhousie University on Tuesday.

The singer and educator says it is the job of Indigenous people “to teach, not to scold” others about Canada’s painful history of Aboriginal relations.

Sainte-Marie told the crowd that Indigenous people need to understand that much of “settler racism has to do with not knowing,” something she suggested is changing with a growing awareness of Aboriginal issues.

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Sainte-Marie, who was born on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation reserve in Saskatchewan, gained fame for her folk music in the 1960s that addressed issues plaguing Indigenous people including lack of access to education, civil rights and social genocide.

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