Unpacking the Truth: Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Story and the 60s Scoop Legacy
- Ben Borne | November 21, 2023
In front of my students in my Indigenous Business in Canada course at the University of Saskatchewan, I asked a simple question: “Has anyone been watching the news lately? What’s the big story?”
The room fell into a dead silence, with eyes darting around. To break the awkwardness, I quickly added a hint: Buffy Sainte-Marie.
The silence that followed was understandable.
Perhaps my students were too young to understand the reference or to know who Buffy Sainte-Marie is. And that’s okay. However, the story I was referring to is significant for this class because it contributes to the larger narrative we’ve been exploring throughout the semester.
At the beginning of the course, we dedicated a lecture to unpacking the unhelpful narratives of First Nations people in the media and how both fictional and non-fictional accounts can contribute to myths and misconceptions about Indigenous people in Canada.
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s story, as it unfolds in the media, is unique and shouldn’t be lumped in with every other “Pretendian” story we’ve heard. It has nuance and stands apart from the rest.
As the dust settles on this topic and it goes through its usual news cycle, an elephant sits on the dance floor between the CBC and Sainte-Marie.
This is the very real story of the ‘60s Scoop and the stories of First Nations, Métis, and Inuit babies who were adopted into the homes of settler families as part of an effort to advance colonial policies in Canada.
Some suggest Sainte-Marie’s story appropriates the ‘60s Scoop narrative, and whether this is true or not should be left to the court of public opinion.
The reality, however, is that this story reopens old wounds for those who were victims of the systemic removal from their homes, communities, and culture through the infamous Adopt Indian Metis (AIM) program.
I can relate to this on a personal level because my mom was one of the ‘60s Scoop babies.
Whenever a story like this emerges, I have a little identity crisis.
Truthfully, I’ve never fully understood where I belong. I’ve grappled with the concept of what it means to be First Nations, even though I lack a deep connection to my culture. I do have a card with a number issued to me by Indigenous Service Canada, but what does that really mean?
I’ve been fortunate enough to build what I call a technical understanding of my own culture.
I know enough to excel in my work in communications and training. I can articulate my ideas and understandings to leaders, serving as a bridge builder. But sometimes, even that feels a bit fake, like I’m an imposter.
In what world is it acceptable for anyone to feel like an imposter in their own skin?
I’ve had the privilege of meeting other children of ‘60s Scoop babies, and we share a common story.
We wrestle with the same questions and are on a journey to reclaim our identity, understanding that our current reality is also what it means to be a First Nations person in Canada.
The story of Buffy Sainte-Marie is difficult for many to digest, but there is a bigger story to be told, and I hope we can all see that.
While she claims a story of adoption for herself, there are many of us who have been thrust into this narrative by systems beyond our control.
There are many truths to the story of Buffy Sainte-Marie, but not all of them belong to her. Some belong to those who feel like outsiders in their own cultures – ‘60s Scoop babies and their children.