Monday, December 04, 2023

Happy Birthday, Mum!

In Australia today my Mum celebrates her 85th birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mum!

I’ve said it many times before but it’s definitely worth repeating: My brothers and I are very fortunate to have Margaret Anne Bayly (née Sparkes) as our mother. She is a beautiful, wise and strong woman who extends care, kindness and love to everyone she encounters.

I love you, Mum, and can’t thank you enough for who you are and for all you continue to be and give to me, my brothers, our family, and so many others whose lives are fortunate enough to be touched by yours. Wishing you the happiest of birthdays, and looking forward to April of next year and my next visit home! 💗

Above: Mum at Rainbow Beach in Bonny Hills, a quiet little town just south of Port Macquarie, Australia – Saturday, April 1, 2023.

In celebrating Mum’s birthday over the years at The Wild Reed, I’ve shared quite a number of photos from the Bayly family archives. In fact, I’ve pretty much exhausted my supply. So if you’d like to take a wonderful “trip down memory lane,” as they say, then click on any of the links below. You won’t be disappointed!

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Thanks, Mum!
Happy Birthday, Mum (2018)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2017)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2015)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2014)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2013)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2011)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2010)
Happy Birthday, Mum (2009)
Congratulations, Mum and Dad!
Catholic Rainbow (Australian) Parents
Remembering and Celebrating Dad

Opening image: With Mum in Forster, New South Wales, Australia – April 2, 2023.

Sunday, December 03, 2023

A Threshold Season

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, the liturgical season in the Christian tradition about which Jan Richardson writes the following in her book, Through the Advent Door: Entering a Contemplative Christmas.


These Advent days can be disorienting in the ways that they call us not only to remember the past but also to anticipate the future and attend the present. Yet this is the work of the threshold, and Advent is a threshold season, a liminal place in the calendar, an in-between time of preparation and expectation.

Thresholds offer a heady mix of possibility and peril. They are wildly unpredictable, they stir up questions, they call us to live with uncertainty, they compel us to develop skills at attending to the present even as we discern the future.

Ultimately, they are places of initiation, taking us deeper into God and into the person God has created us to be. . . . To follow God does not always mean traveling with certainty about where God will lead us; rather, following God calls us to be present to the place where we are, for that is the very place where God shows us.

In these Advent days, how do you live within the tension of past, present, and future?

What role does each of these play in your life and in your imagination?

Which one are you living in the most these days?

How do you experience God in the threshold spaces, the in-between times in your life?

What gifts and challenges do the threshold offer, and what skills do they call forth?

What new place and way of being might God be initiating you into in this Advent season?

What way is God making within and through you?

What way are you making for God?

Jan Richardson
Excerpted from Through the Advent Door:
Entering a Contemplative Christmas

Wanton Gospeller Press, 2011

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Advent: The Season of Blessed Paradox
Advent: Renewing Our Connection to the Sacred
An Advent Prayer
Advent: A “ChristoPagan” Perspective
Something Extraordinary . . . Again
Active Waiting: A Radical Attitude Toward Life
No Other Time, No Other Place
Guidelines for the Advent of a Universal Mysticism: An Introduction | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8
Christmastide Approaches
Somewhere In Between

Images: Minnehaha Creek, Minneapolis, MN – Saturday, December 2, 2023. (Photos: Michael J. Bayly)

Saaxiib Qurux Badan

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – November 19, 2023
October Afternoon
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – October 1, 2023
September Garden
Like a Lotus Flower
In the Stillness and Silence of This Present Moment
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – June 4, 2023
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – February 14, 2023
Allow Everything to Rest Right Now
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – January 16, 2023
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – January 4, 2023
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – August 25, 2022
I Need Do Nothing . . . I Am Open to the Living Light
When Sorrow Comes
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – November 25, 2021
The Beauty and Challenge of Being Present in the Moment
A Sacred Pause
Just One Wish
Blue Yonder
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – June 29, 2021
What We Crave
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – January 30, 2021
November Musings
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – November 18, 2020
Today I Will Be Still
The Landscape Is a Mirror
Adnan in Morning Light
Somalia Bound
Adnan . . . Amidst Mississippi Reflections and Forest Green
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – April 16, 2019
Adnan . . . With Sunset Reflections and Jet Trail
Saaxiib Qurux Badan – March 29, 2019

Image: Saaxiib Qurux Badan (“Beautiful Friend”), St. Paul, MN – Michael J. Bayly (12/3/23).

Saturday, December 02, 2023

Callas Centenary

Today is the 100th anniversary of the birth of Maria Callas (1923-1977).

Born in Manhattan, New York City, to Greek immigrant parents, Maria received her musical education in Greece at age 13 before establishing her career in Italy. Today she is celebrated as one of the twentieth-century’s most renowned and influential sopranos.

To mark the centenary of Callas’s birth I share today excerpts from Zachary Woolfe’s November 27 New York Times article, “Maria Callas Was Opera’s Defining Diva. She Still Is.”

These excerpts from Woolfe’s insightful article are accompanied by some of my favorite images of Maria. Enjoy!


Her voice is the shadow that remains after shock, after anger: the sound of a woman realizing she has nothing left to live for.

It is the second act of Verdi’s opera La Traviata. Violetta and Alfredo, a prostitute and a wealthy young man, have fallen madly in love. But his father confronts her, demanding she drop the disreputable affair to salvage the marriage prospects of Alfredo’s sister.

For Violetta, it is an unbearable sacrifice, but she’ll do it. “Dite alla giovine,” she sings, in a broken murmur: Tell your daughter that I will abandon the one good thing I have, for her sake.

Singing that passage on May 28, 1955, at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the soprano Maria Callas reached the phrase about how “bella e pura” Alfredo’s sister is – how beautiful and pure – and inserted the tiniest breath before “pura.” It’s a barely noticeable silence, but within it is a black hole of resignation. Callas’s split-second pause achingly suggests Violetta knows that if she, too, were pure, her happiness would not be expendable.

Tiny details like this are how Callas – who would have turned 100 on December 2 – gave opera’s over-the-top melodramas a startling sense of reality, and her characters the psychological depth and nuance of actual people. Tiny details like this, captured on hundreds of recordings, are how this most mythical of singers has stubbornly resisted drifting entirely into myth.

The defining diva of the 20th century, Callas is not so far from us in some ways; a normal life span would have brought her well into the 21st. Those many recordings – endlessly remastered, repackaged and rereleased – have kept her in our ears, the benchmark of what is possible in opera, musically and emotionally. Her dramatic art and dramatic life, often intertwined, have made her an enduring cultural touchstone: a coolly glamorous stare in Apple ads and the inspiration for plays (including a Tony Award winner), performances by Marina Abramovic (bad) and Monica Bellucci (worse), a coming film starring Angelina Jolie (we’ll see), even a hologram tour (sigh).

Yet Callas can also seem like a figure of faraway history. Her lonely death was back in 1977, when she was just 53 – and by then, her days of true performing glory were almost 20 years behind her. The number of people who saw her live, particularly in staged opera, is dwindling, and her short career was just early enough that precious little of it was filmed.

So she has been for decades, for most of us, a creation of still images and audio. We have to use those tools to conjure what her performances were like, to complete them.

But when you hear her, this is surprisingly easy. You listen to that “Dite alla giovine” and immediately see, in her voice, the blankness of her face, the mouth barely moving and the rest a mask of surrender, the shoulders collapsed.

. . . In her performances, there was never a sense of opera as mere entertainment, a night out with pretty music. She took every note seriously, where others fudged and coasted; she was refined where others were vulgar. In her powerfully expressive voice and magnetic presence, opera really, truly mattered. . . . Opera in the modern era is at its core an exhumation of the past, a literal revival. Callas is the essential singer – she is opera – not because of her instrument or her acting, but because, with a combination of born intuition and carefully acquired skill, she imagined and reconstructed a vanished world.

She took on a whole repertory – the bel canto of the early 19th century, notably operas of Donizetti, Bellini and Rossini – that had been ignored or distorted for generations. And she approached pieces that had never left the public, like La Traviata, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor and Bellini’s Norma, as if they were being done for the first time.

Her voice, matchlessly articulate and often quite beautiful but also idiosyncratic and fragile didn’t hold out too long, and her career was brief; there was maybe a decade of prime singing, largely in the 1950s. By the time she was 40, it was essentially over.

Brief – and unbelievably dense and tumultuous. Who knows the root of Callas’s restlessness, her insane commitment, her ferocity, her rivalries? There was clearly a deeply ingrained sense of unworthiness that you could trace back to her difficult childhood, with a mother who openly preferred her prettier sister. Self-buttressing, self-hating, self-defeating, Callas needed the stage desperately, and yet she always needed to be pushed onto it.

Her loss of some five or six dozen pounds in the early ’50s, slimming into one of the century’s most stylish women, made news, as did her dropping out midway through a “Norma” in Rome in 1958. The year before, she had pleaded illness before missing a performance of Bellini’s La Sonnambula in Edinburgh, then was photographed at a swank party in Venice. A lifetime later, it all seems so petty, but the venom that greeted these cancellations – hard to imagine today – helped usher in the end of Callas’s career.

She left her husband for the shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis, largely giving up performing in the process. When Onassis eventually married Jackie Kennedy instead, Callas was alone and bereft, without either the vocation that had given her purpose or the man who had replaced it. Living mostly in seclusion, though always harboring hopes of returning to the stage, she became for many a kind of saint or martyr, an embodiment of the hopelessly loving, direly abandoned characters she had played.

“Until the end,” a friend said, “she continued her vocal exercises.”

As Callas’s life fades ever further into the distance, her voice is more and more what we are left with. “Generally, I upset people the first time they hear me,” she told a biographer, “but I am usually able to convince them of what I am doing.”

To read Zachary Woolfe’s article, “Maria Callas Was Opera’s Defining Diva. She Still Is,” in its entirety, click here.

To hear Maria Callas sing, click here,
here, and here.

Related Off-site Links:
Maria Callas: The Soprano of the Century – Tom Huizenga (NPR News, December 2, 2023).
Enduring Greatness: Five Essential Maria Callas Recordings on Her Centenary – Martin Kettle (The Guardian, November 30, 2023).
Maria Callas: More Than a Myth – Jay Nordlinger (The National Review, November 29, 2023).
“They’ll See She Was Extraordinary”: Callas Centenary Inspires New Generation to Find the Real Maria – Vanessa Thorpe (The Guardian, November 19, 2023).
A Century After Her Birth, Opera Great Maria Callas is Honored with a New Museum in Greece – Derek Gatopoulos (AP News, October 26, 2023).

For more of Maria Callas at The Wild Reed, see:
“Better Than Callas We Will Never See”
Remembering Maria . . . Celebrating Callas
Maria by Callas: “Revelatory, Unprecedented, and Authoritative”
A Queer Aria
Re-Visioning Callas
Remembering Callas
Callas Went Away
Maria Callas – "Ava Maria"
Callas Remembered
The Impossible Desire of Pier Paolo Pasolini
Europe 2005 – Part 6: Paris

Images: Photographers unknown.

Sunday, November 26, 2023

The King of Love My Shepherd Is

Artwork: Vicki Shuck

This morning I gave the homily at Spirit Catholic Community (formerly Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community) in Minneapolis.

It had been twelve years since I last delivered a homily. And, yes, it felt good to be able to do so again. Following is what I shared.


The King of Love My Shepherd Is

A Homily by Michael J. Bayly
The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ,
King of the Universe

Spirit Catholic Community
November 26, 2023

First Reading: Ezekiel 34: 11-12, 15-17
Second Reading: 1 Corinthians 15: 20-26, 28
Gospel: Matthew 25: 31-46

Good morning. . . . My name is Michael Bayly and it is a great honor to be here with you all and share some thoughts and perspectives on our readings for today. I appreciate the invitation to do so, and hope I will do justice to both the readings and the long and storied history of Spirit community members sharing and “breaking open the word.”

The Roman Church’s designated name for today, this last Sunday of Ordinary Time, is quite the mouthful: The Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.

Now, like many within our community I balk at titles such as “Lord” and “King” and their connotations of imperialism, hierarchy and institutionalized oppression – all of which, it seems to many of us, are the antithesis of the egalitarian message and example of Jesus of Nazareth. Our community even goes so far as to substitute the word “kindom” for “kingdom” in an effort to distance ourselves from these connotations and to center ourselves instead in what we recognize and celebrate as the radical hospitality and inclusiveness of Jesus.

I trust that these qualities of Jesus supersede the themes of judgment and condemnation that, for whatever reason, found their way into the writings of the early church.

So where did today’s theme of Jesus as King of the Universe come from? Well, even though various royal titles have been attributed to Jesus since the time of the early church, it was only relatively recently, in 1925, that Pope Pius XI dedicated this Sunday to “Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe.” At first, this might seem like an irrelevant factoid. But this date actually tells us much about the rationale behind this particular action of the Vatican.

Nineteen-twenty-five was just seven years after the end of the First World War, a conflict that saw the overthrow of no less than three royal houses of Europe. In Germany, Austria-Hungary and Russia, imperial empires and their autocratic rulers were deposed.

These were all monarchs long held to have been ordained by God to rule. They represented the centuries-old tradition of the divine right of kings, a tradition reflected in the structure of the papacy. The earthly order of sovereignty of these kings, kaisers, emperors and tsars was believed to mirror the heavenly order of God’s sovereignty. Yet in 1918 they were all swept away by a rising tide of what we would now call “people power,” a power that in the aftermath of World War One was in some cases expressed by democracy but in other cases by regimes just as autocratic and despotic as the ones they had deposed.

It’s not surprising then that the Roman Church, itself modeled on the imperial order of the Roman empire, and thus hostile to democracy, would wish to reassert the primacy of kingship both in heaven and on earth by declaring Jesus as King – and “King of the Universe,” no less.

To its credit, the Vatican, in declaring Christ “King of the Universe,” was also attempting to counter the rise of fascism in 1920s Europe – in Italy especially. As Allison Connelly, a self-identifying queer Catholic points out, the feast of Christ the King serves as “a reminder to people of good faith that nationalism and fascism are not our moral authorities,” and that that such ideologies should not control “the world’s narrative.”

Still, the emphasis on kingship remains problematic for many. But here’s the thing I find fascinating – and rather subversive. Although today’s readings lift up the kingly characteristics of judgment and punishment, they also present to us the image of the shepherd, one of the lowliest figures in biblical times and indeed throughout history, and one that is not generally associated with imperial rule. I like to think that whoever selected the readings for today was quietly yet purposely doing their best to make an important point, one that involves the lifting up of the lowly shepherd as an alternative model of leadership to that of an absolute monarch.

It reminds me of Jesus’ own subversive actions on Palm Sunday when, in an effort to turn upside down the residents of Jerusalem’s notion of kingship, chose to enter the city on a donkey. Similarly, the writers of the resurrection narratives subversively have Mary Magdalene mistake the risen Jesus for a gardener; not the owner of the garden but a lowly gardener, a laborer.

The message I get from all of this is that Jesus is our brother, one who calls us to share in his Christic level of awareness and compassion, and thus follow him in the work of shepherding our thoughts and actions into an embodied life that ensures all are taken care of materially, emotionally and spiritually.

It’s a taking care of that in the past an ideal king or queen would have been expected to do for their subjects. Yet now in this vision I’m proposing, we’re all called to be kingly and queenly in this way.

Such an embodied life of care and justice is one that I trust we are called to live both individually and communally.

Author Marianne Williamson has written that we’re living in a “silent emergency of uncaring times” where unnecessary human suffering is being normalized. “No amount of private charity,” Williamson writes, “can compensate for a basic lack of social justice.”

Here at Spirit, we have long understood this, and our history as a community is defined by efforts, programs and endeavors that seek to ignite and embody works of care, justice and peace. And what inspires and sustains such work? It is, quite simply, love.

Which brings me to my concluding thought. When preparing this homily I took a break one afternoon last weekend and perused the bargain CD shelves of Half Priced Books. A title caught my eye: Be Still My Soul. It’s a collection of centuries-old hymns recorded by Erin Bode, including, I discovered, one that puts Psalm 23 to music.

Interestingly – dare I say, subversively – the title and first line of this particular interpretation of Psalm 23 is not “The Lord Is My Shepherd” but rather, “The King of Love My Shepherd Is.”

Notice that the actual subject of this poetically-written phrase is not the king but the shepherd. It’s saying “My Shepherd is the King of Love.” The shepherd and their work come first, and it’s this work of care and gathering and, by extension, our work of justice-making and peace-building, that makes the shepherd a king (or queen) of love.

The King of Love My Shepherd Is. . . . Friends, let us carry this beautiful expression, thought and image into our day and our week, as we continue to strive to embody lives of care and justice, both individually and communally.

May it be so.

– Michael J. Bayly
Spirit Catholic Community
November 26, 2023

Previous Homilies:
The Soul of a Dancer – Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community, May 22, 2011.
Liberated to Be Together – Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community, October 4, 2009.
"More Lovely Than the Dawn": God as Divine Lover – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, August 30, 2009.
Dispatches from the Periphery – Spirit of St. Stephen’s Catholic Community, October 5, 2008.
Somewhere In Between – St. Joan of Arc Catholic Church, January 15, 2006.
The Harvest Within the Heart – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, July 17, 2005.
Disarming the Weapons Within – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, November 29, 2004.
Soul Deep – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, June 20, 2004.
Something We Dare Call Hope – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, November 9, 2003.
On the Road with Punk Rockers and Homeless Mothers – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, October 19, 2003.
Praying for George W. Bush – Spirit of the Lakes United Church of Christ, January 2003.
What We Learn From the Story of the Magi – St. Stephen’s Catholic Church, January 2, 2000.

See also the previous Wild Reed posts:
The Model of Leadership Offered by Jesus: “More Like the Gardener Than the Owner of the Garden”
Jesus Our Guide to Mystical Love – Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Revolution and Mysticism
Jesus: Path-Blazer of Radical Transformation
Adam Eriksen on the Subversive Politics of Palm Sunday
Palm Sunday: “A Planned Political Demonstration”
Why Jesus is My Man

For more on Spirit Catholic Community, see the following chronologically-ordered posts:
The Shrinking Catholic Tent (2008)
A Profound and Devastating Loss
All You Holy Men and Women
A Catholic “Crisis and Opportunity” in South Minneapolis (2009)
Alive and Well . . . and Flourishing
The Challenge of Eucharist (2011)
A Big Gay “Yay!” for the Catholics (2012)
Troubling the Waters: Brad R. Braxton on Baptism and Black Lives Matter (2021)

Images 1 and 3: Vicki Shuck.
Image 2: Artist unknown.
Image 4: Spirit Catholic Community.

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Buffy Sainte-Marie: “It Is Time for Me to Shine a Light on the Truth, My Truth”

Image: Arthur Mola/Invision/AP (2022)

For weeks now I've been trying to get my head (and heart) around the doubts being very publicly cast against the Indigenous ancestry of singer-songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie.

As regulars readers will know, I’ve long admired Buffy and enjoyed – and been inspired by – her music and activism. I even chose her song “It’s My Way” as my theme song when I turned 50 in 2015.

Left: With Buffy after her August 27, 2016 performance in Bayfield, Wisconsin.

I especially appreciate how Buffy seamlessly blends her art, social activism and educational endeavors. I’ve seen her four times in concert, and had the privilege of meeting and talking with her on three of these occasions. She’s creative, articulate, warm, and funny – a very human human being. In many ways I aspire to live a life that can be described as one reviewer described Buffy's groundbreaking 1969 album Illuminations – as “genuinely mysterious . . . subversive and strange.”

Yet Buffy's own life and journey has now, for many people, become a little too strange – uncomfortably challenging, in fact; as recent headlines of news articles and opinion pieces illustrate.

Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Indigenous Identity Questioned in New Report; Oscar-Winning Songwriter Calls Allegations ‘Traumatic’ and ‘Deeply Hurtful’

CBC Releases Report Questioning Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Claims to Indigenous Heritage

Canada’s Most Prominent Indigenous Icon Might Not Be Indigenous

Buffy Sainte-Marie Indigenous Roots Controversy Rocks Canada First Nations

I Loved Buffy Sainte-Marie. Now, Like Many Indigenous People, I Feel Betrayed by Her

The Supposed Unmasking of Buffy Sainte-Marie Doesn’t Bring Vindication — Only More Hurt

Buffy Sainte Marie Is an Icon of Mythic Proportions. There’s Nothing Simple About Questioning Her Origins

Buffy Sainte-Marie Denies Allegations She Misled Public About Indigenous Ancestry

I’ve been feeling the need to respond to this controversy, especially given my oft-stated admiration for Buffy and her work, but have struggled with how and when to do so.

Up until today, Buffy herself has remained silent about the release of the Canadian Bradcasting Corporation’s “bombshell” investigation, one that was initiated by “alleged pretendian” list creator Jacqueline Keeler after she saw “red flags” in Buffy’s story as presented in last year’s award-winning documentary, Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On. Many now see the CBC documentary as convincingly concluding that Buffy fabricated her story of Indigenous ancestry. Others – both Indigenous and non-Indigenous – are not so convinced. In a video posted on her social media platforms ahead of the broadcasting of the CBC documentary, Buffy stated that she is uncertain of her biological heritage and affirmed her formal adoption into, and identification with the Cree nation.

Before sharing Buffy’s more recent response to the CBC’s allegations and conclusions, I think the words of the late actor Peter Ustinov are worth considering, especially in light of those who are being critical of Buffy’s insistence on speaking her truth as opposed to solely “the truth.”

I’ve always been very much opposed to the courts of law where you are asked to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, because I think that’s impossible. If I was forced to do that, I should refuse because I’m willing to tell my truth, but I can’t guarantee that it’s the whole truth, and certainly not that it’s nothing but the truth. The truth is like a chandelier in the courtroom, which everybody sees, but from a different angle – because they’re different people and can’t occupy the same seat.

I also think musician David Rovics’ thoughts on the current controversy concerning Buffy are both insightful and compassionate.

In this era so characterized by black-and-white, all-or-nothing thinking, where people are either virtuous or villainous, I think it's good to take a step back and look at the big picture, which, for me, necessitates holding contradictory things to be true at the same time.

With all this in heart and mind, here is Buffy Sainte Marie’s response to the CBC documentary questioning her Indigenous roots. (NOTE: The CBC documentary is not the documentary Buffy refers to in the opening paragraph of her response. She’s referencing last year’s documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On.)


I want to begin by thanking the International Academy of Television Arts & Sciences for the honour [awarded to the makers of Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On]. As one of the most prestigious awards in the global entertainment industry, it is a true recognition of the outstanding team who worked on my story – the true story of my life.

I’ve always believed it takes rain and sunshine to bring a rainbow. This great honour does indeed come after the rain – as I continue to absorb and process the recent attack on my character, life and legacy. It’s a deep wound to my inner child, but as an 82-year-old now, I’m strong – and these allegations do not shake me.

Now it is time for me to shine a light on the truth, my truth.

I have never lied about my identity. The more I’ve known, the more I’ve pieced together a sense of self from what information has been available to me.

What I know about my Indigenous ancestry I learned from my growing up mother, who was of Mi’kmaq heritage, and my own research later in life. My mother told me that I was adopted and that I was Native, but there was no documentation as was common for Indigenous children at the time.

When I grew up, I was adopted into a Cree family by Emile Piapot (son of Chief Piapot, Treaty 4 Adhesion signatory), and Clara Starblanket Piapot (daughter of Chief Starblanket, Treaty 4 signatory), in accordance with Cree law and customs. They were kind, loving, and proud to claim me as their own. I love my Piapot family and am so lucky to have them in my life.

I have always struggled to answer questions about who I am. For decades, I tried to find my birth parents and information about my background. Through that research what became clear, and what I’ve always been honest about: I don’t know where I’m from or who my birth parents are, and I will never know. Which is why, to be questioned in this way is painful, both for me, and for my two families I love so dearly.

My Indigenous identity is rooted in a deep connection to a community which has had a profound role in shaping my life and my work. For my entire life, I have championed Indigenous, and Native American causes when nobody else would, or had the platform to do so. I am proud to have been able to travel the world, sharing Indigenous stories. I have always tried to bridge gaps between communities and educate people to live in love and kindness.

This is my truth. And while there are many things I do not know; I have been proud to share my story – as I know it – throughout my life.

The attack on my character is full of mistakes and omissions. While I will not stoop to respond to every false allegation, I feel it is important to clarify two things.

First, the central proof used to question my identity is a story fabricated by my abuser and repeated by two members of my estranged family I don’t even know. This has been incredibly re-traumatizing for me and unfair to all involved. It hurts me deeply to discover that my estranged family grew up scared of me and thinking these lies because of a letter I sent intended to protect me from further abuse from my brother. I want to be clear, I do not blame them. They, of course, want to believe their father. I have evidence I was sexually abused by my brother, but I can’t tolerate discomforting his children even more. I wish them only the best and hope they move forward from this and find peace, as I am trying to do.

The second is my “birth certificate”. As many Indigenous people know, and the National Sixties Scoop Healing Foundation of Canada has stated, it was common for birth certificates of Indian children to be “created” by western governments after they were adopted or taken away from their families. So it was quite shocking to me to hear a city clerk say she had 100% confidence in its authenticity. I have never known if my birth certificate was real. I have used it because it was the only document I’ve had my whole life. I’ve heard from countless people with similar stories – who do not know where they are from and feel victimized by these allegations and one-sided reporting as I do.

Most importantly, this is my life – I am not a piece of paper. I am a product of both my families and all my experiences in this world.

If you are a pure-blood documented something, I’m glad for you. It’s awesome and beautiful to hear you speak your lineage, history and genealogy. But even if your documentation says you’re racially pure, you might miss the point. Being an “Indian” has little to do with sperm tracking and colonial record keeping: It has to do with community, culture, knowledge, teachings, who claims you, who you love, who loves you, and who’s your family.

With respect and love.

Buffy Sainte-Marie

. . . In every dream I can smell the sweetgrass burning
And in my heart I can hear the drum
And hear the singers soaring
And see the jingle dancers
And still this love goes on and on
Still this love goes on

– “Still This Love Goes On
by Buffy Sainte-Marie
(from her 2008 album,
Running for the Drum)

Related Off-site Links:
Buffy Sainte-Marie Says CBC Investigation Into Ancestry Includes Fabricated Evidence: “These Allegations Do Not Shake Me” – Christy Piña (The Hollywood Reporter, November 23, 2023).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Pushes Back Against CBC Investigation Contradicting Claims to Indigenous Ancestry – Kelly Geraldine Malone (The Canadian Press, November 23, 2023).
Buffy Sainte-Marie Says CBC Investigation Into Ancestry Includes Fabrications
– Jessica Wang (Entertainment Weekly, November 23, 2023).
“I Have Never Lied”: Buffy Sainte-Marie Pushes Back On Probe Into Indigenous Ancestry – Kelby Vera (The Huffington Post, November 25, 2023).
What’s the Point of “Pretendian” Investigations? – Michelle Cyca (The Walrus, November 20, 2023).
The Problem With Labelling People “Pretendians” – Drew Lafond (The Globe and Mail, May 28, 2022).
Buffy Saint-Marie Documentary, Carry It On, Wins International Emmy AwardCBC News (November 20, 2023).
Discovering Buffy – David Rovics (This Week With David Rovics, November 6, 2023).
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Adoption by Indigenous People Vital – Doug Cuthand (The Star Pheonix, November 4, 2023).
Anishinaabe Singer Says Contested Ancestry of Buffy Sainte-Marie “Doesn’t Take Away the Inspiration”CBC News (October 31, 2023).
Two Indigenous Artists React to the Questions Raised About Buffy Sainte-Marie’s AncestryCBC Arts (October 30, 2023).
Revelations About Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Ancestry Are Having a Devastating Impact on Indigenous Communities Across Canada – Lori Campbell (The Conversation, October 29, 2023).
“We Claim Her, End of Story”: Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Piapot Family Hurt by Allegations – Haley Lewis and Melissa Ridgen (Global News, October 27, 2023).

Image: Matt Barnes (2015)

For The Wild Reed’s special series of posts leading-up to the November 10, 2017 release of Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Medicine Songs, see:
For Acclaimed Songwriter, Activist and Humanitarian Buffy Sainte-Marie, the World is Always Ripening
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “I’m Creative Anywhere”
Buffy Sainte-Marie Headlines SummerStage Festival in NYC’s Central Park
Buffy Sainte-Marie, “One of the Best Performers Out Touring Today”
The Music of Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Uprooting the Sources of Disenfranchisement”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Things Do Change and Things Do Get Better”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Medicine Songs

For The Wild Reed’s special series of posts leading-up to the May 12, 2015 release of Buffy’s award-winning album, Power in the Blood, see:
Buffy Sainte-Marie and That “Human-Being Magic”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Lesson from the Cutting Edge: “Go Where You Must to Grow”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “Sometimes You Have to Be Content to Plant Good Seeds and Be Patient”
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s Power in the Blood

For more of Buffy Sainte-Marie at The Wild Reed, see:
David Rovics: The “Big Picture” of the Buffy Sainte-Marie Controversy “Necessitates Holding Contradictory Things to Be True at the Same Time”
A Music Legend Visits the North Country: Buffy Sainte-Marie in Minnesota and Wisconsin – August 2016
Buffy Sainte-Marie on Indigenous Peoples’ Day: “There’s an Awful Lot of Work Yet to Be Done”
Buffy Sainte-Marie: The Pope’s Apology Is “Just the Beginning”
Sweet America
Carrying It On . . . Into the New Year
Buffy Sainte-Marie’s “America the Beautiful”
Two Exceptional Singers Take a Chance on the “Spirit of the Wind”
Photo of the Day – January 21, 2017
Buffy Sainte-Marie Wins 2015 Polaris Music Prize
Congratulations, Buffy
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2016)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2018)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2019)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2020)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2021)
Happy Birthday, Buffy! (2023)
Actually, There’s No Question About It
For Buffy Sainte-Marie, a Well-Deserved Honor
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Singing It and Praying It; Living It and Saying It
Buffy Sainte-Marie: Still Singing with Spirit, Joy, and Passion
Something Special for Indigenous Peoples Day
Buffy Sainte-Marie: “The Big Ones Get Away”