I’m Gonna Be A Country Girl Again: A Love Letter About Buffy
“Every day is a reenactment of the creation story. We emerge from dense unspeakable material, through the shimmering power of dreaming stuff /…Once we abandoned ourselves for television, the box that separates the dreamer from the dreaming. It was as if we were stolen, put into a bag carried on the back of a whiteman who pretends to own the earth and the sky… The imagining needs praise as does any living thing. Stories and songs are like humans who when they laugh are indestructible.” From Joy Harjo’s poem, “A Postcolonial Tale”
I don’t remember exactly when or where I was when I first started listening to Buffy Sainte-Marie, but the discovery has been nothing less than empowering. At my root, I am a country girl, lover of nature, folk music enthusiast… but living in this country, and with the identities I hold, I recognize the deep healing that is necessary to connect back to these roots in a way not obscured by colonial and capitalistic violence. Her music reminds me to slow down and reflect, feel my feelings deeply and sort through it all. I am certain that Buffy understands what it means to pick up a guitar as a way to cope and feel the weight of your identities pull you closer to the warm Earth beneath your feet. Charged with deep care, she is well-versed in themes surrounding environmental justice, anti-colonialism, personal and communal healing, and love. Her music acknowledges the pain engrained in history that still trails, while leaving room to celebrate the natural, ever flowing beauty of life. It is a powerful convergence between art and politics anchored in both love and hope.
It is vital to recognize the true gift it is to have an Indigenous woman share her knowledge and art in a space dominated by white men, she truly paved the way for Indigenous narratives to be heard and uplifted. In “There is a River in Me: Theory from Life,”author, Diane Milion, discusses how crucial Indigenous storytelling is by stating, “They are powerful because they are engaged in the articulations that interpret who we are in the discursive relations of our times. We engage in questioning and reformulating those stories that account for the relations of power in our present.” (Milion 33). Building upon this point Milion later says, “…in the end you must claim your own stories and your own affective power in dreaming and (re)visioning the stories that change but are indestructible, such as laughter’s power transforms us to joy.” (Milion 38). Buffy’s music directly practices this paradigm and shifts the embodiment of history away from the point of view of oppressors. Connecting back to the themes in BOTM, Braiding Sweetgrass, Buffy’s music is such a direct and genuine resistance of western / colonial boundaries and shows how restorative it can be to honor and understand your roots. As a sort of ode to biophilia, both artists teach how the key to resiliency is mirrored to us daily through the many functions of nature and the narratives we hold near our hearts. I am grateful to Buffy for reminding me to dream big and transform my pain into a powerful tool for change and rebellion.
Source: Million, Dian. “There Is A River in Me: Theory From Life,” in Theorizing Native Studies, Andrea Smith and Audra Simpson, eds., Durham: Duke University Press, 2014
Attached is a playlist I have curated of my favorite Buffy Sainte-Marie songs—in no particular order— that inspire me and/or leave me feeling held!
Additional media on Buffy Sainte-Marie: