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‘I have truly loved every year of my life.’ Photograph: Colin McConnell/Toronto Star
More than 50 years after your first album, you are back with a new one, Power in the Blood. Morrissey asked you to tour with him this year and you’re getting great reviews. How do you explain your longevity?
I didn’t get into the music business because somebody made me take piano lessons, you know. I got into music because I was a natural writer and had a lot of curiosity about sound. And in the 1960s there was an open window into what people call the music business. It’s really been a lot of luck. Actually, when I first got famous in the 60s, I got a little too famous and in order to escape showbusiness I moved to Hawaii. I’ve always had that attitude about my career: it’s something that I do but it’s not my whole life. I have a real life, a personal life: I’ve got a lot of chickens, I’ve got a horse, I’ve got a kitty-cat, I’ve got a lot of goats, I’ve got animals all over the place.
You were part of the Greenwich Village folk scene of the 1960s, with Bob Dylan, Joan Baez and many others. Where did you fit in to that scene?
I kind of didn’t fit in, in a way, but that was a time when misfits could have a career. I didn’t really sing folk songs like Joan Baez and Pete Seeger, and I didn’t come from a business family like Bob Dylan, or a music family like Judy Collins. But where I fitted in, I think, was that I didn’t think I’d last, so it’s not as though I was risking anything. And I think it was because of my uniqueness.
Unique in what way?
I was writing about everything. I was writing pop songs such as Until It’s Time for You to Go, which was later recorded by Elvis, Barbra Streisand, Neil Diamond and everybody. I was writing about Native American things and I had written Universal Soldier. I think it was just very surprising and that’s why I got away with it. Even in this new album – similar to all of my other albums – it’s much more diverse than almost any singer you can think of.
There’s a couple of songs on Power in the Blood that you first recorded in the 1970s – what you’ve called the “blacklist years”. When did you realise that your music was not being played on radio because of your views?
I didn’t know it… they don’t tell you. I didn’t find out until maybe 25 years later. Yeah, I had no idea there were FBI and CIA files on me.
Why were they so interested in you?
I started out in the Kennedy years, but it changed as soon as Lyndon Johnson came in, and Richard Nixon. Neither one wanted a cute young singer with a big mouth all over television talking about the Vietnam war and about Native American issues. So when Until It’s Time for You to Go was a big hit, and I was all over The Tonight Show, and had magazine coverage, that’s when they blew the whistle. And of course, with Nixon [the issue] was with the American Indian movement – and when they were trying to steal the reservation lands that contained uranium.
You were a regular on Sesame Street for five years in the late 1970s. It was quite a radical show, wasn’t it?
I’ll never forget our first show – I took them to a [Native American] reservation in Taos Pueblo, New Mexico. So Big Bird and me and a bunch of little Indian kids – all five, six, seven years old – were riding around in the back of a pickup truck. And Big Bird is all wiggly and antsy and he’s saying: “Buffy! I’m kind of nervous. I’ve heard there were Indians round here.” And all the little kids popped up and said: “I’m an Indian… I’m Navajo… I’m Hopi… I’m from the Pueblo.” They [the Sesame Street team] had such a natural way of identifying with the average five-year-old. It was always a pleasure to work with them; they never stereotyped me and I wrote a lot of my own bits.
Didn’t you once breastfeed your son on the show?
It’s on YouTube. I think I was the first person to nurse a baby on major television. I mean, think of the impact: it was three shows a day in 72 countries. So Big Bird looks out over his nest and he says: “What you doing, Buffy?” And I say: “I’m feeding the baby.” And he says: “That’s a funny way to feed a baby.” [Laughs] Like a kid would, right? And I say: “Yeah, not all mothers feed their babies that way, but he gets everything that he needs and I get to cuddle him.” And then Big Bird says: “Oh, that’s nice” and he goes back to playing, like a real kid would.
You toured with Morrissey earlier this year in the UK – did you know he was a fan?
No, that was a great compliment, because we have two very different audiences. It was probably just songwriter to songwriter – I mean, how can you resist? I think he’s a brilliant writer. I’m also really opposed to factory farming and animal cruelty, and I’m a vegetarian too, so we have that in common.
It’s My Way was one of your first songs, and you re-recorded it for the new album. More than 50 years on, why does it still resonate with you?
I’m kind of strange: I don’t follow the trend, I don’t think of myself in decades. You know how some people think about the Big Three-0 and the Big Four-0? And it’s all going to be over in a certain year? I have truly loved every year of my life. I’m still learning as fast, I’m in great shape, I feel as healthy and bouncy as ever. And great music doesn’t stop being great. Great books don’t stop being great. You listen to Chuck Berry or early Rolling Stones, or the Beatles or Tchaikovsky, and it’s still great. And It’s My Way is still great, and it’s as applicable to me and to my audiences today as it was then. I’ve been opening the show with it and people love it, so I guess we’re doing something right!
Buffy Sainte-Marie performs at the Brooklyn Bowl, London, on 13 August. Her new album, Power in the Blood, is out now
By the CUJ
MISSION-The analysis of DNA from the Ancient One, aka Kennewick Man, only reinforces what five Native American tribes have said since the remains were found in 1996.
“The results determine that Kennewick Man is definitely Native American, which is what we’ve stated all along,” said Armand Minthorn, a member of the Board of Trustees for the Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation.
Minthorn was at the Burke Museum in Seattle-where the remains of Kennewick Man have been stored for nearly 20 years-when on June 18 it was announced that the journal “Nature” reported that the genome sequence of Kennewick Man “is more closely related to modern Native Americans than to any other living population.”
The announcement contradicts the conclusion of a team of scientists that Kennewick Man was not native, and therefore should not be turned over to tribes for reburial.
Minthorn, who serves on the national Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Committee, said it is only a matter of time now before Kennwick Man is reburied.
The five claimant tribes-Umatilla, Nez Perce, Warm Springs, Yakama and Colville-have agreed on a site to rebury Kennewick Man, Minthorn said, declining to divulge the site.
Professor Eske Willerslev from the Centre for GeoGenetics in Copenhagen, Denmark, conducted DNA tests using samples provided by the Colville Tribe.
Willerslev said, however, that it “currently is not possible” to link the Ancient One to specific modern Native Americans because the DNA database for Native Americans is limited.
“When Eske gave his report, the results cited the Colvilles because they submitted DNA,” said Minthorn, who visited Willerslev in Copenhagen last fall. “But this does not exclude other claimant tribes that didn’t submit DNA.”
Minthorn four of the five claimant tribes agreed not to submit DNA, but the Colvilles, who were not part of the meeting in which that agreement was made, “took a big risk, gambled and it paid off.”
It only “substantiates our affiliation of Kennewick Man,” Minthorn said. “The five tribes are together working to get him back.”
Even though it was Colville DNA used to substantiate the five tribes’ claim, there is “no dispute” that the Ancient One will be claimed by all five tribes.
“We all realized that in order for us as five tribes to get Kennewick Man back for reburial we’d have to stay together,” Minthorn said. “No ifs, no ands, no buts. We are having joint discussion and making joint decisions.”
Minthorn said that, at this time, the five tribes are pursuing three options toward repatriation. The reburial could occur through the NAGPRA process; through changes in rule making under regulations in a Department of Interior draft; or by a Presidential Executive Order.
“We don’t anticipate any more scientific opposition but we’re still going to have to jump through federal hoops. I would expect the Army Corps, which is the primary federal agency, to follow the letter of the law. I would expect nothing less,” said Minthorn.
The process normally takes between six and eight months, Minthorn said. Optimistically, he said repatriation could take place before the year is out.
“It will be a major relief when we rebury,” Minthorn said. “We have more scientific based evidence now that can help us assist with repatriation under NAGPRA. In the past we’ve never looked to science in this manner for repatriation.”
Repatriation, Minthorn said, “has helped us as tribes to strengthen our way of life, strengthen our belief in religion, and strengthen our culture. Specifically with Kennewick Man it has strengthened our connection, but also confirmed that he is Native American and we descended from him.”
Since the remains were found along the Columbia River-and the subsequent storage of those bones-the five tribes have continually held religious services at the Burke Museum, Minthorn said.
-This story included information contained in several other news sources, including the Associated Press, indiancountrytodaymedianetwork, Fox News, and discovery.com.
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During the school year, over 21 million children receive free and reduced-price breakfast and lunch each day through the USDA’s National School Lunch Program. But, when school is out, many children who rely on these meals go hungry. The challenge is particularly great in rural areas and Indian Country, where 15 percent of households are food insecure. In these areas, children and teens often live long distances from designated summer meal sites and lack access to public transportation. According to Feeding America, 43 percent of counties are rural, but they make up nearly two-thirds of counties with high rates of child food insecurity. The consequences are significant. Several studies have found that food insecurity impacts cognitive development among young children and contributes to poorer school performance, greater likelihood of illness, and higher health costs.The Obama administration has addressed the challenge head-on, investing unprecedented energy and resources to increasing participation in the USDA’s Summer Food Service Program [ http://www.fns.usda.gov/sfsp/summer-food-service-program-sfsp ].