Indigenous Day Live is a win-win for the audience and performers, says Canadian music legend Buffy Sainte-Marie.
Indigenous Day Live
● Saturday, Sunrise-10:30 p.m.
● The Forks
"I feel like it’s one of the few opportunities that Indigenous artists have to shine, especially new artists," says Sainte-Marie.
"Show business is so tough; the white music industry is huge, there are tens of thousands of people pushing artists; the black music industry, the Latino music industry, they’ve been going on for years, and we really don’t have one. So it’s an opportunity for Canadians to see what Indigenous artists are doing."
Sainte-Marie will be in Winnipeg Saturday to headline the 13th edition of Indigenous Day Live at The Forks. The event celebrates the heritage, diverse cultures, achievements and contributions of First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. The day includes a sunrise ceremony and sacred fire, daytime family activities, a powwow, skateboard demonstration and competition, fiddle contest, bannock making contest and concert.
The Forks, mainstage, 7 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The Jerry Cans
The Dakhká Khwáan Dancers with DJ Dash
Pre-show concert, 5:45 p.m. to 6:30 p.m.
Ryan D’Aoust with Nathan Halcrow & Daniel Koulack
This year, Indigenous Day Live includes events across three cities — Winnipeg, Whitehorse and, for the first time, Calgary. Highlights from all three locations will be broadcast on APTN. The Winnipeg concert lineup also includes Randy Bachman, Iqaluit folk-country band the Jerry Cans, the Dakhká Khwáan Dancers from Whitehorse and local singer-songwriter Andrina Turenne.
Sainte-Marie, 78, was born on the Piapot Plains Cree First Nation in Saskatchewan, and after moving around a lot in her 20s, has been settled in Hawaii for the last 50 years. There, she lives in the mountains on a farm ("I’m not much of a beach bunny," she chuckles). Though it may sound like the ideal retirement situation, Sainte-Marie — a recent Polaris Music Prize-winner — isn’t ready to wind down her career.
"I’m my own worst enemy, I feel as though old age is probably self-inflicted; I don’t know but I ain’t going there," she laughs.
"I’m really grateful to have had such a long career. I keep doing it because it’s satisfying, it’s fun. The travel is brutal, but otherwise if you love being an artist and feel privileged that fans like what you do, it’s wonderful to be able to share your art with so many people over such a long career. I recommend it."
Sainte-Marie has spent more than 50 years in the entertainment industry and has seen a seismic shift since her early days as a singer-songwriter alongside other future folk legends such as Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen.
"The music industry is a whole lot of industry and not so much music," she says. "There are many artists who genuinely are artists, but there are a lot of other people who are in it really for the business part, and what I see in the press and what people get to see are the people who are working really hard at the business side of it. So sometimes it seems as though an artist has disappeared, seems to be obscure, seems to stay underground, but that doesn’t mean they’re any less of an artist, it just means they’re not in a business position to hire a publicist and go on the road and work with a record company.
"There’s a lot of difference between art and show business," she says, adding she continues to write songs because she continues to be inspired by the changing world around her.
"Since the world does keep changing, many artists get left behind… but I think especially with songwriters, the songwriters that I treasure most, keep on giving, keep on being a part of the world and keep on reflecting their own little corner of the world, which I think that’s what it’s all about. For me as an artist, it’s like taking snapshots; you may point your camera in the same direction 10 years apart and get a totally different image. Songwriting is like that."
Sainte-Marie has plenty of projects on the go right now, including a documentary film and a new children’s book, Tapwe and the Magic Hat.
She also plans to release a series of illustrated books for young readers next year using stories pulled from songs she wrote that she classifies as "not children’s songs but songs appropriate for children."
But first, she will be in town for Indigenous Day Live, where she will take the stage with an old friend, Randy Bachman.
"I’m really looking forward to this show. Randy is going to be my guest artist, and we have played together so that’s going to be fun. I don’t know what we’ll do, probably one of mine, one of his, and maybe one of ZZ Top," she laughs.
Visit Indigenousdaylive.ca for a full schedule of events.
Erin Lebar is a multimedia producer who spends most of her time writing music- and culture-related stories for the Arts & Life section. She also co-hosts the Winnipeg Free Press's weekly pop-culture podcast, Bury the Lede.