Buffy Sainte-Marie will be starring in a PBS documentary

Academy Award winner and activist Buffy Sainte-Marie is the focus of an American Masters documentary. (Courtesy of Matt Barnes)

Buffy Sainte-Marie knows how to tell the truth.

It’s a quality she’s never been afraid to express.

The Oscar winner is the subject of the American Masters documentary Buffy Sainte-Marie: Carry It On. The film spans six decades as the Cree musician, artist and activist used her platform to advocate for indigenous people’s and women’s rights and to inspire multiple generations of musicians, artists and activists.

It will premiere Tuesday, November 22 at 8:00 p.m. on New Mexico PBS channel 5.1. It is then available for streaming on the PBS Video app.

The documentary will be screened as part of Native American Heritage Month.

“This is not the first documentary about my life,” says Sainte-Marie. “I feel like people in the United States still don’t know about me after everything. For me it is that I have had a long life and a string of successes. I took 16 years off to raise my son. All of this keeps me busy. I now raise goats. You can’t pity me too much.”

The documentary begins as Sainte-Marie’s career soared when she received rave reviews in The New York Times and caught the attention of Vanguard Records, who released her debut album It’s My Way in 1964.

Earlier in her career, she spoke out against the Vietnam War with her song “Universal Soldier,” against readily available opioids with “Cod’ine,” and shared her views on romance with “Until It’s Time for You to Go,” which was covered by Artists like Elvis, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Neil Diamond.

Sainte-Marie says she changed the perception of indigenous people in music, film and television.

Buffy Sainte-Marie performs with her band. (Courtesy of Christie Goodwin)

When she was asked to play a lead role in an episode of “The Virginian” in 1968, she famously demanded that all Indigenous characters be played by Indigenous peoples.

In addition, she was the first woman to be breastfed on television during her five-year stint on “Sesame Street,” and she helped create segments based on her experiences as an Indigenous woman in North America.

After Saint-Marie won the Oscar for writing “Up Where We Belong” from “An Officer and a Gentleman” with her then-husband Jack Nitzsche in 1983, Saint-Marie stepped out of the limelight.

After a 14-year hiatus, she returned to music with her critically acclaimed album Coincidence and Likely Stories.

In 2015 she beat Drake at the Polaris Music Prize for her album Power in the Blood.

At the age of 81, Sainte-Marie is actively touring and continues to be an activist for indigenous rights, including efforts to end oppression and violence against indigenous women.

She attributes all of her success and happiness to her positive attitude.

“I hate pain so much,” she says. “I always tell the kids to keep their noses out of the noise lane and stay away from the drug and alcohol life. Life is already difficult, to further increase the pressure. People need to find joy every day.”

The film is directed by Madison Thomas and features interviews with Joni Mitchell, Sonia Manzano, John Kay, Robbie Robertson, Jackson Browne, George Stroumboulopoulos and Andrea Warner.

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