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Classic '70s Poster: Buffy Sainte-Marie Preaches Pride and Acceptance

Buffy Sainte-Marie, 1970 "Why should an Indian woman have to bleach her hair to be accepted?"
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Singer and cultural icon Buffy Sainte-Marie drops wisdom in our second edition of classic posters from Akwesasne Notes, a hugely influential Mohawk newspaper that helped unite Natives all over Turtle Island in the late 60s and early '70s. This time around, the image is a photograph of a Native grandmother, accompanied by the quote from Sainte-Marie: "Why should an Indian woman have to bleach her hair to be accepted?" The text at the bottom of the poster reads, "Photograph courtesy of Alberta Provincial Archives. Our Grandmother shown here is Betty Hunter, of the Stoney Nation of Southern Alberta, taken about 1900."

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The quote may have been taken from a profile of Sainte-Marie that ran in the St. Petersburg Times on Monday, October 19, 1970 -- and slightly altered. In the St. Petersburg Times article, Sainte-Marie asked, "Why shouldn't an Indian girl be a model or a designer or a painter?" She went on to say, "We're trying to open up the glamor jobs. ... Why should an Indian girl have to bleach her hair to be accepted?"

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Original poster art by Akwesasne Notes; scanned image courtesy of Library of Congress.

Sainte-Marie also commented on the harmful effects of the education system on Native youth. "What kid wants to be told in school that his grandfather was a savage?" she asked. "There's very little accuracy in the texts that are used about Indians, and about the way American settlers dealt with them." Her ultimate assessment of the state of Native people was that "Right now, Indians can't survive in America physically, mentally, emotionally, or artistcally."