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People & Culture

Buffy Sainte-Marie's favourite place in Canada

The Cree singer-songwriter explains what makes Saskatchewan’s Qu’Appelle Valley so special to her

  • Oct 06, 2016
  • 326 words
  • 2 minutes
Buffy Sainte-Marie Expand Image

I’m originally from Saskatchewan, but I didn’t grow up there, didn’t have a consciousness of it until I was reunited with family in the Qu’Appelle Valley. My favourite season in the valley is summer because it’s so very beautiful. I remember sunsets that were blue and purple and red, and a landscape golden with mustard and wheat. To have all that flat prairie and then see those rolling hills with those spectacular colours has always given me not only a sense of home and family but also of holiness.

I’ve always been interested in people’s relationship to the creator, and when my dad and I would talk about that, he would always start by saying, “We’ll go to a clean spot,” which we’d do, then we’d pray and then we’d talk. But it wasn’t like some stiff movie-Indian thing — it was always this precious, gentle, almost feminine feel for the mind behind all nature. There’s so little that has been properly described to non-Indian people about our relationship to the land through a sense of the sacred, and that was something I always loved discussing with the people who had been raised with teepees and buckboards, the people who were old when I was young, as we sat surrounded by coulees where there was sweetgrass growing. 

I’ve written quite a few songs about this area, but I think “Soldier Blue” has lyrics apropos to my dad’s idea of going to a clean spot to enjoy the connection with nature:

This this is my country
Young and growing
free and flowing sea to sea
Yes this is my country
Ripe and bearing miracles
in every pond and tree
Her spirit walks the high country
giving free wild samples
and setting an example how to give
Yes this is my country
Retching and turning
She’s like a baby learning how to live.
— As told to Harry Wilson

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