Monday, November 28, 2011

Native American Indian Heritage Month

Three Native American women who have inspired many around the world.

Buffy Sainte-Marie - 1941 - was a graduating college senior in 1962 and hit the ground running in the early Sixties, after the beatniks and before the hippies. All alone she toured North America's colleges, reservations and concert halls. By age 24, Buffy Sainte-Marie had appeared all over Europe, Canada, Australia and Asia, receiving honors, medals and awards, which continue to this day. Her song ‘Until It's Time for You to Go’ was recorded by Elvis and Barbra and Cher, and her ‘Universal Soldier’ became the anthem of the peace movement. For her very first album she was voted Billboard's Best New Artist.

She disappeared suddenly from the mainstream American airwaves during the Lyndon Johnson years. Unknown to her, her name was included on White House stationery as among those whose music was too controversial, and radio airplay disappeared. Invited on to television talk shows on the basis of her success with Until It's Time for You to Go, she was told that Native issues and the peace movement had become unfashionable and to limit her comments to celebrity chat. This continued during the next presidential administration of Richard Nixon.

In Indian country and abroad her fame grew. Denied an adult television audience in the U.S., in 1975 she joined the cast of Sesame Street for five years. She continued to appear at countless grassroots concerts, AIM (American Indian Movement) events and other activist benefits in Canada and the U.S. She made 18 albums of her music, three of her own television specials, scored movies, garnered international acclaim, helped to found Canada's Music of Aboriginal Canada JUNO category, raised a son, earned a Ph.D. in Fine Arts, taught Digital Music as adjunct professor at several colleges, and won an Academy Award Oscar and a Golden Globe Award for the song Up Where We Belong.

2009 marked the release of her eighteenth album Running for the Drum, which won Buffy her third Juno Award. Packaged in tandem with the bio-documentary DVD Buffy Sainte-Marie: A Multimedia Life, the two disks together give audiences a glimpse into the life and work of this unique, always current artist.

Wilma Pearl Mankiller November 18, 1945 - April 6, 2010 (age 64) was the first female Chief of the Cherokee Nation. She served as the Principal Chief for ten years from 1985 to 1995.

As the powerful, visionary first woman Principal Chief of the Cherokee Nation, Wilma Mankiller is responsible for 139,000 people and a $69 million budget.

Ms. Mankiller spent her formative years in San Francisco, where she learned about the women's movement and organizing. When she returned to her native Oklahoma, she used her skills to help the Cherokee Nation, starting community self-help programs and teaching people ways out of poverty. In 1983 she ran for deputy chief of the Nation, and in 1985 Ms. Mankiller became Principal Chief. She brought about important strides for the Cherokees, including improved health care, education, utilities management and tribal government. Her future plans called for attracting higher-paying industry to the area, improving adult literacy, supporting women returning to school and more. Wilma Mankiller also lived in the larger world, and was active in civil rights matters, lobbying the federal government and supporting women's activities and issues. She said: "We've had daunting problems in many critical areas, but I believe in the old Cherokee injunction to 'be of a good mind.' Today it's called positive thinking."

Maria Tallchief in Swan Lake. (credit: Martha Swope)

Maria TallChief 1925- Born Elizabeth Marie Tall Chief to an Osage Nation father, she became a well-known ballerina. In 1947 Maria began dancing with the New York City Ballet until her retirement in 1965. Soon after she founded the Chicago City Ballet and remained it's artistic director for many years.

Since 1997 she has been an adviser in the Chicago dance schools and continues to astound future dancers with her always-ahead-of-her-skill abilities and will be featured in a PBS special from 2007-2010.

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