Indigenous Peoples and Human Rights

September 7, 2022

Buffy Sainte Marie: Censored by U.S. Presidents and a Newspaper, Vindicated by Covert Operative in Court

Buffy Sainte Marie, Cree

Buffy Sainte Marie: Censored by U.S. Presidents and a Newspaper, Vindicated by Covert Operative in Court 

Buffy Sainte Marie's interview was censored by Indian Country Today, where I was a staff reporter in 1999. Before firing me seven years later, the newspaper published part of her story that she shared backstage at Dine' College.

In 2006, a covert agent confirmed Buffy's words: The U.S. government wanted to silence 'Rock 'n Roll' and replace it with Country Western. Buffy said she was put out of the music business by President Johnson because of her song, 'Universal Soldier,' and her stance against the Vietnam War. 

Although part of Buffy's original interview was published by ICT in 2006, her comments about uranium mining on Pine Ridge were censored.

The censorship of Buffy was one of the reasons I created Censored News when I was terminated in 2006. This is one of the last articles that appear with my byline in the digital edition of Indian Country Today. This month we celebrate our 16th year of publishing Censored News. -- Brenda Norrell, publisher, Censored News.

By Brenda Norrell

Censored News

PHOENIX - (August 9, 2006) Nearly two decades after Cree singer and songwriter Buffy Sainte-Marie's song ''Universal Soldier'' was released and shipments of her records mysteriously disappeared, the truth of the censorship and suppression by the U.S. government became public.

Now, in federal court, Charles August Schlund III stated he is a covert operative and supports Sainte-Marie's assertions that the United States took action to suppress rock music because of its role in rallying opposition to the Vietnam War.

Sainte-Marie says she was blacklisted and, along with other American Indians in the Red Power movements, was put out of business in the 1970s.

Buffy Sainte Marie at Dine' College, Navajo Nation 
Photo Brenda Norrell 1999

''I found out 10 years later, in the 1980s, that [President] Lyndon Johnson had been writing letters on White House stationary praising radio stations for suppressing my music,'' Sainte-Marie said in 1999, backstage at Dine' College.

''In the 1970s, not only was the protest movement put out of business but the Native American movement was attacked,'' Sainte-Marie said.

In an affidavit to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in a Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act lawsuit against President George W. Bush and others, Schlund alleged he has been tortured in his attempts to reveal the truth about the Bush family's manipulation of U.S. voting results and the Drug Enforcement Agency's covert drug supplies to black communities.

Detailing the assassinations of the Kennedys and exposing the ''Don Bolles'' papers, named after the murdered Phoenix news reporter, Schlund said he remains alive today because of FBI protection.

Schlund, who said he previously worked in the covert drug operations in Phoenix, said rock music posed a threat to the United States and played a role in opposition to the Vietnam War.

In his federal court affidavit, Schlund said he has knowledge of ''the detailed plans for the break-up and destruction of rock n' roll music including the assassinations of many people to achieve their goals. The detailed plans to replace rock n' roll music with all-American music called country western.''

''This massive CIA and DEA covert operation was being conducted to stop political overtones in the rock n' roll music and to stop foreign influences on Americans caused by the exposure to foreign music. This operation was conducted because the Rockefellers had lost the Vietnam War because of the protest that was in part directly linked with rock n' roll music. In these files, the Rockefellers had needed the natural resources of Vietnam for the expansion of their corporate empire and they blamed the loss of the war in part on rock n' roll music."

''The assassinations started long before Vietnam but the plans to replace rock n' roll with country western music started during the Vietnam War and have continued to the present,'' Schlund stated to the court.

In his federal court affidavits filed in Maricopa County in Arizona, Schlund also stated that singer Buddy Holly, killed in an airplane crash in 1959, was considered a threat to the U.S. government.

1960s grassroots courtesy photo Buffy Sainte Marie 

Meanwhile, Sainte-Marie said she cut a singular path as she was being censored in the '60s and '70s.

''I usually didn't do what other people did. You didn't find me at peace marches. I was out in Indian country.''

Earlier, a young Bob Dylan heard Sainte-Marie sing in Greenwich Village and recommended she perform at the Gaslight, another hangout of the avant-garde. Janis Joplin, Elvis Presley, and Tracy Chapman were among those soon recording her lyrics. On the road, she traveled the world and received a medal from Queen Elizabeth II.

During this time, Sainte-Marie was selling more records than ever in Canada and Asia. But in the United States, her records were disappearing. Thousands of people at concerts wanted records. Although the distributor said the records had been shipped, no one seemed to know where they were. One thing was for sure: They were not on record store shelves.

''I was put out of business in the United States.''

Later, Sainte-Marie discovered the censorship and pressure applied to radio stations by Johnson during the Vietnam era, particularly toward ''Universal Soldier'' during the anti-war movement.

Sainte-Marie said Native people were put out of business, not just because they succeeded in Indian country, but because they were succeeding in the broader community. She and others were a threat to the moneymakers of concert halls, uranium, and oil, she said.

Then, fellow activist and Santee poet John Trudell's wife, mother-in-law, and children were burned to death in a mysterious house fire shortly after Trudell burned an American flag in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 11, 1979.

''I was just one person put out of business. John Trudell is just another person whose life was put out of business. Anna Mae Aquash and Leonard Peltier were put out of the living business - we were made ineffective,'' Sainte-Marie said of slain American Indian Movement activist Aquash and imprisoned Peltier.

Courtesy Buffy Sainte Marie

But Sainte-Marie continued with her music and efforts with children after becoming a familiar face on ''Sesame Street.'' In the 1990s, from her home in Hawaii, she created the Cradleboard Teaching Project to link American Indian students with other students online around the world.

Remembering the 1970s and Trudell, Sainte-Marie said, ''We just kept chugging on. We kept coming to Indian country. We didn't worry about the fortune and fame because we went with our sincerity, our hearts, and with our friends.''

Those years, however, were filled with pain.

''It was hard - seeing people hurt,'' she said.

Article copyright Brenda Norrell, may not be republished without written permission. Photos courtesy Buffy Sainte Marie.

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