Birth Name: Beverly Jean Santamaria
Place of Birth: Stoneham, Massachusetts, U.S.
Date of Birth: February 20, 1941
*father – Italian
*mother – English, one quarter Irish
Buffy Sainte-Marie is an American singer, songwriter, musician, composer, visual artist, pacifist, educator, and social activist. Her work has focused on helping Indigenous people in Canada and the U.S. Her songs revolve around love, war, mysticism, and religion, and she has founded the educational curriculum Cradleboard Teaching Project, for better understanding of Native Americans. She co-wrote the song “Up Where We Belong” with her then-husband, musician and arranger Jack Nitzsche.
Buffy Sainte-Marie was born Beverly Jean Santamaria at the New England Sanitarium and Hospital in Stoneham, Massachusetts, the daughter of Winifred Irene (Kendrick) and Albert Santamaria. Her father was the son of Italian emigrants, from Avellino, Campania. Her mother was of mostly Colonial American (English) descent, along with one quarter Irish roots. Buffy has a son with her former husband Sheldon Wolfchild.
Throughout her career, beginning in the 1960s, Buffy had refashioned herself as a Native American/First Nations entertainer. Most recently, she described herself as a “proud member of the Native community with deep roots in Canada.” She had always stated that she was born on the Piapot First Nation reserve in the Qu’Appelle Valley, Saskatchewan, Canada, to both Cree parents, even adding “When I go home to the Cree reserve in Canada where I was born…” She also described herself as having Mi’kmaq and Algonquin ancestry. Buffy had always stated that she was adopted by Winifred and Albert Santamaria/Sainte-Marie, and was raised in Massachusetts, later returning to Canada. A CBC investigation in 2023 revealed that these claims of Indigenous ancestry and/or an adoption are false, and Buffy is the couple’s biological daughter.
Buffy’s paternal grandfather was Michael Santamaria (the son of Angelo Santamaria and Angela Maria Bruno). Michael was born in Mirabella Eclano, Avellino, Campania, Italy. Angelo was the son of Ferderico Santamaria and Mariangiola Di Prizo. Angela was the daughter of Giuseppe Bruno and Mariantonia Russo.
Buffy’s paternal grandmother was Amelia Margaret De Christoforo (the daughter of Ciriaco DeCristofaro and Concetta Santosuosso). Amelia was born in Taurasi, Avellino, Campania, Italy. Ciriaco was the son of Vincenzo Antonio De Cristofaro and Maria Rosalia Russo.
Buffy’s maternal grandfather was Frank Webster Kendrick (the son of William Alfred Kendrick and Emeline Lovell Frost). Frank was born in Massachusetts, to parents from Nova Scotia, Canada. William was born in Barrington, Shelburne, the son of Josiah Sears Kendrick, whose family was from Massachusetts; and of Lydia A. Allen, who was from Maine. Emeline was the daughter of James Frost.
Buffy’s maternal grandmother was Elizabeth Marie Atwood (the daughter of Francis Prentiss Atwood and Elizabeth Mary Brennan). Buffy’s grandmother Elizabeth was born in Massachusetts. Francis was born in Louisiana, the son of Lorenzo Atwood and Susan Roberts. Buffy’s great-grandmother Elizabeth was the daughter of Irish parents, Patrick Brennan and Mary Elizabeth Webb.
In 1964, she was welcomed and adopted by a son of Chief Piapot, Emile Piapot and his wife Clara Starblanket Piapot, while on a trip to the Piapot Cree.
Through her mother, Buffy is a descendant of William Brewster (c. 1566-1644), a Mayflower passenger and noted Pilgrim. Among many of William’s other descendants are actors Jordana Brewster, Paget Brewster, Austin Butler, Chevy Chase, Taylor Lautner, Seth MacFarlane, and Elisabeth Shue, actors and models Noah Mills and Brandon Routh, soccer player Clint Dempsey, Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, and Governor of Arkansas Winthrop Rockefeller.
Sources: Reporting on Buffy Sainte-Marie’s heritage – https://www.theguardian.com
Beverly Jean Santamaria/Buffy Sainte-Marie on the 1950 U.S. Census – https://www.familysearch.org