“Being an ‘Indian’ has little to do with sperm tracking and colonial record keeping: it has to do with community, culture, knowledge, teachings, who claims you, who you love, who loves you and who’s your family,” said the 82-year-old Sainte-Marie in a written statement to The Canadian Press.
The CBC’s claims also were included in an episode of the network’s Fifth Estate documentary that featured interviews with Sainte-Marie’s family members.
In the documentary and investigation, the CBC said it found Sainte-Marie’s birth certificate stating that she was born in 1941 in Massachusetts to white parents. The CBC said the information was corroborated by Sainte-Marie’s marriage certificate, a life insurance policy and the U.S. census.
A CBC spokesperson said the broadcaster stands by the story and that the evidence was fairly presented in a statement to CBC.ca.
Sainte-Marie has claimed that she was born on Tribal land and adopted by white parents.
Sainte-Marie said she “will not stoop to respond to every false allegation.” However, she said it was common for birth certificates to be “created” after Indigenous children were adopted or taken away from their families. She said she used a birth certificate throughout her life that was the only document she had, according to the CBC. She added that she has never known if the birth certificate was real.
“I’ve heard from countless people with similar stories who do not know where they are from and feel victimized by these allegations,” she said in her statement. “Most importantly, this is my life — I am not a piece of paper.”
Sainte-Marie also said CBC two estranged family members whom she doesn’t know perpetuated a story fabricated by her alleged childhood abuser.
In a previous statement on social media, Sainte-Marie wrote, “My Indigenous identity is rooted in a deep connection to a community which has had a profound role shaping my life and my work.” She added that the CBC allegations “forced me to relive and defend my experience as a survivor of sexual abuse, which I endured at the hands of my brother,” Alan St. Marie.
The singer-songwriter has been feted as the first Indigenous person to win an Academy Award for cowriting the song Up Where We Belong for the film An Officer and a Gentleman.