“For a philosopher,” said Buffy Sainte-Marie, being the keynote speaker at next month’s Bring Your Wisdom Indigenous Women’s Conference in Calgary “is really right up my alley.”
Before Sainte-Marie became known as a singer-songwriter, musician, and visual artist, she was a teacher with a degree in Oriental Philosophy.
“It’s not very often that a person will put on a wisdom conference or talk about the things that are associated with wisdom even. Most everything is about ‘the get.’ ‘How much am I going to get? What am I going to get out of it?’ Philosophy and wisdom are not about ‘the get’,” she said.
Bring Your Wisdom will celebrate and educate participants on the traditional and important roles of women and two-spirit people in Indigenous culture.
“Wisdom is considered so rare these days, because even if a person is wise … there is a challenge for wisdom… wisdom is a natural talent. Some people just come to it with a big smile. They just want to know. They want to participate. They think about it like that.
“But for other people, who aren’t natural … (they) try to learn it by reading, by studying, by being involved in books, education.” said Sainte-Marie.
The conference is open to both those with natural talent and those who want to learn. Put on by the Aboriginal Friendship Centre of Calgary with the support of Awo Taan Healing Lodge, Bring Your Wisdom Conference is about shedding negative stereotypes and empowering Indigenous women and two-spirit people with knowledge and experience.
The experience Sainte-Marie will share is of a life that has been full.
“My life is partly much the same and partly very different from the lives of most people. Lights, camera, action, years of travel within and beyond my own communities has resulted in a body of experience, knowledge, and, hopefully, good judgment,” she said.
At 78 years of age, Sainte-Marie remains busy on her own terms. As she waited to speak with Windspeaker.com about the conference, she was at her home on one of the outer islands in the Hawaii chain where she had an audiobook on pause, something was baking in the oven, her painting was upstairs drying, and “a song was in the back of (her) mind” and it was only 10 a.m. Ahead of her that day was feeding the goats, playing with kittens, and picking flowers.
“For some people the smart thing would be to eliminate some of those things; but the wise thing is to envision a better brain that can hold together a multiplicity of dreams, plans, dreads, wishes and philosophies that all work together spontaneously for a higher inner purpose when it's needed. If you can get that far, it all spills out into the extrinsic life beyond yourself and into the bigger world around you,” she said.
Sainte-Marie will be joined at the two-day conference by newly-appointed Senator Patti Laboucane Benson, Dr. Lana Whiskeyjack, filmmaker Georgina Lightning, and Native American Music Awards winner Sandra Sutter.
Lightning will screen her new film Grandmother’s Medicine while Sutter will perform from her award-winning album, Cluster Stars.
This wide range of women have a lot to offer, says Sainte-Marie.
“Where and when we come from, what we've learned from our own and beyond our own communities, the friends and ideas we share and don't share, allows both participants and audience to engage in diverse thinking beyond whatever narrow perspectives we each grew up in,” she said.
For those who attend the conference, Sainte-Marie hopes they learn something basic: that there is such a thing as wisdom.
“It's very valuable to realize the potential for ever-ripening wisdom inside yourself and to go with that flow, which is quite beautiful,” she said.
“‘Wisdom’ isn't like a box of sayings or a package of traditions or medical prescriptions. It's various ways of being and seeing and thinking beyond words.”
Bring Your Wisdom Indigenous Women’s Conference takes place Sept. 10 and 11 at the Grey Eagle Resort and Casino. Registration for the conference can be done through Eventbrite at https://www.eventbrite.com/e/afcc-presents-bring-your-wisdom-indigenous-womens-conference-tickets-63028577171