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When Buffy Sainte-Marie Met Sesame Street

Sesame Street may have only been on the air for six years in 1975, but the show had already changed children’s television and was considered a cultural institution. The kids’ show aimed to portray an accurate and nonjudgmental depictions of the lives of inner-city kids.

… it was set in a brownstone tenement, and the cast included strong African American characters Gordon and Susan (who were the cornerstone of the street) and Hispanic characters Maria and Luis (added in 1972). White characters were deliberately in the minority. They also cast everyday kids, not child actors, to play the children of Sesame Street.

In his 2008 book titled “Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street”, author Michael Davis stated that at the end of its first year, Sesame Street was in the homes of 1.9 million Americans. A decade later, over 9 million American kids under the age of six watched the show daily.

One day, the producers of Sesame Street decided to call singer Buffy Sainte-Marie (which took her by surprise) to ask her to be a typical one-shot guest on the show. She almost said no to them.

She was busy with other ventures, and she didn’t really want to go all the way to New York just to count to ten like everyone else who made a guest appearance. But before she hung up she asked a question. “I said, have you ever done any Native American programming?” she recalls. They hadn’t, but they called her back with a new offer to include her as a writer and contributor and appear as a semiregular cast member. She knew it would be a good opportunity to reach millions of young children and their parents with the same message she had been bringing to her concert audiences for years: “Indians exist.”

The full story over at The Walrus.

(Image Credit: Drpeterstockdale/ Wikimedia Commons)


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As former residents of Santa Fe, my wife and I now really want to hear the theme song variation with "Sunny day, coming to Santa Fe". No luck so far in finding it.
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