Barbara May Cameron (May 22, 1954 – February 12, 2002) was a prominent Native American photographer, poet, writer, and human rights activist, recognized for her contributions in the fields of lesbian/gay rights, women's rights, and Native American rights.
Early Life[edit | edit source]
Barbara May Cameron was born on May 22, 1954, and was a member of the Hunkpapa Lakota from the Fort Yates band of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe in Fort Yates, North Dakota. Her formative years were spent on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, North Dakota, where she was raised by her grandparents. Cameron completed her early education and high schooling on the reservation before pursuing further education in photography and film at the Institute of American Indian Arts in Santa Fe, New Mexico. In 1973, she relocated to San Francisco to attend the San Francisco Art Institute.
Career[edit | edit source]
Barbara May Cameron was a multifaceted artist and activist whose work garnered recognition and awards. She was both a photographer and a filmmaker, and her achievements included media and theater arts awards. Cameron's screenplay, "Long Time, No See," remained unfinished at the time of her passing.
One of her notable contributions was co-founding the Gay American Indians (GAI) in 1975, alongside Randy Burns, a Northern Paiute. GAI marked the inception of the first gay American Indian liberation organization, addressing the unique needs and struggles of Native American gay individuals. Cameron recognized the lack of support for people of color within the broader lesbian and gay community, inspiring her to establish GAI.
In 1978, Cameron made a significant contribution to the anthology titled "Our Right to Love: A Lesbian Resource Book," which reflected her commitment to advocating for lesbian rights.
From 1980 to 1985, Barbara May Cameron played an active role in organizing the Lesbian Gay Freedom Day Parade and Celebration. In 1981, she contributed to the influential collection "This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color," edited by Cherríe Moraga and Gloria E. Anzaldúa, where her article "Gee, You Don't Seem Like an Indian from the Reservation" addressed issues such as racism and homophobia within and outside the Native American community. In 1983, Cameron was part of the landmark anthology "A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of Writing and Art by North American Indian Women," edited by Beth Brant, which showcased works by twelve Native lesbians.
During the late 1980s, she served as vice president of the Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club and co-chair for Lesbian Agenda for Action. In 1986, as a member of Somos Hermanas (We are sisters), Cameron traveled to Nicaragua to study and express solidarity with women there, working towards improving their lives. Her dedication led to her appointment as a delegate for Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition to the Democratic National Convention in 1988. That same year, she received appointments from then San Francisco Mayor Dianne Feinstein to the Citizens Committee on Community Development and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission. Subsequently, Mayor Frank Jordan appointed her to serve on the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women.
From 1989 to 1992, Barbara May Cameron held the position of executive director of Community United Against Violence (CUAV), an organization focused on assisting victims of domestic violence and hate crimes. Her dedication and service were recognized with the Harvey Milk Award for Community Service in 1992. The following year, she became the first recipient of the Bay Area Career Women Community Service Award. In 1993, Cameron engaged in AIDS education, traveling to various Indian reservations throughout the United States.
Cameron's influential essay, "No Apologies: A Lakota Lesbian Perspective," was included in "New Our Right to Love: A Lesbian Resource Book" in 1996. She also served on the board of directors for both the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the American Indian AIDS Institute. As a consultant, she contributed her expertise to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the United States Department of Health and Human Services. Barbara May Cameron founded the Institute on Native American Health and Wellness, with her initial project focusing on publishing the works of Native American women writers.
Her legacy lives on in the form of her papers, which are held by the James Hormel LGBTQIA Center at the San Francisco Public Library.
Barbara May Cameron was honored with a Google Doodle on May 22, 2023, recognizing her significant contributions to human rights and activism.
Personal Life[edit | edit source]
During her life, Barbara May Cameron was in a 21-year relationship with Linda Boyd, with whom she raised a son, Rhys Boyd-Farrell. To document key figures in the lesbian and gay community, Robert Giard created a portrait of Cameron, which is now part of the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library.
Death[edit | edit source]
On February 12, 2002, Barbara May Cameron passed away due to natural causes at her home. She was 47 years old at the time. Her memorial service was attended by notable figures such as Tom Ammiano, president of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, and Carole Migden, who represented District 13 in the California State Assembly. Cameron is remembered for her tireless advocacy on behalf of gay and lesbian Native Americans and her significant contributions to human rights activism.