On May 22, 2023, Google Doodle paid tribute to Barbara May Cameron with a beautiful illustration by Sienna Gonzales, a talented Mexican artist from the LGBTQ+ community. This illustration tells a captivating story that still resonates with us today. Let’s uncover the remarkable journey of Barbara May Cameron.
Who Was Barbara May Cameron?
Barbara May Cameron was born on May 22, 1954, and she hailed from the Hunkapa Lakota Native American group of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Her childhood was spent on the Standing Rock Indian Reservation in North Dakota, where her grandparents lovingly raised her.
Growing up, Cameron realized that she had a unique journey ahead of her in discovering her identity alongside her rich ancestral heritage. To embark on this path, she enrolled at the American Indian Art Institute in Santa Fe. Her time studying in Mexico provided her with a fresh perspective that extended beyond the reservation life. Cameron pursued photography and film courses, using her skills to capture images that narrated her story. Her work quickly garnered recognition for its contributions to the world of theater and media.
Questioning Identity in a Turbulent Era
During the 1970s, a tumultuous period marked by the rise of Flower children, gay rights activism, the Vietnam War, the Watergate scandal, the tragic assassination of Harvey Milk, and the second wave of feminism, Barbara May Cameron found herself grappling with her identity in the real world. In 1973, she bravely came out as a lesbian and made a life-changing decision to move to the epicenter of social activism, San Francisco.
Championing a Powerful Movement
As a Native American lesbian, Barbara observed the fragmentation within the Gay liberation movement. In response, she, along with Randy Burns, founded Gay American Indian (GAI) in 1975. This organization was a crucial platform for sharing the stories of gay and lesbian Native Americans.
Barbara’s determination to bring about positive change for her community led to notable milestones. In 1988, she received appointments to the Citizens Committee on Community Development and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission by the city’s mayor. Additionally, she took on the vital responsibility of improving the Status of Women within the United Nations Commission.
Between 1980 and 1985, she organized the Lesbian Gay Freedom Day Parade, a significant event that advanced LGBTQ+ rights. Simultaneously, she advocated for anti-racism and fair immigration policies, co-leading a lawsuit against the Immigration and Naturalization Service.
A Champion During the AIDS Epidemic
In the midst of the devastating AIDS epidemic of the 1980s, Barbara May Cameron was an active advocate for AIDS awareness. She collaborated with the International Indigenous AIDS Network, educating various Indian reservations across the United States.
For her relentless work in the realm of LGBTQ+ rights, she received the Harvey Milk Award for Community Service in 1992, as well as the Bay Area Career Women Community Service Award.
Barbara May Cameron’s Passing
On February 12, 2002, Barbara May Cameron passed away at the age of 47. Reports indicate that she died of natural causes. She is survived by Linda Boyd, her partner of 21 years, and their son, Rhys Boyd Farrell. The President of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors paid tribute to her at her funeral, acknowledging her invaluable contributions to the fight for gay rights.
Barbara’s Enduring Legacy
Barbara May Cameron possessed the unique ability to blend art with life through her poems, essays, and stories. Her anthology, “Our Right To Love: A Lesbian Resource Book,” created quite a stir in 1978. She authored thought-provoking pieces such as “This Bridge Called My Back: Writings by Radical Women of Color” and “Gee, You Don’t Seem Like an Indian from the Reservation,” which analyzed racism and homophobia within Native American Communities. She also contributed to “A Gathering of Spirit: A Collection of Writing and Art by North American Indian Women.”
In turn, her life reflected her art, inspiring her to champion human rights until her very last breath. Barbara May Cameron founded the Institute on Native American Health and Wellness, with her first project involving the publication of works by Native American women writers.
Her activism was marked by a commitment to intersectionality, emphasizing the importance of inclusivity within the gay liberation movement, particularly for individuals beyond the white American demographic. Cameron’s legacy serves as a powerful reminder of the need for diversity and inclusivity within LGBTQ+ activism. She remains an icon for the lesbian community and a true hero for the LGBTQ+ movement.
Barbara May Cameron’s life was a testament to the power of self-discovery and advocacy. Her journey from a Native American reservation to the forefront of LGBTQ+ and indigenous rights activism is an inspiration to us all. As we honor her memory, let us also carry forward her message of inclusivity and equality, ensuring that her legacy continues to shape the fight for human rights for generations to come.