Crossing Barriers: Barbara May Cameron

Screenshot of Google’s “Doodle” May 22, 2023

Perhaps you can relate: the other day, when Google flashed up their daily doodle with an homage to a lady by the name of Barbara May Cameron, I was prepared to ignore it completely. I don’t usually pay much attention to the headlines of the day—for me, today’s “news cycle” just has a way of making everything way too complicated. However, perhaps it was the artwork, or what’s left of this old curmudgeon’s curiosity, but I decided to go back and take a second look. Just who was Barbara May Cameron, and why did I need to know about her?

I admit, I was surprised to learn about the life of a rather incredible person, who clearly made a great impact on the communities she championed during the course of her short life. Barbara May (Lind) Cameron (22 May 1954­—12 February 2002) was a writer, artist, and activist. A Hunkpapa Lakota from the Fort Yates band of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, she worked at the intersection of her Native American and lesbian identities. She advocated for LGBTQ+ acceptance in Native American communities, and spoke out against racism within LGBTQ+ spaces.1 It’s easy to see why she deserved the respect she garnered. However, I wanted to know more about her than what might have appeared in the media—and as you may be able to predict, I found myself curious about her ancestry.

Barbara May CameronShe was born in 1954 at Fort Yates, North Dakota, the tribal headquarters of the Standing Rock Sioux—as I dug in, I was immediately met with Barbara’s rich Native American ancestry.2 Yet as I perused family trees and vital records adjacent to the immediate generations surrounding her, I noticed something that surprised me: her paternal grandfather was a man named Andrew Larson Lind, born in Sweden.3 Before I knew it, Barbara’s lineage had taken me many places. I found French Canadians and Dutch lines that had married into both sides of her Native American heritage. Then I found the name of her great-great-grandfather, Charles Hiler Gage (1847-1879), and things took an interesting turn.

Screenshot of Obediah Newton genealogy mentioning "Abigail"You see, Charles’ own great-great-grandfather was Obediah Newton (1702-1753). Obediah’s life was well-documented, and his origins extend back to—you guessed it—Massachusetts. His wife was a woman known in the old genealogies as Abigail.4 I could find no hint of Abigail’s maiden name in those genealogies, or in any records I was able to peruse. However, this “Abigail” is found in a whopping 1,904 online family trees, and is presumed to be one Abigail Baxter, the daughter of John Baxter and Desire Gorham. These family trees suggest that Abigail is the great-great-granddaughter of Mayflower passengers John Howland, and his wife Elizabeth Tilley.

I know, I know: online family trees should be taken with a grain of salt, or several. Nevertheless, there is a possible mention of said Abigail Baxter in the Boston Evening Transcript who may or may not be our “Abigail” in question.5 While this mention of Abigail will still require a quick trip to the Family History Library, still it will be good to see just what clues about her might yet exist. Will she prove to be the “Abigail” referred to in published genealogies and the presumed Abigail Baxter, daughter of John and Desire? It’s hard to say. Any incidental records don’t seem to support that John and Desire ever had a daughter named Abigail, and as of yet I’m unable to determine if the Newton and Baxter families intersected well enough to make this potential “Abigail (Baxter) Newton” even possible.

When I first started looking, I never expected that the ancestry of Barbara May Cameron might claim a descent twice over from a Mayflower passenger, even anecdotally. It strikes me as somehow wonderful that a woman like Barbara, a true and avid activist for Native American and LGBTQ rights, should have more or less parts of the same ancestry, as well, me. It reminds me of the connections between us, even with all our differences, and the complex history that continues to shape all of us today. From her roots in the Native American tribes of the upper Midwest and lower Canada, to her Swedish and French Canadian fur trapping forbearers, to her ties to Dutch settlers, and yes, to the possibility of her Mayflower descent, Barbara May Cameron was about as American as it gets.


1 “Happy Birthday Barbara May Cameron, Legendary Lesbian Native American Activist”

2 “Barbara Cameron”

3 See: U.S., World War II Draft Registration Cards, 1942,, for Andrew Lind 1884-1945

4 “Abigail” as taken from: Leonard, Ermina Elizabeth (Newton),. Newton genealogy, genealogical, biographical, and historical, being a record of the descendants of Richard Newton of Sudbury and Marlborough, Massachusetts 1638, with genealogies of families descended from the immigrants Rev. Roger Newton of Milford, Connecticut, Thomas Newton of Fairfield, Connecticut, Matthew Newton of Stonington, Connecticut, Newtons of Virginia, Newtons near Boston. De Pere, Wis.: B.A. Leonard, 1915, p. 75

5 American Genealogical-Biographical Index (AGBI),, for “Abigail Baxter” Volume 11, page 119, Oct 1932.

About Jeff Record

Jeff Record received a B.A. degree in Philosophy from Santa Clara University, and works as a teaching assistant with special needs children at a local school. He recently co-authored with Christopher C. Child, “William and Lydia (Swift) Young of Windham, Connecticut: A John Howland and Richard Warren Line,” for the Mayflower Descendant. Jeff enjoys helping his ancestors complete their unfinished business, and successfully petitioned the Secretary of the Army to overturn a 150 year old dishonorable Civil War discharge. A former Elder with the Mother Lode Colony of Mayflower Descendants in the State of California, Jeff and his wife currently live with their Golden Retriever near California’s Gold Country where he continues to explore, discover, and research family history.

12 thoughts on “Crossing Barriers: Barbara May Cameron

  1. Thanks for sharing your research about Barbara May Cameron’s ancestry. Whenever I come across a person with deep ancestry in America, I imagine I have a connection, but just haven’t yet found the paper trail.

    1. Hi Barb, You know I’m just “crazy” enough to believe that there is always going to be a connection “some how some way.” We just have to dig – and be lucky enough to find it. Many thanks!

  2. Jeff, I appreciate your interest in and diligent research in genealogies of marginalized individuals and communities. I always look forward to reading whatever you post in Vita Brevis.

    1. Thanks Paul. I appreciate your kind words.
      I must confess that it wasn’t so much Barbara’s amazing life and or accomplishments that “pulled me in” to learn about her but more so that she was the daughter of so many interesting and different ancestors coming together – just like all of us.

      Indeed, how incredible are we all? 🙂

    1. Rose! Thank you. You are WAY too kind. It’s just fun to explore the lives of so many different kinds of Americans who show us that we are all so very much the same. I appreciate your kind words, Rose.

  3. Yes agree we are all connected and if what you found is right, I am her cousin as I too have Tilley and Howland, I am still figuring that out so I will let you what I find eventually, hence a new project. This may prove the family story of Native American in the family.

  4. Hello Jeff! Thank you for your curiosity and for introducing us to Barbara May Cameron and her truly American story. I always look forward to reading your contributions. I hope more research provides more discoveries regarding Ms. Cameron’s ancestry and you’re willing to share them here.

    1. Thanks Alane! I will sure do my best. It’s easy to get lost in the stories of so many interesting lives. I appreciate your kind words.

  5. Interesting. So, I stared to research Obediah and Abigail Newton and then John and Desire (Gorham) Baxter). The widow Abigail Newton married Joseph Arnold October 9, 1755 in Grafton. She died before 6 September 1768 when her son Jonas sold his share of her thirds to his brother Marshall. No clue as to her maiden name. John Baxter the son of Thomas and Temperance (Gorham) (Sturgis) Baxter married Desire Gorham, daughter of Joseph Gorham in 1706. Their children are listed in the Yarmouth Records. No Abigail and no room for her, but fun to research. Temperance Gorham and her sister Desire Gorham daughters of John and Desire (Howland) Gorham are both my 7th great – grandmothers so I was hoping to be related to Ms. Cameron.

  6. Always enjoy your articles so much! My wife is a descendent of those Massachusetts Newtons through her mother.

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