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Trailblazing Queer Indigenous Leaders

Updated: Jan 12, 2023

In celebration of International Day of the World’s Indigenous People, we wanted to spotlight some real queer trailblazers doing incredible work within and for their communities.

This image has a red textured background. The text reads, “We Create Space. Trailblazing Queer Indigenous Leaders #IndigenousPeoplesDay”. At the bottom of the image there are black and white photos of four indigenous people, from left to right: Aretha Brown, Sharice Davids, Kiley May and Sydney Freeland.

N.B. - On this day in particular, it's worth noting that not all native or First Nation people resonate with the word ‘indigenous’ because of how it centers colonisation in defining their identity. It’s important to refer to people whenever possible using the name of the specific tribe or cultural group that they belong to, rather than using a blanket term.

1. Sharice Davids (she/her)

A monochrome image of Sharice Davids. She has tanned skin, long dark hair and is smiling. She wears a blazer, long earrings and a necklace. She is stood in front of an American flag.

Sharice Davids is part of the Ho-Chunk community. She is the first "out" LGBTQ Congress member from Kansas, and is also one of the first two Indigenous women in US Congress. As a politician, Davids is a strong advocate for mental health, LGBTQ rights, women's rights, BIPOC rights, and climate change.

2. Raykeea Angel Wilson (they/them)

A monochrome image of Raykeea Wilson. They have dark skin, black box braids and are wearing a tank top and necklace. Tattoos are visible on their shoulder, neck and arm. They are stood in front of a large cactus.

Raykeea Wilson is a musician from Detroit with Cherokee heritage, who has taught themselves Cherokee language. They identify as agender and pansexual. Their music touches upon LGBTQ rights, body image, and Indigenous rights. They are extremely proud of their multiracial heritage (their late father was African American).

3. Sydney Freeland (she/her)

A monochrome image of Sydney Freeland. She has pale skin, long dark hair and wears glasses, a dark long sleeve top and trousers. She is sitting on a sofa with cushions behind her and a microphone in her hand.

Sydney Freeland is a trans, Navajo filmmaker. She is writing and directing stories, and increasing the representation of Native American families on screen. She wrote and directed the short film Hoverboard and the feature-length Drunktown's Finest, which garnered numerous positive reviews after premiering at the Sundance Film Festival. Her second film, Deidra and Laney Rob a Train debuted at Sundance and was released on Netflix in 2017.

4. Jenny Miller (she/they)

A monochrome image of Jenny Miller. She has pale skin, a dark bob and glasses. She wears a dark cuban shirt, trousers and doc martens and various tattoos are visible on her arms. She is sat on a stool in front of a large print of one of her photos of a teabag in a teacup.

Jenny Miller is an artist and Inupiaq (a native inhabitant of Alaska). While primarily a photographer, she also creates video, sound and sculpture works. Much of her art focuses on LGBTQ+ and Two-Spirit people, as she immerses herself in Inupaiq queer community.

5. Barbara May Cameron (she/her)

A monochrome image of Barbara May Cameron. She has light skin and a dark bob and is wearing a button up shirt over a tshirt and a hat. The image has a slight screentone texture.

In 1975, Barbara May Cameron co-founded Gay American Indians (GAI) alongside her friend Randy Burns. Cameron viewed GAI as both a support group for Native lesbians and gay men, and a means to carve out space for them within the wider (and whiter) LGBTQ+ community. Although originally a photographer, her messages found traction through written essays - her words became a mouthpiece for the gay indigenous community. Cameron’s 1981 essay “Gee, You Don’t Seem Like An Indian From The Reservation”

remains a searing snapshot of the struggle to survive marginalisation and thrive despite it.

A monochrome image of Sherenté Mishitashin Harris. They have tanned skin and wear their long ginger hair in two plaits. They wear a checkerboard sweater vest over a white button up shirt, hoop earrings and lipstick.

Sherenté Mishitashin Harris is an activist, dancer and cultural educator. They initially danced in the tradition of their father, a war dancer. After coming out as Two Spirit, they spent one year learning how to dance Fancy Shawl, a modern dance traditionally led by women, created during the women’s rights movement.

7. Aretha Brown (she/her)

A monochrome image of Aretha Brown. She has tanned skin, a dark, windswept bob and wears a black sleeveless top with a cut out neckline and jeans.

Aretha Brown is an artist, activist, comedian and screenwriter of Gumbaynggirr descent, currently living in London. Aretha takes heavy influence Melbourne's Western Suburbs where she grew up, as a queer person with indigineous heritage. She is also the founder of **KISS MY ART, an art collective for women and non-binary people.

8. Kiley May (she/they)

A monochrome image of Kiley May. She has a medium skin tone, a curly dark bob and wears a dark strappy top with long sleeves. She is outside, looking over her shoulder towards the camera.

Kiley May is a Mohawk and Cayuga from Six Nations of the Grand River Territory. May is a two spirit individual who also identifies as trans, queer and genderqueer. They are a leader in the Two-Spirit community, as well is an actor, model, photographer, educator, writer.

9. Storme Webber (she/her)

A monochrome image of Storme Webber. She has a medium skin tone and white hair that fades into darker locs. She is wearing a dark turtleneck, blazer and beaded necklaces.

Storme Webber is a Two-Spirit Alutiiq, Black, Choctaw poet and playwright who creates blues-influenced texts exploring identity, race, class, and gender. Her poetry collections include Diaspora and Blues Divine. She has been featured in multiple anthologies and documentaries, including What’s Wrong with Gays These Days? and Living Two Spirit.

10. Chrystos (she/her)

A monochrome image of Chrystos. She is sat on a boulder on a beach, with water and a forest in the background. She has fair skin and dark hair. She is wearing a light waterproof jacket layered over a jumper, a pair of shorts and some black ankle boots. Her arms are crossed at the wrist as she rests both hands on one of her thights. She is looking into the camera smiling.

Chrystos is a Two-Spirit poet, artist and activist of Menominee descent. She has published many books of poems. As a lesbian with indigenous roots, in her writing, she aims to empower Native Americans to connect with their heritage and culture to break down stereotypes and expose intersectional issues that affect her community.


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