Burns was educated at Barnard University. In the 1980s, she became a member of the Lower East Side poetry community, reading her work at the Bowery Poetry Club, the Nuyorican Poets Cafe, and the Poetry Project at St. Mark’s Church. Along with Allen Ginsberg, Joy Harjo, and Pedro Pietri, she was invited by the Sandinista government to visit Nicaragua for the Ruben Dario Poetry Festival.
In her direct, wry poems, Burns engages themes of Native American identity and stereotypes. She published a single volume of poems during her life, Riding the One-Eyed Ford (1981). She lived in New York City until her death at the age of 49 from liver and kidney failure.