Learn about our current programs
Cultural Survival works toward a world in which Indigenous Peoples speak their languages, live on their land, control their resources, maintain thriving cultures, and participate in broader society on equal footing with other peoples. We provide advocacy to amplify Indigenous voices around the world and provide support of their efforts to strengthen communities.
The impulse for the founding of Cultural Survival arose during the 1960s with the “opening up” of the Amazonian regions of South America and other remote regions elsewhere. As governments all over the world sought to extract resources from areas that had never before been developed, the drastic effects this trend had on the regions' Indigenous Peoples underscored the urgent need to defend the human rights of these "victims of progress." Cultural Survival was founded by Harvard University anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis and his wife Pia to assist Indigenous Peoples in their struggles.
Today, the organization promotes the rights of Indigenous communities around the globe. All of the work is predicated on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. In 2007, after 25 years of negotiation, the UN General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. This document, which was created by Indigenous representatives working with government representatives, is the fundamental document spelling out the distinctive rights of Indigenous Peoples. These include the right to live on and use their traditional territories; the right to self-determination; the right to free, prior, and informed consent before any outside project is undertaken on their land; the right to keep their languages, cultural practices, and sacred places; the right to full government services, and, perhaps most significant, the right to be recognized and treated as peoples. Cultural Survival has partnered with United Nations bodies and other intergovernmental organizations, and with indigenous and human rights organizations around the globe. Cultural Survival holds consultative status with the United Nations.
Cultural Survival partners with Indigenous communities to defend their lands, languages, and cultures. We assist them in obtaining the knowledge, advocacy tools, and strategic partnerships they need to protect their rights. When their governments don't respond, we partner with them to bring their cases to international commissions and courts, and we involve the public and policy makers in advocating for their rights. In addition, Cultural Survival offers the most comprehensive source of information on Indigenous Peoples on the planet. Our award-winning magazine, the Cultural Survival Quarterly, has been published for more than 37 years.
Over the past 40 years, we have partnered with tribal peoples in Amazonian rainforests, Tibetan nomads, reindeer herders in Mongolia, pastoralists and hunter-gatherers in Africa, aboriginal peoples in Australia, Native Americans, and many others.
Our Current Programs:
Our programming includes mounting letter-writing campaigns and other advocacy efforts to stop environmental destruction and abuses of Native Peoples' rights; and working on the ground in Indigenous communities, always at their invitation. Programming also includes support and expansion of Indigenous owned and operated community radio, and support and advocacy for community based language revitalization programs. Cultural Survival also publicizes Indigenous Peoples' issues through the Cultural Survival Quarterly available online and in print.
Global Response Program:
The Global Response program helps stop the destruction of fragile habitats and ecosystems and the Indigenous communities that depend on them when those lands are threatened by mines, logging, and other extractive industries.
Endangered Languages Program:
Indigenous languages carry unique philosophies, histories, ceremonies, and irreplaceable environmental knowledge of biodiversity accumulated over millenia. Native languages constitute both the core and the foundations of tribal identities and cultures by mapping ancestors' universes and ties to traditional homelands.
But in the United States, more than 70 of the remaining 139 Native languages could fall silent in the next 5 years unless immediate action is taken to teach them to younger generations of tribal citizens.
Our program is partnering with tribes to help develop the resources they need to do just that: to teach their language to their children, to keep it a living heritage. In addition to partnering with six diverse community based language programs; the Euchee Language Project, Sapulpa, OK, the Sauk Language Program, Stroud, OK, the Northern Arapaho Language Lodges, Arapaho and Ethete, WY, the Wopanaak Language Reclamation Project in Mashpee, MA; and the Alutiiq Museum Language Program in Kodiak, Alaska, The Endangered Languages Program has launched The Language Gathering website as a free resource to all language programs in North America, and collaborated on Our mother tounges.org, a website which educates the public about the issues of language loss and the importance of language revitalization.
Community Radio Program:
Cultural Survival is partnering with Guatemalan nongovernmental organizations to strengthen this network of 175 community radio stations across the country, many of which broadcast in one or more of the country’s 23 indigenous languages. The stations provide news, educational programming, health information, and traditional music, all reinforcing pride in Mayan heritage.
Indigenous Artisan Bazaar Program:
The Cultural Survival Bazaar Program works to strengthen Indigenous cultures by providing a venue for the sale of art and crafts made by Indigenous artisans. The sale of crafts perpetuates the artistic traditions which are culturally significant to many Indigenous communities, provides capital to Indigenous communities, and provides sustainable income to individual artisans and their families. Since 2006, the Cultural Survival Bazaars have generated over 3 million dollars for Indigenous artisans, performers, fair trade, and other projects benefiting Native communities.
The Cultural Survival headquarters is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and satellite offices are located in Guatemala and Colorado.
All of this work depends on the support of our members. Please become a member of Cultural Survival today.