Our Executive Director Announces Resignation

March 25, 2019

Dear Relatives, Friends, and Allies of Cultural Survival,

After deep and serious consideration, I have decided to leave my position as the Executive Director of Cultural Survival. As a Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa person, I am passionately committed to honoring the rights of Indigenous Peoples and sustaining our cultures, spiritual traditions, and ways of life. I have dedicated my life to this work. The mission and work of Cultural Survival with Indigenous Peoples and local communities advocating in partnership for their rights, cultures, languages, lands, and territories has been fulfilling and rewarding. I recognize that as Indigenous Peoples we have much more work to do on these fronts and for this reason, my decision was difficult to make. However, I am confident that new leadership and the staff at Cultural Survival will continue the work with the same passion and dedication.

It was my honor and opportunity to step into the leadership of Cultural Survival as the first Indigenous executive director in 2011. I commend the Board of Directors for their commitment to promoting Indigenous leadership. The staff and I worked diligently through our programs to amplify the voices of Indigenous Peoples, build an international Indigenous media platform, advocate for the right to freedom of expression in national and international court systems, provide grants and resources to Indigenous communities to support their self-determination, and to support cultural and community-based economic enterprises. We have been especially committed to providing youth fellowships and opportunities for emerging future leaders and supporting the leadership of Indigenous women. As an NGO, we are committed to Indigenous Peoples' self-determination and the principle and process of Free, Prior and Informed Consent in all of our work—we honor the very principles for which we advocate. I am proud of what we have achieved together. Cultural Survival has been a significant part of my life and as I return to my home community and turn my attention to family obligations, I will continue the advocacy work locally.

I will continue to support Cultural Survival through my departure and beyond. Moreover, I will stay committed and involved in the rights-based work of Indigenous Peoples. To all my relatives, our friends, and allies around the world Ahe̒hee' (Navajo for “in appreciation”) for the opportunity to serve you.
In Solidarity,

Suzanne Benally
Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa
Executive Director


From Our Board President

Dear Friends,

Suzanne Benally, Executive Director of Cultural Survival, has announced her resignation from Cultural Survival effective June 1, 2019.  The Cultural Survival Board of Directors extends deep appreciation and gratitude for her leadership of the organization. Suzanne has played a critical role in the development and success of the organization since 2011. As an Indigenous leader, Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa, she brought critical insight and community-based experience needed to understand and promote the rights of Indigenous Peoples and honor our self-determination. Under her leadership, Cultural Survival has strengthened its advocacy of the rights of Indigenous Peoples while expanding and developing community-based programming in Indigenous and human rights work internationally.

As Executive Director, Suzanne launched and diversified the range of Indigenous community radio and human rights programming for Indigenous communities. She introduced new environmental convenings bringing together a diversity of people into dialogue and mutual exchange about Western climate science and Indigenous philosophies that increased understanding and cooperation for addressing climate change. Suzanne expanded the Board of Directors with more Indigenous membership, created a strategic framework for programming to better fit the contemporary needs of Indigenous Peoples in human rights, cultural resources, communications and media, and the promotion of Indigenous women’s and youth leadership. She reorganized the Cultural Survival Bazaar to honor and promote Indigenous artisans and cooperatives in their communities around the world. Her leadership led to relationships and recognition that increased Cultural Survival’s funding, service capacity, and programming.

Over the next few months, we will be conducting a search to find Cultural Survival’s new Executive Director and we will share the job announcement soon. During the transition period it is our priority to maintain a stable and effective organization. Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director, will serve as Interim Executive Director.

Again, we cannot thank Suzanne enough for her dedication, commitment, passion and the motivation she has given Cultural Survival over the past eight years. The Cultural Survival Board of Directors and staff will miss her leadership tremendously. We support her in her future endeavors and look forward to her continued support of Cultural Survival.

As quoted by Avexnim Cojti (Maya K’iche’), Cultural Survival Community Media Program Manager, “As a staff we are deeply appreciative of Suzanne's leadership and style as a boss who has always trusted and listened to the needs of staff members and has given us the opportunity to develop, grow, and expand our roles into new positions. We thank Suzanne for her leadership in promoting Indigenous women's leadership and amplifying Indigenous voices from communities around the world. Suzanne will be truly missed by us all." 

With Regards,

Duane Champagne
Turtle Mountain Band of Chippewa 
Board President