Thank you for the opportunity to serve you...

May 31, 2019

Thank you for the opportunity to serve you.

Dear Relatives, Friends, and Allies of Cultural Survival,
As you know, I have decided to leave my position as the Executive Director of Cultural Survival. Today is my last day. It has been an amazing learning experience and journey and an incredible honor to work with Cultural Survival.

Reflecting on being an Indigenous woman leader, I think about my leadership as a holistic, carefully deliberate, and an interconnected process that is dependent on others; I think of this as a cultural form of leadership. It is challenging to practice this style of leadership in a mainstream, non-Indigenous organization, because it requires negotiating different values and helping people understand a new kind of leadership and ethos that reflect the communities we serve. That was perhaps the most important challenge as I clarified the vision and mission of Cultural Survival, and as the staff, Board, and I discussed how we would move it forward. I overcame these challenges by intentionally working with the staff to see themselves as part of the vision, and helping them acquire the kind of knowledge and understanding that is needed to do that.
Indigenous women around the world still need to be recognized for the roles that they have in leadership. We need to hear more of their stories. Indigenous women in many cultures are recognized as leaders, but over time colonization diminished that. Today it is about intentionally providing the access, naming issues of inequity, recognizing the unintentional roles in maintaining the patriarchy, and doing something about it. It requires deliberate action: cultivating women into particular leadership roles in our search practices, reaching out and tapping Indigenous women for these jobs, and providing the kind of support for Indigenous women leaders to fully be realized. We also have to rethink how we define leadership and the criteria needed for leadership.
The fight for Indigenous rights has been very important work to me. Doing this work through an organization such as Cultural Survival was rewarding and I plan to continue in other capacities. I am exploring next options and thinking about how to continue this work at a local level within my community, because there is such need. I plan to take a deep breath and a long exhale and move forward.

I will continue to support Cultural Survival and be involved. I could not have done this job without the amazing and dedicated staff. I am proud of what we have done. 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 want to recognize the staff for their good work, learning, and support. I would also like to recognize the incredible Board; their support and leadership has been very important to me. In addition, thank you to the many friends and allies of Cultural Survival for their support. We are all part of the leadership!
We are currently conducting a search to find Cultural Survival’s next Executive Director. During the transition period Mark Camp, Deputy Executive Director, will serve as Interim Executive Director.
I am grateful for your ongoing support. Tomorrow, June 1, is Cultural Survival’s annual giving day and I do hope you will make a donation to reach our $25,000 goal so we can continue to support Indigenous media, advocacy, and grassroots efforts. Thank you.
To all my relatives, our friends, and allies around the world Ahe̒hee' (Navajo for “in appreciation”) for the opportunity to serve you.
Suzanne Benally
(Navajo and Santa Clara Tewa)


Help us reach our goal of $25,000, with the chance to receive $10,000 in matching funds!

We have raised $12,000 so far! Show your support by making a donation or creating your own fundraising page at
You are part of our legacy and we are so thankful for your ongoing support!