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Defend the Defenders, Protect the Protectors

Dear Cultural Survival Community,
Halito, my name is Aimee Roberson. I am honored and humbled to serve as the Executive Director of Cultural Survival as of July 1. As a citizen of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma and a descendant of the Chickasaw Nation, I am passionate about upholding the sovereignty and rights of Indigenous Peoples so that we and our lifeways, cultures, languages, and the ecosystems we steward can flourish. Within my community, I am learning Chahta anumpa (Choctaw language), practicing traditional arts, growing and preparing traditional foods, and learning and teaching about our history, values, and responsibilities to care for our land, waters, and plant and animal relatives.

I come to Cultural Survival after serving as the Director of American Bird Conservancy’s Southwest Region. Throughout my career, I’ve worked with people across North America, stewarding ecosystems, protecting biodiversity, and planning for climate change adaptation. I have been working at the intersection of conservation and justice in support of Indigenous Peoples. As a co-founder of the Indigenous Kinship Circle, I have helped build solidarity with Indigenous Peoples and bridges with conservationists, scientists, and policymakers.

This issue of the CSQ is dedicated to uplifting the stories of a few of the many Indigenous environmental defenders who put their lives at risk to protect the planet and secure the rights of their Peoples. Indigenous defenders face a double threat: being Indigenous and defending our rights and our responsibilities to care for our environment. According to a Global Witness 2022 report, almost 40 percent of murdered environmental defenders were Indigenous, a disproportionately high figure given that Indigenous Peoples comprise roughly 6 percent of the global population. Cultural Survival’s noncomprehensive data shows 77 Indigenous defenders were murdered only in 2023 in Latin America, one of the most dangerous regions to be an Indigenous rights and environmental defender.

Three out of four assassinations of environmental defenders take place in Latin America. These figures prove systematic persecution is taking place against Indigenous defenders as a result of their opposition to mega projects, infrastructure development, mining for transition minerals, and other actions undertaken without their Free, Prior and Informed Consent. Cultural Survival is committed to working alongside Indigenous environmental defenders to ensure they can do their crucial work without repercussions and fears for their lives. In my new role, I look forward to supporting and working with Indigenous environmental defenders and their communities alongside our staff and all of you. In these times of crises—climate change, ecocide, declining biodiversity, social inequity, and injustice—many of us are wondering how to make a difference. At Cultural Survival, we understand the interconnectedness of these crises and that Indigenous Peoples’ values, lifeways, and knowledge systems can help us envision and create a better future for us all. At the same time, colonization, extractive and unfettered capitalism, fortress conservation, and climate change continue to disproportionately harm our communities. For us to thrive as Indigenous Peoples, our inherent rights and sovereignty must be respected and our political resilience reinforced.

Will you join us in co-creating social change? Support Indigenous people in continuing to care for, defend, and protect our lands and waters. Ensure that we are engaged in decision-making and act in solidarity with us as we secure title to, reclaim, and reoccupy our ancestral and traditional homelands. Secure a future guided by the wisdom and leadership of Indigenous Peoples by supporting our ongoing work. We can’t continue without you. Please give generously at

Hטchi yakoke li hoke (I thank you all so much),
Aimee Roberson (Choctaw and Chickasaw)
Executive Director

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