Stepping Up

Hello and greetings to the membership, friends, and constituents of Cultural Survival.

As I step into the role of executive director, I am both honored and challenged to take up the responsibility of leading an organization that works to represent the voices of Indigenous Peoples and their rights to protect their land, culture, and future generations. The enormousness of the issues globally is daunting in the face of the rapid loss of biodiversity and climate change. I am always reminded that all life is affected by this loss and that Indigenous Peoples, whose worldview, beliefs, and spiritual traditions are deeply tied to the biodiversity of particular landscapes, face loss of culture, homelands, and sacred sites at an unprecedented rate, threatening their continued existence. The issues are complex as the world grapples to mitigate climate change, as Indigenous Peoples defend their rights and lands, and as we aggressively call upon the private sector to assume responsibility for a sustainable future for all. Yet, we know that the environmental degradation caused by extractive industries, development opportunities and economic interests, pharmaceutical exploits, and government land conservation practices contribute to inequitable social and economic practices and human rights abuses of Indigenous Peoples.

It my hope that Cultural Survival continues to strengthen and expand its key programs: Endangered Languages, the Guatemela Radio Project, and Global Response. At the same time it will be important to grow our efforts to address the increasing and dire threats mentioned earlier. It will be imperative to follow a vision of hope, strength, and resilience in working with Indigenous communities and to represent the rights, respect, and dignity of each community through their own stories and calls for action. Cultural Survival has a role it can fulfill at the intersection of human rights, environmental issues, and the cultural survival of Indigenous Peoples. Our work must frame this interrelated and interdependent axis, which is what motivated and inspired my decision to become the executive director of Cultural Survival.

Cultural Survival’s mission is predicated on the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, and we seek to fulfill our mission to advocate for and empower Indigenous Peoples to represent themselves before intergovernmental and other international institutions; to promote their values within their communities; and to restore and retain their languages and cultural traditions. I look forward to being in service of this work.

Suzanne Benally

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