Cultural Survival was founded by anthropologist David Maybury-Lewis and his wife, Pia, in response to the opening up of the Amazonian and South American hinterlands during the 1960s, and the drastic effects this had on Indigenous inhabitants. It has since worked with Indigenous communities in Asia, Africa, South America, North America, and Australia, becoming the leading US-based organization defending the rights of Indigenous Peoples around the world. Headquartered in Cambridge, Massachusetts, Cultural Survival also has a satellite office for the Guatemala Radio Project in Guatemala. As of 2012, Cultural Survival had a four-star rating from Charity Navigator.
Cultural Survival Quarterly magazine has covered indigenous rights issues for nearly 30 years. Each issue includes feature articles focused on themes of concern to indigenous peoples, as well as news pieces, interviews, and book reviews. All of the authors are indigenous or are professionals who work closely with indigenous peoples.