Activist and educator; she stood up to a big oil corporation on behalf of her Navajo nation.
Common Era: 1962 - Present (CE)
Rebecca Benally was born in New Mexico and was raised on a cattle farm. Early in her career she decided to become an educator for Navajo children. Rebecca became prominent in Utah during the 1997 Aneth Oil protests. She led protests against Exxon-Mobil’s environmental and community practices, specifically the lack of hiring from among Navajos. As the protest went on, Rebecca led Utah Navajos in a blockade of Exxon’s local Aneth headquarters. Through her efforts, Exxon changed its policies towards employment from the Navajo community. Since then Rebecca has continued her educational career. She has risen to become the liason between the Navajo and Utah on educational issues. She has taught elementary and middle school aged children, as well as set up adult literacy and GED programs. She eventually became the principle of her elementary school. In 2005, she and her daughter set up the “Literacy is Empowering” project which encourages Navajo literacy. She served on the National Navajo Board of Education and has been honored by the Utah State Department of Indian Affairs for her work.