Manataka American Indian Council










Rita Chrisjohn Benson's Story

On December 7, 2004, Rita Benson of Oneida Indian Nation had a massive brain hemorrhage. Rita is a mother of four, a wife of thirty-two years, an artist, a student, and an aspiring anthropologist. She is fifty-two. Despite the doctors’ initial prognosis that there was little chance she’d survive the multiple required brain surgeries, Rita continues to both survive and improve. The last eight months have been extremely challenging for Rita and her family. She has suffered numerous setbacks due to serious infection. At the same time, there has been progress and increased reason for hope. Her skull,which had been partially removed for seven months, was replaced in the last surgery. Although her movement remains severely limited, she is awake, aware, and eager to get well.

Rita was born in upstate New York to Oneida Chief Richard ‘Sekowi’ Chrisjohn. Although not well-off financially, their family was rich in culture. Her father was active in the revival of the Oneida language, and worked to maintain traditions while breaking Native American stereotypes, and Rita learned from him.

Rita worked for many years as a lecturer. She taught at all levels of education from kindergarten to college. She gave presentations at The Museum of Natural History in New York City, The New York State Museum, The Peabody Museum at Yale University, and The Boston Children’s Museum, among others.

Rita’s art has been sought after by both private collectors and museums, and can be found in The New York State Museum, The Institute for American Indian Studies, The Smithsonian Institution, The National Museum of the American Indian, Plymouth Plantation, Department of the Interior, The Museum of Man in San Diego, California, and The Iroquois Indian Museum, where Rita is on the Board of Trustees.

In 2002 Rita received her Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Albany. She then pursued her Master’s degree, also in Anthropology. She was completing her final paper for her Master’s degree, and looking ahead to obtaining her PhD, when her brain hemorrhaged.

We are now entering a critical time in Rita’s recovery. This next year it is crucial that she receive physical therapy and adequate assistance in order to regain her mobility. Her family and friends are eager for Rita to continue to share her vision and spirit with the world. However, we are in need of help.

Please help and donate


brought to you courtesy of Rita's Nephew, John Nikolatos