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Canku Ota

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(Many Paths)

An Online Newsletter Celebrating Native America


July 26, 2003 - Issue 92


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Rebecca Adamson


Rbecca AdamsonRebecca Adamson, a Cherokee, is Founder and President of First Nations Development Institute (1980), and Founder of First Peoples Worldwide (1997).

She works directly with grassroots tribal communities, and nationally as an advocate on local tribal issues since 1970. Her work established a new field of culturally appropriate, values-driven development which created: the first reservation-based micro-enterprise loan fund in the United States; the first tribal investment model; a national movement for reservation land reform; and legislation that established new standards of accountability regarding federal trust responsibility for Native Americans.

Convinced of the importance of her mission, in 1980 Adamson cashed her unemployment check and went to New York City to get funding for her vision. She met with many foundations before securing $25,000 from the Ford Foundation. Immediately she moved to Fredericksburg, Virginia, to open her first office. There she transformed an idea into a not-for-profit organization, the First Nations Financial Project, which today – renamed First Nations Development Institute in 1990 – has an annual operating budget of nearly $3 million.

Ms. Adamson’s international work with FPW created the first Indigenous community foundation - The Lumba Aboriginal Community Foundation in Australia; established capacity for the Sans Tribe to secure land tenure in traditional homelands in Botswana, Namibia, and southern Africa; launched an international corporate engagement strategy whereby investment criteria protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples have been adopted by a mutual fund, an index fund, and numerous investment advisors. Ms. Adamson established a Masters in Public and Private Administration (MPPA) scholarship program for Native People at the Yale School of Organization and Management. She also established an MBA scholarship at the Carlson School at the University of Minnesota.

Ms. Adamson serves in the corporate sector as a member of the Board of Directors for the Calvert Social Investment Fund (the largest socially responsible mutual fund), the Calvert Small Cap Fund, the Calvert Group Governance Committee (as Co-chair for the Calvert Social Investment Fund Audit Committee), and the Calvert Foundation Board. Ms. Adamson co-founded the Calvert High Social Impact Investments, the first financial instrument whereby mutual fund shareholders and other individual invest in community development loan funds.

Ms. Adamson serves in the non-profit sector on the Board of Governors for Indiana University’s The Center on Philanthropy, the Board of Directors for Corporation for Enterprise Development, The Bay Foundation, Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, The Bridgespan Group, and the Council on Foundations. She is on the National Editorial Advisory Committee for Indian Country Today, and the Editorial Advisory Board for Native Americas.

In 2002, Ms. Adamson was selected by the Virginia Foundation for Women as one of eight Virginia Women in History honorees, and she is the 2001 recipient of the Independent Sector’s John W. Gardner Leadership Award, which honors outstanding individuals working in the voluntary sector to build, mobilize, or unify people, institutions, or causes. Ms. Adamson numerous awards include the Council on Foundations’ the Robert W. Scrivner Award for creative and innovative grantmaking, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development’s Award as well as Ms. Magazine’s “Women of the Year”. In 1998, she was named one of the top ten Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by Who Cares

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  Canku Ota is a free Newsletter celebrating Native America, its traditions and accomplishments . We do not provide subscriber or visitor names to anyone. Some articles presented in Canku Ota may contain copyright material. We have received appropriate permissions for republishing any articles. Material appearing here is distributed without profit or monetary gain to those who have expressed an interest. This is in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107.  

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