Cause of Choice: First Peoples Worldwide
Childhood Dream: To become a veterinarian, or a professional hitchhiker.
First Paying Job: Working in a record store.
Grandfather’s Advice: “Being able to live in a moment with total presence, surrounded with silence is beautiful.”
Rebecca Adamson is an economist and advocate for the rights of indigenous peoples around the world. She is the founder of First Peoples Worldwide and the founder and former director of the First Nations Development Institute.
Adamson was born in Akron, Ohio, in 1949 to a Cherokee mother and a Swedish-American father. After dropping out of college in 1970, she began working with Indian tribes in the Northwestern United States. At age 22, she was hired by the Coalition of Indian Controlled School boards and became deeply involved in the Indian-controlled school movement, which at that time was agitating for Native Americans to have increased control over their children’s education. She has been fighting for the rights of indigenous people ever since.
After recognizing the vital importance of economic self-sufficiency to self-determination, Adamson founded the First Nations Development Institute in 1980, where she spearheaded the creation of the first microloan fund in the U.S. In 1997, she took her advocacy global with the founding of First People Worldwide. Since then she has led initiatives everywhere from Botswana to Australia promoting values-based investment, environmental stewardship, and self-determination for native peoples everywhere.
Adamson is active in many non-profit organizations and is currently serving on the Board of Directors for The Bay and Paul Foundations, the Calvert Social Investment Fund (the largest socially responsible mutual fund), the Calvert Group Governance Committee, and Co-chairs the Calvert Social Investment Fund Audit Committee. She served as an advisor to the United Nations on Rural Development and as a U.S. delegate to the United Nations' International Labor Organization for International Indigenous Rights. She worked with the World Bank to create the Indigenous Peoples Climate Action Fund in 2009, to address Indigenous Peoples’ climate change issues. Adamson’s decades-long work has established a new field of culturally appropriate, values-driven development.