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Dartmouth Honorary Degrees 2004:Rebecca L. Adamson

Posted 05/05/04

Founder and President, First Nations Development Institute
Founder, First Peoples Worldwide
(Honorary Degree: Doctor of Humane Letters)
Rebecca Adamson
Rebecca Adamson

Biographical Background: Rebecca Adamson, a Cherokee, is Founder and President of First Nations Development Institute (1980), and Founder of First Peoples Worldwide (1997). She has worked 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. 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 (that includes Alcoa, Texaco, Rio Tinto, Merck, Ford, and Occidental) whereby investment criteria protecting the rights of Indigenous Peoples have been adopted by a mutual fund, an index fund, and numerous investment advisors. 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. Through her activism, she led The World Bank to recognize the necessity of creating the First Global Indigenous Peoples' Facility Fund established in May 2003. This fund will make small capacity building grants to Indigenous communities throughout the world.

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) and the Calvert Small Cap Fund. She serves on the Calvert Group Governance Committee, is Co-chair for the Calvert Social Investment Fund Audit Committee, and is on the Calvert Foundation Board. Adamson co-founded the Calvert High Social Impact Investments, the first financial instrument whereby mutual fund shareholders and other individual investors could invest in community development loan funds. Offered in October 1990, it now has placed over $32 million in community and micro loan funds throughout the world. She is on the Board of Directors and Trustee for Tom's of Maine, Inc. and chairs the Tom's of Maine, Inc. Audit and Evaluation Committee.

Adamson is very active in the non-profit sector currently serving on the Board of Directors for the Corporation for Enterprise Development, The Bay Foundation, Josephine Bay Paul and C. Michael Paul Foundation, The Bridgespan Group, and First Voice International. She also serves on the National Editorial Advisory Committee for Indian Country Today, and the Editorial Advisory Board for Native Americas.

Adamson was selected by the National Women's History Project as one of the 2003 honorees, and in 2002, she was selected by the Virginia Foundation for Women as one of eight Virginia Women in History honorees. In 2001 she received 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. Adamson was awarded the Council on Foundations' 1996 Robert W. Scrivner Award for creative and innovative grantmaking and the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development's 1996 Jay Silverheels Award. In addition, she was named by Ms. Magazine as one of their seven "Women of the Year" (1997), and in 1998, she was named as one of the top ten Social Entrepreneurs of the Year by Who Cares magazine. She writes a monthly column for Indian Country Today newspaper devoted to alternative economic development and other issues.

Adamson has published numerous papers including: "Can't Give It Away Fast Enough? Try This," Foundation News & Commentary, January/February 1998; "Adapting the Evaluation Process to the Organizational Culture," a chapter in Evaluation with Power, 1997; and "The Native American Credit Market: Opportunity Knocks, but Relationships Stay," RMA's Journal of Lending & Credit Risk Management, Fall 1997.

She has previously served on the Board of Directors for the Council on Foundations board of directors - having chaired the Council on Foundations' Robert W. Scrivner Award Committee (2001 & 2002). She has served on the Board of Governors for Indiana University's The Center on Philanthropy, as well as the Executive Session in Philanthropy, National Committee for Responsive Philanthropy; Council on Foundations Management and Investment Committee; President's Council on Sustainable Development/Sustainable Communities Task Force; Independent Sector; the Ms. Foundation for Women; The Natural Step; and Earthday Network 2000. She also served as a delegate or advisor to the United Nations Commission on Rural Development, the United Nations' International Labor Organization for International Indigenous Rights, the U.S. Catholic Conference's Campaign for Human Development on Strategic Planning for Economic Development, and as a consultant for the OECD to Australia on Aboriginal development. She was a founding member of Native Americans in Philanthropy, Funders Who Fund Native Americans, and International Funders for Indigenous Peoples.

Adamson holds a Master of Science in Economic Development from the University of Southern New Hampshire (formerly New Hampshire College) in Manchester, New Hampshire where she also teaches a graduate course on Indigenous Economics within the Community Economic Development Program.

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