Rebecca Adamson: Indigenous Self Determination & Principles Benefiting Both People & Business [Ep. 74]

If you only have two minutes, click here for a highlight from the interview.

Rebecca Adamson, an Indigenous economist, is Founder and President of First Peoples Worldwide, the first US based global Indigenous Peoples NGO, which makes grants and provides technical assistance and advocacy directly to Indigenous-led development projects. Rebecca has worked directly with grassroots tribal communities, both domestically and internationally, as an advocate of local tribal issues since 1970. She established the premiere US development institute, First Nations Development Institute, in 1980 and in 1997 she founded First Peoples Worldwide.

Rebecca's work established the first microenterprise loan fund in the United States; the first tribal investment model; and, a national movement for reservation land reform. Her work established a new field of culturally appropriate, values-driven development, which led to legislation that established new standards of accountability regarding federal trust responsibility for Native Americans. She currently serves on the Board of Directors for the Bay and Paul Foundations and the Calvert Social Investment Fund.

As a trustee of Calvert, Rebecca partnered with the Fund to create the first Indigenous Peoples' rights investment screen in 1999, and led the creation of the Indigenous Rights Risk Report, the first quantitative assessment of corporate risk exposure to Indigenous Peoples' rights, in 2014. In 2015 she has established three Shareholder Advocacy Leadership Training Centers located in Guatemala, Mexico and Canada as a new strategy for Indigenous leaders in addressing extractive industry on Indigenous territories. She was appointed as an advisor to the U.S. Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative Multi-Stakeholder Group, serving from 2014 to the present. She holds a Masters in Science in Economic Development.

Some highlights from Shawn’s interview with Rebecca include:

  • Rebecca’s role with Indian-controlled schools leading up to the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act of 1975 and how this shaped her strategy of focusing on culture, development, and financial self-sufficiency

  • The history of the Lakota fund which birthed the microfinance movement in the U.S.

  • A comparison of the key underlying paradigm informing traditional Indigenous economic principles and values with the current dominant principles and values of capitalism

  • Nuanced history and details of DAPL and the larger pattern in which it fits

  • How using Indigenous economic principles have demonstrated superior economic performance in terms of both financial metrics as well as holistically








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Shawn Berry is a Partner at LIFT Economy, where he works as an organizational strategist inspired to harness the power of business to create resilient local economies as patterns to be documented, open sourced, scaled globally and adapted regionally.

LIFT Economy is an impact consulting firm whose mission is to create, model, and share a locally self-reliant economy that works for the benefit of all life. You can follow Shawn on Twitter @sd_berry or email him