Skip to main content

First Nations President and ICT Columnist Rebecca Adamson honored in women's history month

FREDERICKSBURG, Va. - Rebecca Adamson, founder and president of First Nations Development Institute, and a columnist for Indian Country Today, has been selected by the National Women's History Project as a March 2003 Honoree. The 2003 National Women's History Month theme, "Women Pioneering the Future," recognizes innovative women throughout U.S. history who expand the frontiers of possibility for generations of women.

"I'm honored to have received this distinction," said Adamson. "More importantly, this recognition acknowledges my/our work in building sustainable economies that improve the quality of life for Native peoples."

Adamson, Cherokee, has worked for more than 25 years to help grassroots tribal communities become economically self-sufficient. Internationally she has been an advocate on indigenous issues. Her work largely established a new field of culturally appropriate economic development, including the first reservation-based micro-enterprise loan fund, the first tribal investment model, a national movement for reservation land reform and legislation for new standards of accountability regarding federal trust responsibility for American Indians.

As a trustee of the Calvert Social Investment Fund, the largest socially responsible mutual fund, Adamson has worked to instill Native principles of cooperation and sharing into the corporate sector. She co-founded the Calvert Social Investment Community Notes, the first financial instrument that enables mutual fund shareholders and other individual investors to invest in local community development loan funds. To date, this has brought over $60 million into low-income neighborhoods.

"Given the opportunity, Native people can help to create unique models and solutions, not only for themselves and their children, but for all our future generations," Adamson said. "Native people are natural system thinkers. We can understand the interrelatedness of problems and can therefore design holistic solutions. The Native principles of cooperation and sharing can be used by all peoples."

Scroll to Continue

Read More

In an interview for Ms. Magazine, writer and activist Gloria Steinem said, "When Rebecca speaks about indigenous economics; she calls it economics with values added. When she measures success, she looks to see if the spiritual and cultural values of the group are being preserved and allowed to be part of this advance. It's just a broader and deeper measure of things."

In 2002, the Virginia Foundation for Women selected Adamson as a Virginia Women in History Honoree for her work in improving the lives of indigenous peoples in the U.S. and throughout the world. She also received the 2001 Independent Sector's John W. Gardner Leadership Award for her service in the voluntary sector. Some of Adamson's additional accolades include the Council on Foundations' 1996 Robert W. Scrivner Award, the National Center for American Indian Enterprise Development's 1996 Jay Silverheels Award, Who Cares magazine's 1998 "Social Entrepreneurs of the Year" and Ms. Magazine's 1997 "Women of the Year."

The National Women's History Project and Lifetime Television will host a reception honoring all of the 2003 Honorees in Washington, on March 25. U.S. Sen. Barbara Mikulski, D-Md., and U.S. Sen. Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, are some of the invited dignitaries who will recognize the 2003 Honorees.

Adamson's work also received recognition from the Sophia Smith Collection at Smith College in Northampton, Mass., which collaborates with the National Women's History Project in compiling curriculum material. She was invited to donate her writings and other material to be archived in its repository.

Founded in 1942, the Sophia Smith Collection has evolved into an internationally recognized repository of manuscripts, photographs, periodicals and other primary sources of material documenting women's history in the United States. The addition of Adamson's work will be the first from an American Indian of her generation, according to collection development coordinator Joyce Follet. The repository is open to the public and includes the work of Susan B. Anthony, Clara Barton and Gloria Steinem, among others.

For more information on the 2003 National Women's History Month, visit the National Women's History Project website at For information on First Nations Development Institute, visit