Labor Leader & Activist
Native American activist and businessperson Rebecca Adamson was born in 1949 in Akron, Ohio. Her mother was Cherokee and her father was of Swedish descent. The love of her Cherokee heritage grew as she would spend her childhood summers with her maternal grandmother in the Smoky Mountains of North Carolina. In the 1970’s Adamsom was arrested multiple times for advocating Indian parental involvement in schools and played a key role in the Coalition of Indian Controlled Schools, leading to the passage of the Indian Education Self Determination Act in 1975. The legislation marked a significant step toward empowering Native Americans to determine their own educational future. After her husband's sudden death, she sought economic independence and went to New York as a single mother and in 1980 she established the First Nations Development Institute. She has sought ways to develop sovereignty among the Indigenous People through creating projects that stem from their original cultures and beliefs. Her organization has raised and distributed millions of dollars to help with these ventures. In the late 1980's Adamson was a representative for the United States in the drafting of the International Indigenous Rights Convention. In 1997 she founded First Peoples Worldwide which provides tools, resources, and research for corporations, financial institutions, and investors to better integrate Indigenous Peoples' rights. Adamson obtained a Masters of Science in Economic Development from the University of Southern New Hampshire where she also teaches a graduate course on Indigenous Economics within the Community Economic Development Program (Indian Country Today). Adamson is co-author of the award-winning book The Color of Wealth: the Story Behind the US Racial Wealth Divide (2006).
"If you find your own sense of power, that power will take you forward. It’s not a decision or an equation, it’s a river that you flow in."