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First Peoples worldwide
History and Background

Founded by Rebecca Adamson in 1997, First Peoples Worldwide is one of the only international organizations led by Indigenous Peoples and dedicated to the mission of promoting Indigenous economic determination and strengthening Indigenous communities through asset control and the dissemination of knowledge. The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based organization has been at the helm of studying, devising and implementing solutions to Indigenous communities’ issues. First Peoples Worldwide became a project of the Tides Center in February 2007; the Center provides administrative, financial management, and organizational support for First Peoples.

First Peoples employs a number of strategies to assist Indigenous Peoples take their place in the world’s systems. Through regranting, technical assistance, education, and advocacy, First Peoples provides Indigenous Peoples with the tools, information, and relationships necessary to build community capacity to leverage assets for sustainable economic development. First Peoples advocates extensively with policy making bodies, governments, funders, and institutions on behalf of Indigenous Peoples. First Peoples engages with multinational corporations and extractive industries to encourage them to work directly with Indigenous Peoples to establish mutually beneficial agreements. First Peoples established the Indigenous Stewardship InitiativeSM (ISI) to build the capacity of Indigenous Peoples to establish and manage protected areas on their own homelands. First Peoples promotes socially responsible investing, and maintains an aggressive research program on Indigenous Peoples and their issues.

The programs of First Peoples Worldwide are grounded in the belief that assets are the building blocks of wealth; Indigenous Peoples own substantial assets but frequently lack the control necessary to benefit from them. First Peoples also believes that successful economic development is a holistic process that takes into account the political, social, and cultural variables of a community. First Peoples works to stop and reverse injustices by equipping Indigenous Peoples with resources to challenge government, corporation and conservation policies. At the same time, First Peoples is building capacity in Indigenous communities to play an active role in conservation.

The Indigenous Stewardship Initiative, First Peoples Worldwide’s first global strategic initiative, presents a unique alternative to traditional land and biodiversity conservation practices by shifting the responsibility for the design and management of an Indigenous territory to local Indigenous Peoples as stewards of their lands. The Indigenous Stewardship model utilizes sustainable time-honored traditional knowledge in its distinctive approach to conservation. In using these proven methods, the Indigenous Stewardship Initiative not only protects land and biodiversity in a proven manner, but also ensures that the unique Indigenous cultures from which this knowledge stems are also safeguarded for generations to come.

In addition to working directly with Indigenous Peoples, First Peoples Worldwide also advocates for policy changes within U.S. and foreign governments and global agencies. It also promotes social responsibility to corporations and businesses involved in resource and extractive industries. It provides a training program that will assist corporations in developing positive relations with Indigenous communities.

Indigenous Peoples are on the front-lines of the battle for the future. By networking and sharing common experiences, First Peoples Worldwide believes that Indigenous Peoples can learn from each other in order to secure their future.

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