News & Views

Carla F. Fredericks Appointed Executive Director of The Christensen Fund as First Native American to Lead $300MM+ Private Foundation

Fund Further Aligns with Indigenous Rights, Biodiversity Stewardship, and International Mechanisms to Protect, Respect and Build Opportunity for Indigenous Peoples

October 19, 2020 – The Christensen Fund has appointed Carla F. Fredericks as its Executive Director. Fredericks’ extensive career encompasses work as a lawyer, scholar and advocate for Indigenous Peoples’ rights in governance, development and global policy.

“We are tremendously excited to welcome Carla Fredericks as the next Executive Director of The Christensen Fund,” says C. Diane Christensen, President & Co-Chair of the Board of Trustees.  “The Fund has undergone a number of changes in the past several years, culminating in the decision that our focus will be on rights-based work supporting Indigenous Peoples. Given Carla’s extensive expertise and experience in movement-building and legal rights, the Board of Trustees has full confidence that she is the ideal leader to move Christensen’s work into its next chapter of allyship and impact. We are eager to welcome Carla and very excited about the future!”

Fredericks established and serves as Director of First Peoples Worldwide at the University of Colorado, a cross-campus program that engages tribal leaders, Indigenous Peoples, investors, companies, financial institutions and policy makers to promote implementation of Indigenous rights consonant with the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples. With two decades of experience in the legal sphere, Fredericks also currently serves as Clinical Professor and Director of the American Indian Law Clinic at Colorado Law, which represents Tribes in the U.S., organizations, and Indigenous Peoples worldwide in a variety of matters.

“I am grateful and humbled by the bold and exciting commitment The Christensen Fund has made to support implementation of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP),” says Fredericks. “This remarkable mission serves both to defend and elevate Indigenous Peoples and ensure protection for all beings on this planet. I appreciate this opportunity to share a vision to implement this strategic philanthropic endeavor, and I am eager to begin work with the incredible team at such a critical moment in society and for the growth of The Christensen Fund.”

As an enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota, Ms. Fredericks will be the First Native American to lead The Christensen Fund, and the first Native person to lead a private foundation of its size. She will assume her role in January 2021.

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(415) 644-1621

Shannon Jowett, Director of Communications, First Peoples Worldwide, 917-690-0123



About Carla F. Fredericks

Carla F. Fredericks is Director of First Peoples Worldwide, and Clinical Professor and Director of the American Indian Law Clinic at Colorado Law, University of Colorado Boulder. Ms. Fredericks’ areas of expertise include sustainable economic development, human rights in business and finance, Indigenous Peoples law, and federal Indian law.

Using corporate engagement strategies, First Peoples Worldwide provides tools and resources for global investors, companies and financial institutions to increase understanding about the ways to include Indigenous Peoples in accordance with the principle of free, prior and informed consent (FPIC) as enumerated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). They also facilitate participation by Indigenous Peoples in high-level dialogue regarding investments that impact their lands, territories and resources.

Ms. Fredericks has authored and co-authored numerous studies and papers including, Social Cost and Material Loss: The Dakota Access Pipeline, and Responsible Resource Development and Prevention of Sex Trafficking: Safeguarding Native Women and Children on the Fort Berthold Reservation. Her chapter “Mapping the Sustainable Development Goals onto Indian Nations” appeared in Creating Private Sector Economies in Native America: Sustainable Development through Entrepreneurship (Cambridge University Press, 2019). Ms. Fredericks provided legal counsel and supported shareholder advocacy to Standing Rock Sioux Tribe leadership during and after DAPL construction. Among several current projects, First Peoples is modeling a Private Equity Fund that supports sustainable resource development and entrepreneurship in Indian Country, and is working with the Gwich’in Steering Committee to protect sacred lands in the Arctic Refuge.

Through her long affiliation with the Investors & Indigenous Peoples Working Group, Ms. Fredericks has advocated full integration of due diligence practices into ESG consideration in the capital markets and facilitated improvements to the Equator Principles environmental and social risk management framework. In 2020, she led the organizing of investors representing $620 billion AUM that helped to achieve the Washington Football Team name change.

Ms. Fredericks has significant practice experience in securities litigation and was previously a partner at Milberg LLP in New York, where she also founded Milberg’s Native American practice and directed the firm’s civil/human rights litigation. She maintains an active pro bono practice focused on complex and appellate litigation and Native American affairs, representing Indian tribes and organizations in a variety of litigation and policy matters. As Director of the American Indian Law Clinic, Fredericks leads a year-long clinic in which students have the opportunity to represent American Indian tribes, designed to ready students for the complexities of general counsel work.

Ms. Fredericks is a graduate of the University of Colorado and Columbia Law School. She is chair of the Board of Trustees for the Mashantucket Pequot (Western) Endowment Trust, and has been appointed by the American Indian College Fund as its representative to the Indian Education Scholarship Holding Fund as part of the Cobell v. Salazar settlement. She is a proud, enrolled citizen of the Mandan, Hidatsa, and Arikara Nation of North Dakota.

Full CV and further publication highlights:

About The Christensen Fund

The Christensen Fund envisions bioculturally diverse landscapes and seascapes stewarded by Indigenous Peoples and local communities with thriving governance systems, vibrant culturally-rooted stewardship practice, and secure territorial rights guided by community wellbeing and buen vivir.

For nearly fifteen years, the Fund’s grantmaking sought to realize this vision through implementing a mission of “backing the stewards of biocultural diversity.”  In 2018, Christensen’s Board of Trustees adopted a new mission as a renewed theory of change to realize our vision:


This mission is rooted in a commitment to support the full and effective implementation of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). Christensen’s mission is based on what staff and Trustees have witnessed since beginning grantmaking in 2005: the rise of the Indigenous Peoples’ Movement–a movement which has emerged globally as one of the most powerful, steward-led and organized forces for biocultural diversity.

The Christensen Fund believes that the Indigenous Peoples Movement and its allies are amongst the most articulate, persistent and strategic advocates for biocultural diversity today and are a critical force in challenging the anthropocentric worldview that has brought the world to the brink of ecological collapse.

Going forward its grantmaking strategy will be rooted in a rights-based approach to philanthropy with the goal of being an effective and strategic philanthropic ally to the global Indigenous Peoples Movement, with a focus on land, territories, resources and governance, a specific UNDRIP theme. More information about the Christensen Fund is available at .