Named Executive Director of The Christensen Fund, Carla F. Fredericks Becomes First Native Person to Lead $300M+ Private Foundation

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. (Courtesy The Christensen Fund and First Peoples Worldwide)

The appointment of Carla F. Fredericks as Executive Director of The Christensen Fund (TCF) signifies an important milestone for the $300 million foundation, as well as Indigeneous representation in executive leadership across the nonprofit sector.   

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.

Fredericks, who assumes directorship of TCF on January 1, 2021, said, “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. This remarkable mission serves both to defend and elevate Indigenous Peoples and ensure protection for all beings on this planet.”

Fredericks’ areas of expertise include sustainable economic development, human rights in business and finance, Indigenous Peoples law, and federal Indian law.

She is responsible for establishing and serving as Director of First Peoples Worldwide at the University of Colorado. Using corporate engagement strategies, First Peoples Worldwide provides tools and resources to increase understanding about the ways to include Indigenous Peoples in alignment with the principles laid out by the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP). The cross-campus program engages Tribal leaders, Indigenous Peoples, investors, companies, financial institutions and policy makers. First Peoples Worldwide also facilitates participation by Indigenous Peoples in high-level dialogue regarding investments that impact their lands, territories and resources.

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.

Fredericks 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 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 Tribes, designed to ready students for the complexities of general counsel work.

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 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).

Leading The Christensen Fund is a natural segue. 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. 

“We are tremendously excited to welcome Carla Fredericks as the next Executive Director of The Christensen Fund,” said 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!”

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